A Phenomenal Soccer Education in 12 Minutes [Video]

We’ve been talking on this blog. Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk.

Anyone can talk. And anyone does.
Just look at all the garbage online, and the monkeys on TV (I guess you’d have to be able to identify it as such).

Well, it’s time to do some show.

First some things to keep in mind:

  • This video is from our State Cup Semi-final a couple weeks ago.
  • Our opponent is USDA club Arsenal FC – the winningest club in Southern California over the past 10 years. (Courtesy of 3four3 Analytics)
  • The opposing coach is among the most well-known and decorated in the country – national titles galore.

In other words, we weren’t playing some scrubs. We were playing against top tier.

Oh, and these are U11s by the way.

Beyond just “watching”, there are at least several dozen things to observe and learn from here. But you’ll have to study and dissect the video. Something I’m leaving as an exercise for you.

These performances are no accident. It takes meticulous training, studying, and artistry – a craftsman. You can not just throw 11 players on the field and “talk” about possession. That’s just talking. And anybody can do that.

As a coach, you have to know what the hell you are doing! There are hundreds of details!

Now you know what’s possible.
Now you have a standard.

And feel free to dissect the video in the comments area.

No matter who you are, you can help elevate soccer in this country. And it starts with you sharing this video with EVERYONE you know! And if you have a website, feature it prominently and link to us!

Otherwise, you should be asking yourself: “Do I really care, or am I just a talker?”

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  1. Seth says

    What strikes me here is how EVERY PLAYER is comfortable on the ball, but that’s exactly what you need to play possession soccer. And all the players are like carbon copies of each other so that facilitates the interchange of positions and movement off the ball. Makes you appreciate how simple the game can be once players reach a base level of technical proficiency. I see these are U11s on a full sized pitch playing 11v11, so I gotta ask your thoughts, Gary, on moving to this level at this age as opposed to staying smaller sided.

    • Gary Kleiban says

      Thanks for commenting Seth.
      My thoughts:
      1) That “base level of technical proficiency” is far lower than most realize (ie you don’t need to have the cream of the cream).
      2) I don’t have anything conclusive to say about moving to 11v11 at this age. There are pros and cons to everything. And it’s really tough to understand whether there are any real downstream effects. I would argue with anyone who thinks they have that figured out.

    • Paul Dueker says

      Slightly OT re last night’s US Men’s Olympic qualifier loss:

      There is a problem @ the top because there is a problem @ the bottom.

  2. Facundo El kun Bruno says

    NAHhhhhhhhhhhhh this lil kids se van a la mierda!!! This is ridiculous!!!! What I liked the most about this video was the play one of your center mids did defensively, when the outside mid played a bad ball to the middle and lost it, his 25 yard sprint and clean tackle from behind was absoletly called for so that you guys wouldnt get caught flat fooded! Amazing Video this kids are gonna be intense in a few more years!!!

  3. brian kleiban says

    Fac, how about neymar at minute 6:25 …..u were proud of the highlight of your career when u were 17 years old. Noooooooooo

  4. Paul Dueker says

    Impressed with their spacing, support, movement off the ball and decision making.

    Off course all of the above goes for naught if their ball skills aren’t there – which is obviously NOT the case here.

    Well done!

  5. Ken Sweda says

    Great stuff Gary. I’m guessing the screaming berzerk Englishman is the “well-known and decorated” coach of the other team? SMH.

      • Luc Harrington says


        The kids play really well, so why the need for so much yelling? Let them make their own decisions and mistakes (if you were being sarcastic, I apologize). Regardless, it’s refreshing to see players playing like this in California! I wish you guys the best.

        • Gary Kleiban says

          Hi Luc, and thank you for the kind words!
          I wasn’t being sarcastic. We actually do a lot of yelling.
          We started coaching in 2003 and our style of doing things developed from there.

          I don’t know what’s optimal in terms of how much or how little instruction / correction / positive reinforcement / passion infusion should be done during a match.

          What I can tell you is that in our experience, over time the players end up getting the message and the training wheels come off. They learned! I wish I had film to show you of our first product. God damn that was a nice team! We’d have 20, 30, 40 touch sequences leading to goals against the top teams in Region IV. I mean dominating performances (many a times without us saying a word from the sideline).

          Would that team and those players been capable of reaching that level with a different sideline coaching approach? I don’t know for sure. But I would bet everything that the answer is no.

          p.s. It’s hard to get across what we actually do out there. Our “yelling” is quite different from what’s traditionally referred to. TBC I’m sure …

          • says

            I have one response to the yelling comment from luc…
            when you watch the LA galaxy play, or any other MLS team for that matter play (other than the timbers) how often is the coach up on his sideline screaming at his players when they make a ridiculous 60 yard ball into the opposing back 4 and have to start all over again? in my experience its not very often.
            When you watch BARCA play, the best team in the world, with the best players in the world, Pep, the BEST coach in the world, is up on his sideline SCREAMING for 85% of the game, and you get the end product that barca gives us every game.
            now tell me, would you tell Pep to stop yelling and let xavi and iniesta “just play”?

          • Akos says

            Best comment so far. American coaches have a long way to go.
            Akos. Former Eintacht Frankfurt player.

          • says

            I think it has way more to do with what the coach is yelling then if they should or shouldn’t yell. A lot of American coaches/parents just yell stupid things. If a coach is actually giving correct instruction then it’s probably helping the kids. If he is yelling go, go, go then it’s worthless noise.

  6. Hector says


    • Gary Kleiban says

      Thank you Hector!
      There is loads of talent at every age group.
      There is loads of talent beyond youth as well.

      • A. Grangle says

        I agree that there is a lot of talent, but I think this is more so a display of excellent coaching and great team football.

    • Gary Kleiban says

      Thanks Tyler!
      Yes. They watch games. I’m sure they watch quite a bit more than your average player.

  7. says

    thats awesome…bravo gary

    the willingness to play the ball backwards and or sideways is such a glaring gap in such a large majority of american players. they are constantly looking for the ball and obviously top of mind is always to keep moving the ball to someone else. will be awesome to see how this team improves as they get older.

    that #9 in the middle is awesome to watch…esp as he directs the rest of them around.

    • Gary Kleiban says

      Thank you Adam!
      Yep, there is nothing wrong with slowing the game down and keeping the ball. You don’t always have to go forward. Why can’t more understand that?

