Soccer development in the US...

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Soccer development in the US...

Post by onetouchfutbol on Tue Jun 29, 2010 9:50 pm

One of the commentators for ESPN was mentioning how soccer development in the US was really the opposite of how it develops in other countries, and I found the idea kind of fascinating. Hopefully, this won't come across in an offensive way... He said that in many countries soccer begins as a lower class sport or as a sport played in the streets (like basketball in the US), but, in the US it's different. It's true here all of the kids have soccer Moms who drive them all over the place. Clint Dempsey's parents would drive him for hours to be able to play with select teams and the best competition. On the other hand, Yari Alnutt, started playing soccer in the streets of Mexico at the age on one...in the same way that many players start in Africa and South America. It's really a fascinating thing to think about for me...how improvement in a sport can start from the ground up in other countries. But, in the US, it starts with soccer moms driving their kids to select teams in hope that they might win a college scholarship if they really want to make it in the sport...a totally different type of a phenomenon...

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Of course that's only one of the challenges of the development of the sport here. The MLS pays nothing compared to the EPL, and we have zero of the top 5 players of the world playing on our teams... Your comments?

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Re: Soccer development in the US...

Post by Geezaldinho on Wed Jun 30, 2010 8:56 am

You are probably talking about this commentary from Jurgen Klinnsman.

http://soccernet.espn.go.com/world-cup/story/_/id/5333933/ce/us/us-scatters-pondering-been?cc=5901&ver=us

(suffer through the Lalas blather first) It's worth watching.

He said a US player's goal is to get a scholarship, not play pro, he said US players had no first touch, and he thought we won't succeed until we recruit from the lower classes like we do in Basketball. He mentions Hispanics in particular.

Possibly fair points, though perhaps not.

My observation is that even elite club kids in club don't play enough or practice enough.

Think about it. The average club kid plays maybe 4 days a week for about 2 hours. Many drive to practice longer than they play. The average kid playing pickup in a Barrio or Favela plays from when they get home from school ( often around 2:00 PM) until dark nearly every day. The number of hours actually getting touches on the ball is hugely different.

Malcom Gladwell in his book Outliers makes the point that to become proficient in anything includes a threshold investment of 10,000 hours. For the average kid, that's on the order of 20 hours a week for 10 years, or about twice what most kids get.


Last edited by Geezaldinho on Wed Jun 30, 2010 9:06 am; edited 2 times in total

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Re: Soccer development in the US...

Post by DaTruRochin on Wed Jun 30, 2010 8:59 am

I wouldn't consider it a detriment to the system at all, it has always been a sort of a conundrum that competitive soccer is a game of the haves here while abroad it is very much of the have nots. I mean look at the top players like Wayne Rooney (snark), Gerrard (more snark), Tevez, Zidane, Pele, etc we are talking about kids from the roughest of neighborhoods and slums. Here you have Landon Donovan, from the rough streets of Redding Rolling Eyes , etc...

I think accessibility of soccer is increasing significantly however, not only are quality pitches increasing but one of the keys to the MLS is to develop an academy system. I think the death of the Brandeton system is something that will go a long way in accelerating recognition of regional player development.

On top of that one thing the new club run youth academies are looking at is having a two fold system for development. One is to recognize the best of the best, the kids who are ready to be groomed at an accelerated pace like the Jozy Altidores or the Andy Najars to get them ready to be productive professionals and international contributors. The second is to still develop the kids who aren't necessarily virtuosos, but instead try and provide the tools and training to use soccer as a means of earning college scholarships. I think this is a very cool way of developing soccer as a whole in the country while still fostering education.

Again you have to remember the MLS is only 16 years old... Competing against a lot of clubs with a century of tradition, it takes time to develop the system necessary to create that top 5 player talent (hahaha in spite of what free-wheeling Russian and Saudi oil magnates might lead you to believe... OK OK, FINE, also mega debt accumulating americans who shall remain nameless... grumble grumble.... )

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Re: Soccer development in the US...

Post by DaTruRochin on Wed Jun 30, 2010 9:22 am

Oh Geez, are you trying to seduce me with talk of Malcolm Gladwell??

I think there is a lot to be said about that argument though, American youth soccer is ALL about structure. The sheer size and quantity of our youth clubs dwarfs that of literally any in the entire world. Speaking with people in the athletic apparel business, when people from England, S. America, etc come over to hear and see how the American market works they are shocked at the amount of kids in clubs at any given time. The egalitarian nature of the American soccer, while great for social development and whatnot, I would say is ultimately a detriment from a final elite product standpoint. There is zero organic quality to American soccer.