      • Kevin K says

        I coached CYSA for years until my daughter was born and now am coaching her AYSO team at U-12. Obviously, ability, athleticism, and commitment is lower but my one rule was YOU MUST TRAP THE BALL. It did wonders for their ability to look up and find each other. Don’t get me started on trying to get them to push up on defense and pass backwards. It takes a while to rid them of years of bad coaching.

        When my daughter had a brief stint in club soccer I saw some amazing U-10 and U-11 boys games in NorCal. There is a TON of talent out there and I dare say equal to many European powerhouses at those age groups.

        • Oscar says

          Gary I totaly agree with you. Why do you have to go forward only when you have 8 total directions. I tell kids to play like a video game.

          NorCal and most other regions have talent at younger ages. The problem is it is easier for a coach to ruin players and than develop them! An 8 year old in the US is no different than in China, Africa, Europe, etc.

          It feels good to finally win a game against top youth clubs with “paid coaches”. Our little, weak team started playing huge, strong U10 boys (1-12 record). We completed our 1st 5 pass sequence, dominated possesion and won 4-1. Coaches are noticing that our boys are not that athletic and talented but they can really play. We just confuse the hell out of older players , keep them chasing and running circles.

          This stuff really works!

  8. Frank says

    I agree that the video shows some very impressive possession play by these kids. Obviously it is the product of a lot of hard work and dedication.

    In the blog post you state “These performances are no accident. It takes meticulous training, studying, and artistry – a craftsman. You can not just throw 11 players on the field and “talk” about possession. That’s just talking. And anybody can do that.
    As a coach, you have to know what the hell you are doing! There are hundreds of details! ”

    I do agree, but also feel like you may be able to offer some more details, suggestions, training philosophy etc., for coaches that are looking to learn more about helping guide their players to a more thoughtful, patient style of play. I agree with much of what you write on this blog, but find myself wanting much more from the perspective of training possession in youth soccer.

    • Gary Kleiban says

      I hear you Frank.

      Lots of people want that. And here are some non-exhaustive reasons why I haven’t written up that stuff yet:

      1) Requirement #1 for even accepting/adopting the content is you must share a lot of the philosophy / culture of this blog. There are lots of coaches that have blogs with their training diagrams and stuff. Guess what? Nobody’s reading it, let alone adopting it. I want to establish a tight community that truly shares much of our opinions and values first, and build a history and repertoire with them. They need to believe we know what we’re talking about. If not, I’ll be wasting my time.

      2) It’s a pedagogical nightmare! How does one go about translating these coaching blocks of know-how in an effective manner? Let’s look at the coaching curriculum US Soccer released last year. It’s a great document from a general guidance/philosophy perspective (as it was meant), but there is very little by way of practical application. It’s that latter portion that people have been asking me for. And that’s the hard part which I have been giving a lot of thought to and have many ideas on. But it requires a lot of work to execute! And I want to do it right!

      3) Which bring me to … I have a day job!

      It will happen Frank. I just want to do it in a way that doesn’t waste my time or yours.

      • coach juggles says

        Gary, I would be happy to work with you on this project. It would be my pleasure and I am ready to take on a NEW education having spent the last 10 years achieving my A license. Ready to move on from that to something more…

  9. Soccer Purist says

    Great stuff and very enjoyable to watch. Was impressed not only in how they kept the ball, spacing, movement, combinations etc, but defnsively they were very good as well both in 1v1 situations and as a group. Question out of curiosity -what is the demographic makeup of your team?

    Last thought. Anyway to widen the camera angle. Was hoping to see the movement off the ball of players further from the ball.

    • Gary Kleiban says

      * Mostly Hispanic

      * Camera can be made a bit wider angle, but not much more than the widest case seen in the video. I’d have to buy another lens.

  10. Joe Kalina says

    Simply beautiful! I would pay to watch this kind of football, even at U11. Never seen that type of ball played ever in the MLS! Hmmmmm…Thanks so much for the 12 minutes, you should be very proud of your boys. Finally some future competition for the Catalonians!

  11. Charlie says

    For all of the talking this blog does, a strong showing to support the words is crucial and very necessary. This display was impressive, especially considering the opposing team and opposing coach’s pedigree. The back four’s composure and patience in building it up was a pleasure to watch, particularly the play of the right back. Also, the fluidity and awareness of when the outside backs joined the attack was a joy to see at this age. A salute is in order for practicing what you preach, which is often the contrary in regards to a “possession” based youth soccer team or club. I believe too many coaches at this level detest players for playing the ball backwards and restarting when there is nothing viable in front of them, which is completely counterproductive. Highlight videos can often be misconstrued, but I think this team’s manner of play and intentions are pretty evident. Great work and maintain this.

  12. Barca Fan says

    Excellent video to watch with some very good individual play, particularly from the attacking full backs and the wide midfielders. I particularly liked the way the team tried to recover possession so quickly when not on the ball. Also, as you said “feel free to dissect the video in the comments” here are my thoughts –
    - Am I right in saying this was on a full sized adult 3g pitch?
    - As a coach I would love to see them tested for time on the ball and space off it.
    - It was noticeable that whilst the back four always kept possession and switched play very well at the back, the goalkeeper didn’t really move away from his six yard area and could be used as an extra player (like Victor Valdes) to free up an extra player across the back four?

    Please don’t take this as criticism, far from it, if more youth football teams played this way then the sport would be in a much healthier place and more enjoyable to watch, like this video.

    • Gary Kleiban says

      * What’s a 3g pitch? haha
      * Not sure I’m understanding “time on the ball and space off it”. You mean the interval between receiving and releasing? (Like a lot at the men’s level do)
      * Good observation on the keeper. We’ll look at that more closely.

      Criticism is great!
      We need a hell of lot more heated discussion in this country instead of pussy-footing around.

  13. George Deverrick says

    That was outstanding. Movement on and off the ball, positional sense, discipline, ball control, short and long passing, finishing and of course, ability to keep possession and do something with it were exceptional. Congratulations on possessing (no pun intended) the dedication required to teach this style and sticking with it. Patience is a virtue in this sport and as a coach who is about go to through the transition from U10 to u11 again, this is an excellent example of 1) how I think the game should be played and 2) minimal coaching in the game as the boys clearly have trained hard, studied and embraced this style.

    Well done to you and the boys and congrats on winning State Cup.

    • Gary Kleiban says

      Thank you George!

      I must admit, however, that we do coach and yell a hell of a lot from the sideline. Interestingly, for those who don’t know us personally, ‘how’ we work, or our teams, they would judge us as indistinguishable from coaches who just scream at players.

      We need to meet sometime man …

      • George Deverrick says


        You make another excellent point there. There’s screamers and then there’s guides. Unfortunately, the parental side of our game misconstrues this on a regular basis.

        And yes, we need to meet and dissect this beautiful game. Time to set something up.

        Best wishes.

      • Akos says

        That’s the way to coach regardless agegroup. This is the style which took most of us to the national team and to the Bundesliga in the early 90s.
        Our coach screamed the hair down of our head but showed 100% love and support at the same time.
        This is the way I’been coaching my son and works very well. (of course the soccer club booking his skills and style their own glory )
        What I try to teach to him- plus whoever listen to me because people just don’t recognize me here – that this game – like many other things – starts in the head. You have to be a very intelligent person on the field to be able to evaluate quick situations
        And making right decisions.
        Vision is as important in this game as having outstanding skills individual level.
        This is what I see in your team that beside their excellent ball securement and individual skills each if every player has fantastic vision. Without this vision you can’t have a teamwork and without teamwork you kill the game which is not the case in your situation.
        Do you guys highlight the importance of screening the field for these boys over and over??? You would surprise me with the NO answer.
        Soccer is very simple. Passing the ball around the right way and speed is the secret what Pep Guardiola implemented in Barca and seems to be like you are on the same track.
        I am said I moved from Orange County. I would have loved to work with you.
        Sincerely, Akos

  14. Chris says

    I don’t mean to be the Debbie Downer b/c the skill level, switching of fields, creating space, passing, and ball possession is obvious. As individuals and as a team these kids have got talent. However, if I may be constructive for a minute. I mainly bring up due to the U.S. National Team’s view (i.e. pre-Klinsmann), and Taylor Twellman’s view to name another, and what a lot of U.S. players THINK is possession-based-soccer. These are obviously the highlights of the game, yet some of the possession out of the back involves passing between several players with little intent or urgency allowing the opposing team to regain composure on defense. Again, I know I’m being hyper-critical of these 11-year-olds but only to be objective.

    If you look at the 27 second mark in the video you’ll notice the following combination: center mid to central defender back to center mid to right defender to right mid back to right defender who gives it away on a long ball. In that whole combination there’s only one forward on the opposing team giving any pressure.

    At the 3:14 mark you’ll see the right defender pass to central defender to center mid back to right defender to center mid who loses control under pressure although gets a foul his way (don’t understand that call).

    As a whole there’s NO DOUBT of this team’s talent, but I think the lesson here is that we can all improve (even Barca…ha!). And in this particular situation I think playing with a consistent sense of urgency (not rushed/forced play mind you like Division I college ball) by always keeping the opposing team on their heels and unbalanced is key.

    If I didn’t get my point across it’s this: passing just for the sake of passing is NOT what we should be seeking in possession-based-soccer. (Again, this team IS a good example but wanted to stress the few imperfections I saw.)

    • says

      Respectfully Chris, I think you might be projecting some of your own biases as universal truths regarding the most effective way to play the game. Given that the group in the video is 11 year’s old (WOW! So, impressive! ), there is obvious “room for improvement.” However, to suggest as you do that such improvement requires a greater sense of “urgency” in order to attack successfully misses one of the major things on display in the video. These kids display a great collective sense of avoiding the “trouble spots” before they occur. They do this by patiently and quickly circulating the ball into areas where space exists while choosing their spots to attack when “it’s on.” Their tactical awareness is advanced even for a team many years older than them. As Gary says, this is the product of sophisticated and patient coaching and commitment from the players. Where you see a lack of urgency, I see a team that knows inside and out what it wants to do and when it wants to do it. It is an incredible display of footballing potential in the U.S.

      P.S. Poor “Z” or “Zeke” on the left wing for the yellow team. He gets to be the target #1 for his coaches incoherent yelling and contradictory instructions.

      • says

        yes, agreed Jacques

        passing to pass is very hard to define.

        even if they are short passes in an area of the field far from goal…moving the ball moves other players around, players in the frame of the video and probably some outside it. as they move, the free space on the field changes and then you can move forward.

        patience is a hard thing to have, and in sport it is even harder in a country where we are always focused on “SCORE NOW!”. but it is a great way to play this game.

      • says

        Possession is not the same as Dominance. I’d like to have seen a wider camera angle to judge how much time and space was available. From what I could see the Arsenal front line never really pressed, and they were beaten in a series of foot races in midfield – usually down the line.

        • Gary Kleiban says

          Welcome John.
          In general, when a team monopolizes the ball, they dictate the game.
          They determine the when, where, and how of engagements a lot more than the opponent does.
          To me, that’s called domination.

          But I guess people can choose to define the the word however they see fit.

          • says

            You can be dominant without possession.

            “Dominant soccer means that you are the team that decides the flow of the game. Meaning creating more chances than the opponent, playing offensively and doing this based on technical and tactical capacity, whereby the will to win plays an essential role. You therefore assume an offensive rather than defensive organization. Losing if often due more so to ourselves than due to our opponents.”
            – Louis van Gaal

            More about dominant soccer: http://coachmulholland.com/coaching-dominant-soccer/

          • Gary Kleiban says

            Like I said, in general the team who owns the ball has a far greater chance of fitting into the Louis van Gaal definition you cited.

            Exceptions are just that, exceptions.

      • Chris says

        Jacques, first let me address your “biases” comment since you know zero about me. I grew up playing select soccer in Orlando, but my Sundays were spent w/ my dad taking me to play pickup games with older Hispanics with me being the only “gringo”. In other words, I came to appreciate the South American style of play, or Joga Bonito, looking up to the likes of Valderrama while the majority of Americans were drooling over Balboa and Lalas.

        Next point, you obviously missed the boat of my critique. These U-11 players are bar none the best I’ve seen in US youth soccer! However, do you think Pep reviews Barca games nonchalantly sipping on cappuccinos or do you think he studies & analyzes the best players in the world’s every move. Case in point: do you ever see Pique & Puyol aimlessly passing the ball back n’ forth. No, their passes out of the back are with intent, purpose, & yes, urgency.

        If you’re uncomfortable with constructive criticism then may I suggest you invest in a set of pom poms. I look forward to you “unbiased” response.

        • says

          It’s all good man. Let me clarify what I mean in regards to “biases.” I’m not talking about where you grew up, who your friends were or what kind of soccer players you idolized. I’m talking about how well your analysis holds up to logical scrutiny and how constructive and objective it really is.