I mean the closest I had growing up was playing in "The Cage" at recess every day (Which in retrospect was kind of bad ass... I'm just sad my elementary school installed field turf over the rocks, broken glass and asphalt, kids are getting soft Razz ) But when I went home I would play roller hockey or basketball or get into mischief until soccer practice. I think that diversity in activity due to the sheer availability of options is a very American problem. In a lot of ways that effort to expose kids to a wide variety of activities and whatnot stymies greatness at any one particular endeavor athletically, you can be good at a lot of things, but greatness takes a lot of extra work (Well unless you are of the particularly gifted nature obviously... Great athletes will be great athletes...)

(sorry for the winding ramble, I hope any of that makes sense...)

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Re: Soccer development in the US...

Post by pilotram on Wed Jun 30, 2010 9:43 am

DaTruRochin wrote:competitive soccer is a game of the haves (small # of people) here while abroad it is very much of the have nots (tons of people).

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Re: Soccer development in the US...

Post by Geezaldinho on Wed Jun 30, 2010 10:45 am

DaTruRochin wrote:I wouldn't consider it a detriment to the system at all, it has always been a sort of a conundrum that competitive soccer is a game of the haves here while abroad it is very much of the have nots. I mean look at the top players like Wayne Rooney (snark), Gerrard (more snark), Tevez, Zidane, Pele, etc we are talking about kids from the roughest of neighborhoods and slums. Here you have Landon Donovan, from the rough streets of Redding Rolling Eyes , etc...


What about Leo Messi from a middle class family in Rosario - or Gabriel Heinze or Gonzalo Higuaín from pretty wealthy families. Or Cristiano Ronaldo, or Ronaldinho whose families were comfortably well off. Not of those guys came from abject poverty or anything.

Just on Argentina's team, who I am familiar with, I'd say it's a pretty broad cross section, and Tevez is probably the exception, not the rule.

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Re: Soccer development in the US...

Post by DaTruRochin on Wed Jun 30, 2010 11:14 am

Oh indeed, I mean clearly good players don't necessitate a coming from the ghetto background to be good, as with players you mentioned and guys like Kobe Bryant and Baron Davis in the NBA or Frank Lampard for England... Having a means is always going to be advantageous to gaining the proper exposure and development. I'd say pro players in the NBA see similar odds for example...

I think it would be a very interesting thing to see a full cross section of socio-economic backgrounds and how it reflects per individual success, team success across different sports. Ultimately God given talent is the be all and end all, its all a matter of recognizing it (Or in the case of Yao Ming's children, breeding it... too far??)

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Re: Soccer development in the US...

Post by Geezaldinho on Wed Jun 30, 2010 11:39 am

Jurgen's analysis of NBA origins falls short, too. For every Iverson or Wallace, you can cite a Jerry West, or a Bill Bradley, or even a Michael Jordan in addition to the guys you mention.

Maybe it's not that you build from the poor classes, but that you have to put in place a system that includes the whole talent pool. We don't even come close to doing that.

On another forum, a German guy said that there football is a community thing. The towns provide the fields, the coaching is volunteer, and local businesses provide the money for uniforms. It sounds a lot the like Babe Ruth League or Pop Warner model I grew up with as a kid.

We have gotten away from that in all our sports, except possibly in CYO leagues. It seems to have to be about making money now.


I do notice more soccer fields in public parks now than when I was a kid, but access still seems limited to pay to play club teams.

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Re: Soccer development in the US...

Post by Stonehouse on Wed Jun 30, 2010 11:54 am

In countries where soccer is the #1 sport, of course players will come from a cross-section of the population. From kids on the streets to those in boarding schools, they all aspire to play it.

In the US, I think you see it in football. You get kids from the harshest of inner city high schools and the smallest of hick towns to the blue bloods who spend obscene amounts of money on quarterback camps and all that.

The same used to be for baseball, but that sport has (sadly) evaporated from most inner cities and is more and more resembling youth soccer - select teams, pay-to-play, travel teams, elite camps, etc.

Basketball is similar... if there is a true "street" game in the US I would say it's basketball. But it also has the tony aspects of travel teams, camps, etc. But if you look at the highest professional level (the NBA), a good number - though definitely not all - of the players come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

I think it's also fair to say that basketball, at this point, is nearly as international a game as socccer and that the United States a large percentage of the world's best players.

So... is it coincidence that the truest "street" sport in the US is also the one that it domiantes at a global level? Perhaps.

Ultimately, I think it goes back to Geezer's point about "touches"... of all people, Colin Cowherd made a good argument the other day. He said that until soccer is a "beach sport" in the US, America will never produce the type of talent to really compete on the international level. Beach sport as in: people at the beach here will throw a football around, play catch, maybe even volleyball... but very rarely will you see people kicking a soccer ball back and forth.

It's simplistic, but valid, I think. Soccer just isn't in the culture here. Of course in a country with 300 million peopel there are die-hard fans and even enough interest to support a professional league, but in terms of it penetrating way into the psyche of the country... not sure if that's going to happen any time soon. Immigration definitely helps expedite that, and if population growth rates continue on their current path it's likely the Hispanic population will get close to 1/3 of the country. So that is a big factor.