          You pointed out two points where the build up breaks down and diagnose the problem as a lack of urgency and intent on behalf of the kids on the field. You don’t provide any suggested alternatives for the actions the players take (like for example switching fields earlier in the sequence or playing back to the GK to open up space). Rather, you address what you presume to be a flaw in their mentality to be at the time. Additionally, you play pretty loose with the facts in stating that there is only 1 opposing player providing pressure when there are 3 player’s on yellow visibly influencing the playing area in the :27 sequence.

          In the sequences you describe there are obvious individual breakdowns (which are to be totally expected at this age and far, far beyond) but they occur within what appears to be the team’s desired rhythm and tactical pattern. I refer you to the sequence immediately after (starting at 3:29) the one you describe at 3:14 in which they play from the GK (Again, WOW!) and go the entire length of the field to score an amazing goal. Same rhythm, timing, and positioning patterns as the breakdowns you describe, just better executed, which leads to a breathtaking goal. That’s what is so darn impressive about this video. Yes, the kids are obviously skilled individually, but the mutual understanding about how to move the ball and position themselves reflects the quality of instruction and rehearsal initiated by the coaches.

          I don’t disagree that Pep and world’s best analyze everything and seek improvement at every opportunity. What I’m pretty confident of is that the solutions they come up with aren’t in the form of generalities like “be more urgent” or “have more intent.” Those suggestions provides little to no information as to how to take advantage of spaces or soft spots that develop in the opponents system or how to be more effective in possession and buildup.

    • Gary Kleiban says

      Chris, thanks for the input.

      I want to say that we are perfectionists!!!!
      The expectations and standards we place on ourselves and our players are outrageous! We break down every game and even training session like you wouldn’t believe!

      Allow me to paint you just a piece of the pie.
      For years – and virtually after every game – we go get a bite to eat at a restaurant. A two hour session of all our observations ensues. We dissect the crap out of every single player, and as many events we can recollect. And we come up with ways to address our concerns (they could be technical, tactical, psychological, or physical in nature). Not only that, but we criticize each other!

      One would think it’s over after the restaurant … nope!
      Without fail, there are at least 2 to 3 more phone calls between us that evening about things we missed or reiterating some of the same.

      So what I’m trying to say is … I welcome people’s criticism.
      1) I doubt it can ever be harsher than our own auto-criticism.
      2) We need a lot more of that culture in this country.

      Welcome to the community Chris!

      • Kevin says

        I love this post! It shows the importance of having another friend/coach to challenge your opinions, exchange views and ideas, and simply grow together as soccer minds. I feel like there is nothing more important than having a couple guys that eat, sleep, and breathe soccer that you can talk to for hours upon hours about the game with. There is nothing like it to help grow all the people involved in this relationship.

  15. Hank says

    1. comfortable out of the back.
    2. switch the point of attach well
    3. runs into space well
    4. always looking for the next pass before and after they receive it.
    5. were not afraid to use the flanks and equally attacked the middle of the field.
    6. support of the ball was very good
    7. very rarely did I see a kid go 1 v 3 or 1 v 4. If they did not have something they moved it out and reset.
    8. technical skill with the ball was good.
    9. Not a lot of dribbling in the defensive third.
    10. lots of 1 v 1 in the attacking third
    11. 1st touch away from pressure.
    12. very patience.

    Your team played some of the best defense. POSSESSION! That team had no chance of scoring as long as your team maintained possession.

    Risks were made quite a bit in the attacking third but that is where you want your risks to be made. It was great to see young players with a killer instinct in and around the goal. If it did not work, oh well, simply win the ball back and try it again.

    Gary I am glad that you put something like this up. I was actually going to make the comment that while most of us here on this forum understand what you are saying, there are people like me who no longer want to be a part of the problem as a poor soccer coach but a part of the solution. It is one thing to bang the drum about how coaching must improve in this country. Something has to be done.

    One thing that frustrated me a bit as I was doing my “licenses” was my realization that they really do not train you to be a coach as much as observe if you are good enough to receive the “letter” to move on. I see all this complaint about how poor coaches are and then they are told to go and get there “E” or “D” or whatever but they may not get it because they are not what the tester is looking for. I feel that for the most part there are coaches out there who truly want to get better but with no one really “teaching” but more “expecting” you to know what you should already know it seems like a very poor way to improve the youth system.

    Thanks for doing something like this. I hope to see more exhausted breakdowns in what is going on and the approach used to teach things.

    • Gary Kleiban says

      Great stuff Hank!!!

      And I totally feel you on your other points.
      Teaching is tough!
      First, what is a good modality to transfer know-how, methodology, and art. In my opinion, the best way is to have an in-person apprenticeship for an extended period. But that doesn’t scale.

      Online content isn’t optimal, but it scales. So now my challenge is to design a practical curriculum that incorporates all kinds of media (ie video, audio, text, etc), and perhaps interaction between coaches.

      I think that can contain tremendous value.

  16. Ken Sweda says

    Gary, I’m sure this team loses games as all teams must. When they do, what generally are the reasons?

    Also, I love the train horn at 11:00. Perfect metaphor!

    • Gary Kleiban says

      If I recall, this team has lost twice in 2 years. Both of which I wasn’t present for (I’m not trying to imply anything :) ). Brian can be specific, but the general reason is: “It happens. We bombarded the opponent’s goal but didn’t score. They get a couple chances, and convert.”

  17. Bob says

    A total domination of possession. These young men play a style of futbol, I would like my son to learn play someday. Gary, our son is 7 and we are thinking of placing him on a club team. How does a parent recognize a coach is developing your son, so he can play like these kids do someday? What are the key training methods to look for? How do we find a coach that can develope our son the way your team plays?

  18. Scott H says


    I watch lots of youth soccer and that was really impressive. How long have these boys played together? What would you rather start with:
    a) a team full of misfits who aren’t very good but have passion for the game and desire to improve
    b) a herd of athletes who like the game but are not soccer nuts

    I think quite a few club teams have some of each. I am just curious how long it should take an experienced club coach to mold a team [comprised of players with a variety of skill levels] to perform as a team.

    Many thanks for the blog.

    • Gary Kleiban says

      Thanks Scott!
      Hard to say “how long these boys have played together”. The team was formed at U9, but there has been player movement. Not to mention, that 11v11 commenced at U11.
      You can evaluate the player roster here:

      Damn. Your second question is a tough one. I can’t answer it directly, because I’d have to know exactly what you mean by “aren’t very good” and “athletes”.
      I’ll say this: Our goal is to ultimately develop quality professional players. Not just professional, but quality. With that in mind, I need players with passion, but also raw talent that can be worked with.

      So for both types of player you presented, they would start out with us and I believe they would grow by leaps and bounds, but they would have a ceiling. Ultimately they would end up playing at a higher level than when they started, but for another team. After a year or two, they probably wouldn’t continue making our squad.

  19. Noah Creagh says

    Beautiful! The key here is that your team let the ball do the work. You guys keep possesion of the ball, and let the ball do the work while having an attack minded approach. Everyone is giving a lot of credit to your backline (and that credit is certainly deserved) However its the team as a whole, using great possesion and working to get the ball back quickly when they lose it…that is really helping your defense out. We see this working on a higher level by Barcelona. Keeping possesion of the ball is always the best defense as well as great offense. If the other team cant get the ball, they cant score. And while you have the ball and are able to hold onto it with good ball control, passing, and smart technical play, you will have opportunites to score. This is the kind of soccer that needs to be implemented throughout our youth system. I am a Freshman in college and I aspire to be a coach and help with the developement of youth players in America, I hold this website in very high regard. It has helped with my education very much. Keep up the great work!

  20. Paul Dueker says

    One additional comment if I may.

    It’s obvious that these kids come from a futbol culture. By this I mean a setting away from their regular training sessions. These kids are watching games and playing with their siblings and or parents/cousins/uncles/, etc., A LOT. This is an important part of development and is too frequently given short shrift by uninformed coaches IMO.

      • oscar vega says

        Yes. I would watch your team and or any other team at this age group who plays just as well than the MLS. Living in the Bay Area and Northern California one can see so much finesse skill and technically gifted young kids here (latino, european, asian) being there is such a diversity out here just by playing pick up at a local field….its fun.

        I grew up playing in the SFSFL with and against many ex pros from Mexico and Europe back in the 1990s when the San Francisco league was the best amateur/semi pro league in the USA (El Farolito, Greek Americans, SF Glens, Mezcala, SF Scots). It is just hard to believe how the MLS can be our standard for top flight in soccer. I had many friends who can do amazing things with the ball, but we were never taught the tactics of the game from our coaches. My coach was my dad who I truly admire what he did with our team growing up (2 norcal state cup semis, 1 state cup final and 1 regional tournament appearance) all from just loving the game but not really “knowing” the game.

        I would have loved to play for your team growing up if good skillful enougj of course lol. You dont need anybody to tell you other wise…those who undetstand the sport understand that your team plays joga bonito. Keep it up. Admirable committment and dedication. AKA maradona was awesome but why the hell Xavi so underrated?? He should win the Balon d’ or!! Without him and others Messi would not be that efficient!!

  21. Gil Chico says

    I’ve had the opportunity of watching Brian Kleiban train his U11 team and its amazing how he’s put together their individual skills to match their formation and ball movement mechanism in tune with his voice commands. And he’s passing on this unique ability to his other coach, Danny. It’s such a joy to watch the whole process evolve before our very eyes. Nothing comes close to this.

    More power to you Gary for sharing these games and analysis. I always look forward it

    • Gary Kleiban says

      We have to work on that at the club level.
      There are loads of challenges, but it’s certainly something we’d like to do.

      • Scott H says

        Thanks for the honest response. I am trying to evaluate my own son’s club experience by studying the opposition, because I believe that talk is cheap. When I see a competitor with a,b,c teams of varying skill level, but a rock solid “style” showing across all three, it catches my attention.

        Your blog has become a daily read. Every day lately I see new eye opening things (here) such as the link Cony provided (to Tahuichi in Bolivia) and John Mulholland’s Blog. Just superb all around. Keep it coming.

  22. BillR says


    My first thought is wow is my kid missing out! The second thought isn’t everyone at least trying to get to this point? My answer is they don’t know how, I don’t

    The question that comes to my mind is what is core philosophy and its tenets? How is it communicated to the players? How do you build this from the ground up? What does it look like when they are u-8′s, u9′s, u-10′s? Its clear that the boys have a wonderful foundation in the basic skills of the game, but what sets them apart is the application of those skills within a system, within an approach to the game. It would be wonderful to get the gist of how this team’s play was constructed especially in comparison to the usual elite player’s path.

    The video made me sad listening to the Arsenal coach’s continual yelling, although it is also sadly familiar to anyone watching youth games around the country.

  23. el millo says

    excellent , words like cometelo , llevatela , and the kid throws a killer pass to his team mate . very nice , Thats how you play soccer , the rest is bullshit . The other coach GET BACKKKKKKK , LET THEM HAVE THE BALL , give me a break if i have the ball , how are you gonna score ????????

  24. el millo says

    sorry , for the english speaking , all the words used by one coach are positive encouraging , giviing you confidence , no ragging , the other totally the opposite . Who would you like to play for ?????? And forget about winning or losing ////////////////////////

  25. Rivelino says

    yes el millo, that video would make me think very hard about having a kid play for that team. Even though they are the biggest name in my area.

  26. Bren says

    I know this might be tough, but when these kids go to play in Spain, whenever that is, can you get their games on tape as well. That would be wonderful to watch.

  27. Josh Hess says

    I am curious… did you just call yourself a craftsman? Clearly these are not just a group of your typical club players. They seem to be very good players. Congratulations.

    • Gary Kleiban says

      Hi Josh. What’s wrong with that?
      Don’t make the mistake of assuming these must be THE best players of the age group. Very good players yes, but so are the majority of those on any of the top teams. That Arsenal team has loads of raw talent.

  28. BillR says

    I do think its important to be clear about where these boys were before you started coaching. At what age did the team form? and how were the boys selected?

    What sort of soccer background did they have at home? how many had generations of soccer heritage to fuel their development, and stoke their passion for the game?

    Finally, I would say that the #10 on the Barcalona squad is quite special and would I be correct in assuming that his performance isn’t atypical in this game?

  29. Chad says

    Ok Gary, you have talked the talk and, as we see here, you walk the walk. Now, when are you going to share your methods? I can read blogs all day regarding the negatives of the US game, however it would be much more proactive to read exactly how you or anyone else successfully coach this brand of soccer.

  30. Gary Kleiban says

    Before I go ahead and try to respond to all your comments, I just want to say THANK YOU ALL!

    Without your participation here and spreading the good word online and offline, the fact that high level soccer is possible in the US right now can not take root.