Another thing... I know we all love the amateurism of college sports, but in international soccer, kids are getting signed to contracts in their early teens. If the ultimate goal for a kid in the US is to get a college scholarship, that means that they won't be a professional player until they hit their 20s. Kids across the world have already been pro for several years by that point. So of course the development of our players is behind.

Can the USA ever be competitive at the highest level of inernational soccer with the college system? Smarter people than me will have to answer that one...

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Re: Soccer development in the US...

Post by DaTruRochin on Wed Jun 30, 2010 12:11 pm

I like that beach sport commentary, because really sports at its simplest essence should be just that. And I'd agree with the international draw to basketball as well, each game shares a lot of the same characteristics with passing, player movement and scoring... One just uses a smaller playing surface and a shot clock (OK thats an over simplification obviously... but there's a reason why you can see a cross over appeal for a lot of pros. Or even soccer players like Hakeem and Nash that grew to be great basketball players)

As for the college system I'd have to say no, the University system is ultimately a detriment to our viability. I mean the average pro soccer player isn't exactly educated, but haha that matters little on the pitch. The longer you have good, pro-worthy players playing against the likes of those who never had ability beyond amateurism, the slower you will see their development. The play the best to be the best adage rings true. I mean mean hell, I had opportunities to play college soccer... I think that says a lot about the university system Razz

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Re: Soccer development in the US...

Post by Geezaldinho on Wed Jun 30, 2010 12:20 pm

Stonehouse wrote:

Another thing... I know we all love the amateurism of college sports, but in international soccer, kids are getting signed to contracts in their early teens. If the ultimate goal for a kid in the US is to get a college scholarship, that means that they won't be a professional player until they hit their 20s. Kids across the world have already been pro for several years by that point. So of course the development of our players is behind.

Can the USA ever be competitive at the highest level of inernational soccer with the college system? Smarter people than me will have to answer that one...

Let's not kid ourselves. The best Players only play a year of College because they have to due to the tacit agreement between the NBA and NCAA. We would have teenagers playing now if it wasn't for the rule.

Germaine Oneal, Kobe, and Garnett are the proof.

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Re: Soccer development in the US...

Post by onetouchfutbol on Fri Jul 02, 2010 10:40 pm

Hmmm...I'm enjoying this discussion. I don't understand Colin Cowherd's point at all. Until recent years, Cowherd was actually a bit of a soccer basher... I don't consider basketball a beach sport either, yet, we excel at that. I actually do see people kicking the ball around on the beach, and even small futsol games now and then...

The number of little league players per capita for soccer in the Seattle and Portland area is actually a lot higher than the rest of the nation. I think many athletes still defect to play other sports as they get older though.

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The more I think about it though, the more I feel like we need to find a coach who just insists that our player play a more technical style. It's so easy for US players to forget that the ball is the fastest thing on the field. I think our players are capable of playing more technical and being crisper passers. We've never had a coach insist on that though. Bradley seemed to always be more of a reactive coach if he perceived that a team had more talent than us. Beating Spain a year ago was about game planning on how to disrupt them, but, I'd rather see us take risks with a more technical style.

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Re: Soccer development in the US...

Post by Geezaldinho on Fri Jul 02, 2010 10:45 pm

Very Happy

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Re: Soccer development in the US...

Post by onetouchfutbol on Fri Jul 02, 2010 10:57 pm


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Re: Soccer development in the US...

Post by DaTruRochin on Sat Jul 03, 2010 2:33 pm

Yeah, beach soccer MAY exist... But the average American family is gonna toss in a football, velcro mits or a frisbee and leave the soccer ball at home...

And I'll second Geez's pic with one of my own from my days hustling at Muscle Beach:

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Re: Soccer development in the US...

Post by onetouchfutbol on Mon Jul 05, 2010 6:56 pm

I don't buy it. I don't know what "the average American family" is anymore. The face of the US changes everyday with immigration. The media leads us to believe that there are less soccer players in this country than there actually are.... There are pick up games going on all over the place. If I choose to in the Summer, I can play any night of the week here in Seattle... If anything there's more soccer going on at the younger ages and it fades a little bit when kids hit high school. The people who are less involved are the media who were born in a previous generation. But, ESPN deportes is pretty huge and getting bigger...and there are plenty of fathers and sons who listen to that station as well.

In addition, there are Mexican-American soccer fans who are ridiculed for taking off their Mexican jerseys and exposing their USA jersey underneath. They have kids who play a very technical style of soccer in the parks of Burien, Hillsboro, Beaverton, etc. You can't ignore the growth of the sport in the suburbs. Colin Cowherd can only comment on his somewhat sheltered life in Connecticut...ESPN's headquarters. No offense, Colin.

You could argue that many immigrants will chose to play for their home country before they would chose the US, but, we did produce Claudio Reyna...and there could very well be more players like that in our future. Why not?


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