    Instead we will continue to believe all those myths that you’re probably familiar with by now.
    And let me tell you this country can be a soccer giant now! Not in 10 or 20 years.

    Everyone’s time is precious, and I sincerely thank you for the lending us some of your attention!

  31. says

    These kids were amazing. Thanks for sharing. I have to say there were plenty of things that they did that I’m sure the coach may not have ever taught them. I’m just guessing that some of the creative play is from these little guys seeing big brothers, dads, uncles, and a few players they admire and watch. When is the right time to do so might be coached when it comes to flare.

    But here’s my beef. I’ve been getting email for a while from 3four3.com and read everything. Please tell me why everyone sucks if you’re not the champion? Please tell me what makes the sender of the email so awesome, enough to feel the whole United States coaching sucks? How can a video, email etc ask such a thing “want players to develop?” then put 3four3.com after it? Is that suggesting that 3four3 is going to help by trash talking coaches? There’s nothing here but a blog.

    As for the awesome play from that team, I bet the coach did help that team no doubt. But let me guess, he got a bunch of scrubs and took them from crap to incredible. Right, right? He didn’t get the kids who grew up with generations of soccer pride and passion. He didn’t get the most dedicated kids in the area…..

    Or did he? Arsenal FC is a US Soccer Development Academy. These kids are the elite of the elite. This is not the local team for the kids who live 1 to 15 miles away. It’s for the die hard kids and parents from possibly as far away as a 90 minutes drive. And yes, the coach does know what he’s doing, but c’mon,.. before you kneel I’ll let you know he’s not god. Though he’s brilliant, he’s also lucky to have kids like that to work with.

    Thousands of coaches work with thousands more kids who have a hard time not tripping over long grass, pot holes, chewing gum without biting their tongue, half the team may or may not suffer from ADD etc etc. or can’t afford to play or you just insert another issue here _________.

    Yes, most people want to develop soccer kids. Some coaches don’t know they don’t know. For others, they know there’s much more to know. But bashing anyone that they are just crap and don’t know what the “hell” they are doing is hardly inspirational.

    I guarantee that if you share the joy of something with an answer or solution to a problem, more coaches who do know they are lacking something or looking for something would likely be interested in listening.

    I myself found 3four3 and thought this could be great stuff…. I’ve heard more bashing than anything on many topics. If that’s all you have to offer, I’ll just continue to read Paul Gardener.

    No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.

    • Hank says

      I did touch on this a bit earlier in my post.

      I simply have to take the stance that if I am not the solution then I am the problem. I know that I am not a “great” coach. I would like to someday.

      I find that not many want to teach coaches how to coach the simply expect you to know it. There are a lot of coaches who want to learn and know, most do not think they can get it so there will be no investment.

      I don’t want to be the problem with soccer but not many want to invest to make willing coaches better.

    • Gary Kleiban says

      Well thanks for “bashing” me John. :)

      I’m a straight forward guy, and at least from your post it looks like you are too when something strikes a chord.

      Think about what compelled you to write that heated and passionate response, then you’ll have some of the answers to your questions.

      Beyond that, I’ll offer you something else to think about:
      That word has different meaning to different people. It is a function of what the end goal is. When US Soccer talks about “development”, it’s talking about producing quality professional players. US Soccer wants lots of international level players to surface. Instead of one Clint Dempsey, it wants 10. Instead of 1 Landon Donovan, it wants 20. And it would like to finally have a World Class player to boast.

      That is what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about the capacity of coaches to refine and polish the elite players in this country. That is something this country fails miserably at. Don’t take it from me. US Soccer itself admits to it.

      p.s. The yellow team is DA club Arsenal FC (you know, the one you said has the elite of the elite). We are the black team. Shouldn’t the Development Academy club have handed us a pounding? Go figure.

      • says

        I got the team screwed up. With reading all the posts rapidly. (There are tons, so it’s popular) I assumed you complimenting the Arsenal team. It doesn’t matter, you still don’t come across as you would not only appreciate appreciate success, but a well played game. If there can only be one winner to continue to the top, then everyone is a loser. I’m not commenting on just this blog. It’s the rest. Same vibe.
        “Why does everyone suck?” In place of “Is there a way we can be better?”

        I keep coming back because I’m just waiting for you to show us something.

        Like a teacher at a cooking school. Telling a future chef it’s not good and leaving it at that, it isn’t enough. Share…. Tell us. More salt? More pepper? What? What is it that’s missing? WHat do you do?

    • Kevin says

      Sorry but in my opinion this blog is about changing views. If he just acts all nice all the time, and says how great everything is, how is there ever going to be change? This is exactly the problem with all the good ole boys involved throughout the USSF. No one challenges each other because they don’t want to lose their jobs, so no one gets better. If you get turned off because of a few words and a harsh tone, frankly it’s your loss. People need to wake up and realize that the soccer in this country although not at all bad, if we want to be truly elite there needs to be a serious change in mindset and culture and that’s not going to happen by pretending everything’s fine and complimenting everyone. This nice guy go with the flow attitude is why we continue to spit out mediocre robotic players and coaches through ought the entire country.

      • Ken Sweda says

        Amen Kevin. Spot on. I guarantee there have been plenty of people who have sidled up to the talking heads at US Soccer and said “what if we did it *this* way?” for the last 30 years with zero effect (maybe even Gary or Brian themselves–not sayin’, just sayin’ =D)). I frankly LOVE Gary’s attitude about this, it’s about time. If they’ve got a little Al Davis/AFL brashness in them, so be it. I imagine they’ve tried to work within the system to some extent, and felt swallowed up by it. And when you can play like this, seemingly “outside” the “system” you have the right to show a little swagger. I have intentions of taking our U8 girls advanced rec team on a similar path, up to and including forming a club around them, that’s how strongly I feel that I wouldn’t turn them over to an existing club to have their desire and ability wasted. If there were a club like California Barca near me, with knowledge and passion like Brian and Gary (and the rest) have, I wouldn’t have that concern. But I plan on bringing this approach to my girls. I hope to build something that will truly be a family club, with a culture of passion and creativity.

      • says

        I don’t see any information stated that any one can just agree here. The disagreement of some here is that no opinion other than most coaches are not coaching what the players in the video are being coaches. Some are asking for “hey what are you doing?” and there’s no reply. What is the number one focus? How do you achieve it?

        Going with the flow? What flow? There is no flow. Even here on these posts. It’s some saying quick saying people suck and give a solution and others are kissing butt saying how great a guy is but there’s nothing to be seen “yet”. Someone here says they have the answers, I’m just waiting for a guide. Some video for $99 or something to pop up for those who are in awe.

        I saw the video too. I agreed “AWESOME” so what was done to get it to happen?
        * What is the process for getting players on the team?
        * How much are they being charged?
        * How many days a week are they practicing?
        *Are they playing up an age level in league now that they seem to dominate?

        These questions aren’t even about coaching, but probably does make a difference if we all knew in one small way or another. We all know that we can “get the drill” and use it but it won’t make the players without coaching. How you coach etc. (But if it’s all about let them play and street soccer, then how much credit would a coach really deserve?)

        As it’s been said, “A true sign of greatness is the ability to bring out greatness in others”

        So I’m just curious. I’m listening. Others are listening and waiting. I know I have a long way to go and will never know it all. But give some so help, ideas, things that might improve what has been labeled negatively.

        • Ken Sweda says

          To JVK and the others who have this opinion, I understand your desire for details. Here’s what I would say: the details are out there. There are really no secret SSGs, or drills, or technical ballwork exercises. How do the kids find their way onto the team? Who cares, it’s probably not unlike other clubs. How much do they charge? Again, if the parents are happy with the results (and why wouldn’t they be, with development AND winning), and keep signing up, isn’t that an indication that the cost is appropriate? How much are they practicing? Asked and answered, 2-3 times per week, but other answers suggest plenty of self-play. Playing up? I’m sure if they feel they’ve got nothing left to accomplish at their proper age level, they’ll move up. That’s their decision and wouldn’t necessarily be relevant to your situation.

          On a general level, if you’re on twitter like I am, there are hundreds of progressive coaches right now who are sharing information that works for them in aiming for this level of play, including drills, articles on Barca, Ajax, Bilbao, opinions, questions etc…I have never seen one of this team’s practices, but on some level, I know exactly what they look like. The fundamental foundation of the best programs in the world have been dissected, discussed, and disseminated endlessly. If you haven’t found this information, you aren’t looking hard enough.

          So where do Brian and Gary and this club fit in? They’ve actually gone out and applied these principles to groups of AMERICAN boys. WHAT A NOVEL CONCEPT!! But it IS novel in the sense that most American parents wouldn’t value this approach, wouldn’t necessarily see where it differs, and probably wouldn’t want to wait it out for the extra year or 2 before it germinates. While other American clubs TALK about valuing technically sound play, these guys actually spend time on it. Where other clubs TALK about teaching tactically astute play, these guys actually do it. And they do it endlessly, in both detail and time spent. If you’ve spent even the slightest amount of time around American club soccer, you’ll know exactly what it means to be “shined on” by club DOC’s and coaches, who are really only after keeping soccer-ignorant parents happy by winning in a dumbed-down fashion, and only so those $2000 checks keep coming in. The truth is, many youth coaches phone it in. For some the reason is it’s too hard to spend the time and effort. For others, it’s a process that they may start, but when parents start bailing out on their “project”, they quickly fall in line with the rest. For others, they grew up learning and playing in the traditional American setup, and have no concept of how it’s down beyond our borders. For still others, they simply aren’t good enough at executing what they DO know (either they’re not a good teacher, or don’t have the personality to connect with their students). And, quite frankly, US Soccer does an entirely shitty job holding all of these coaches responsible. That is starting to change, however, as they now rate all clubs on various criteria to see if they are abiding by the standards set by the Fed, but it’s woefully late and ineffective.

          The information is out there, I’ve found plenty of it, which is why I personally haven’t asked ask Gary what it is they’re doing here. I’m sure other coaches agree. The difference is committing your time, effort, reputation and livelihood to it, and getting parents on board. I’ve already started this process with my single team of U8 girls. The parents (and we coaches) were amazed at our development over one fall season. By the end of the year we were still losing more than we were winning, but we were producing wonderful soccer, individually and collectively, and having 15 chances at goal to every 3 for the other team, and, I would guess, 65-75% possession. We weren’t necessarily winning games, but that’s because we spent next to no time on finishing (preferring to focus on individual and group ball retention over winning) and because other teams literally kept 2-3 cherry pickers advanced up the field for those few hopeful balls that we couldn’t quite keep in their half. This season we will build on that, and focus a little (little!) more attention on finishing, as the progression of our plan demands.

          Short version: look harder for the info, commit to it, get parents on board, and invest yourself in it. It’s really not a secret. If your players don’t come from a soccer culture, build one (which we are also doing.) Let the kids OWN the game, but give them the tools to do so. Aside from a lowly E license and Coerver diploma, I’m completely self-taught as a coach. I’m learning as I go. But even I, with simple commitment and desire, have found more information than I could possibly use. What this Barca team does that is specific to them is actually commit to pursuing the highest levels of the game. It’s that simple. Their stamp on that easily available information is simply the personnel that are conveying the lessons, which, based on the results, certainly aren’t hindering the process, and in all likelyhood are helping considerably–it is their special relationship. So instead of asking what Brian, Gary and the rest are doing, consider the fact that there are really no secrets to the information. You can’t replicate the personalities of the people, so don’t get hung up on that. Find out what makes you special, and what your advantages might be. I’m a very demanding coach in terms of what I want the kids to learn, but the spirit and joy that I show the girls is what makes that seriousness palatable to them, and defines me an individual. The relationships need to be built; the practice plans you can find very easily.

          • says

            Couldn’t agree more Ken, listen to the coaches around the world speak…they talk about the cultural influences being the foundation for the philosophy. When brazil played the way they did in 2010 WC Cruyff said he did not recognize this brazil because they did not play with the guile and flash known from their game and said they should go back to what defines them. Holland he said the same, the leaders of the game help define it and as Gary has mentioned their is no one single exact route, but there are principles to abide by in developing players.

            I go to Holland a lot and talk to coaches from FC Groningen and others and they say look we talk about the issues and make subtle changes in coaching and how they convey the game. I talked with them about why Spain and not Holland are considered the total football masters and their reply: “Philosophically they changed more to physical over technique due to their history of never winning it all so that led to a focus on the physical side which in turn effected player development and selection. They are now trying to get back to technique, ball movement, interchanging etc as a nation…Again there was no mention of drills but mention of focus

            Here’s what Robin Van Persie said of Wenger with him: The Dutchman spoke about how his manager helped him “find his own answers”

            The game provides so many questions, and its up to the leaders to find the solutions that work and as 3four3 has shown they found a lot of solutions to any problem that Arsenal FC team was giving them. So we need to go out and find answers through experience and studying instead of asking someone to hold our hand throughout the whole process

          • says

            Thank you for trying to explain what I’ve been asking. I guess I want to compare something to what’s out there (the resources you brought up.) I have access to tons. I too have Coerver influences. I worked 3 summers at a residential camp near Minneapolis and I ran a “official” Coerver camp in Madison WI for 3 years.

            I’m not a beginner, I’ve read enough here to think there’s some web page that’s missing. 3four3 is sorta in a roundabout way advertising that it’s got the answers to solve terrible coaching. That’s all. Opinions are fine. Adding to the opinion that everyone is doing things wrong but should do things like 3four3 does it…. (No not verbatim, just paraphrasing of what I’ve read into it…) This makes me wonder what is this guy doing. I don’t want to watch another Barca video or read another article with Xavi. I see it all the time. It’s now all the world talks about. So if the answer is, “find a video or read coaching mags of Barca practices because that’s what 3four3 does” ok. No biggie. Nothing new. But like Kephern (above) says in one sentence… “3four3 has shown they found a lot of solutions to any problem that Arsenal FC team was giving them”. This is what I’m saying. Where. What? Pointing out a problem? That isn’t a solution. I’m wondering if I’m not seeing a link or something. 3four 3 as in this blog? You mean just random comments to our hindsight of a game that was on tv? Or how do you break that situation down in a training session?

            I guess it’s no biggie, I realize this site isn’t what I thought it was. Good points are made from many angles. It’s talk.

            But as I’ve said before, I don’t think the bashing mentality will encourage anyone. Especially face to face. That would not a good idea. But offering real ideas for solutions to a problem one may not know they had would probably be accepted more often than not.

            But anyway, thanks again for putting the effort in to mellow me out. I’m now assuming I’m not one of the coaches that are being bashed with the blanket statements because I put in my time. My wife goes nuts with the amount of time I spend with and the money I spend on this game.

            I’m always in search of something new so I don’t get stale, or at least try not to be to the kids. “Keepin it fresh” I guess. “CHEERS”

          • Ken Sweda says

            Hey, no worries. I’ll restate my main point: they have no secret formula because there really isn’t any. They’ve simply gone “all in”. The fact that they are named after Barca (and do happen to play like them) gives you an idea of what things they’re teaching. And they’re not dumbing it down. They’re hypercritical, hyper-aware, hyper-alert, at an age-group where most people (Americans, anyway) would assume you can’t possibly get performance like this because the kids are just too young. So that’s what separates them from the coaches they “bash”: their work is done in practice–hard, detailed, critical practice that is scrutinized, as are games. Even though Gary admits that they, too, yell at their players, you can hear the difference in tone and information compared to the Arsenal coach. I think this Barca club has empowered their players, but it’s from information/lessons/SSGs etc..that you’ve already seen. They’ve simply said: we’re ACTUALLY going to do this, and not bail out on it until every kid gets it, or they won’t stay on the team. Harsh? Sure, but the alternative is keeping kids in the club only for the money which is what most clubs in the country do.

            As to their approach, again, they’re named afer Barca. Xavi himself has said that the most important and best thing Barca do in practice are “rondos”. That should give you an idea that i’ts not exactly reinventing the wheel. The difference is in letting (but also truly requiring) the players absorb the lessons, and being more critical of performance (rather than simply thinking of players as income to the club.) I’ve never experienced that level of dedication from a club coach, and I really think that’s the difference here.

          • says

            I already posted below, but a BTW… I wondered if maybe these guys in the video were the deserving players who are overlooked because they can’t afford the expensive clubs. I was just fishing for small tid bits that can eventually add up to a mountain of importance. (Details)

          • Oscar says

            JVK you have very interesting posts. Thank you for sharing. I did not realize you had so much experience and soccer training, knowledge, and education. Please share more! Ken seems to have many of the correct responses (based on my personal experiences). Gary mentioned these boys are “diamonds” and the club caters to the elite. I have a different quest but want to produce similar results with a U9 boys team. The area I live in has no real concept of excellence in soccer. Once you are able to grasp this concept of excellence then you can achieve wonders. For example, our team started at a very low level bronze. After 9 months we are now silver level. It’s 90% mental and 10% physical. I find players on the local streets, parks, schools. As a coach I don’t charge anything. Our team is unaffliated. We try to stay away from adults who are out for money and other selfish reasons. We pay the bare minimum to participate in games or just play friendlies. Kids should not have to pay to play nor develop. Most of what we do as a team is non-conventional. We train 0,1,2,3,4,5 days a week when necessary. The entire training curriculum is planned daily, weekly, monthly, yearly up to high school. You must have a long-term plan in order to succed. “Fail to plan then plan to fail!” I’m no expert but I’m like Ken and think like Gary where success is the only option. I study soccer 10-30hrs per week. Watch elite and bad soccer games at the youth, high school, college, professional levels. Study sports fitness, childrens psychology, positive coaching, bio-mechanics, child development. Study coaches in gymnastics, baseball, football, basketball, volleyball, martial arts. As Americans, we know how to succeed in many areas. It’s just a matter of applying the same drive, dedication, and commitment to the development of soccer players. You don’t need to “recruit” players to win. Develop what you have and care for the individual kids instead of “cutting” them for someone else. When these kids grow up they will love you for that! A good coach develops the individual player. A bad coach recruits and focuses on the team. Barcelona is the answer. Teach intelligence and creativity over speed and brute force. It can be done, but you must truly believe it as seen in this Phenomenal video!!!

          • says

            Thanks for the post. Thanks for reading what was said and not between the lines. I agree with you. I do have tons of experience, but I’m far from thinking I’m as good as I can get.

            You brought up other sports. Just an opinion and I have no proof about this… My daughter (in my area) is a pretty popular player at 13. She’s invited to train with the older kids, she’s very social, confident, strong etc etc. It’s partly because she has soccer skill, which gives her confidence etc. What I’m getting at is I give a bunch of credit to this because of two other sports she was involved in very young. Gymnastics and Martial Arts. I feel they helped because of knowing that falling happens. Balance on one foot. Mobility and over all strength. She doesn’t do all those any more, but I think it helped get her off to a good start. The seperation started and continued.

            Yeah I read too. I just completed Outliers. It’s very interesting and in short, it explains success. Right now I’m reading Winning by Clive Woodward (a Rugby World Cup coach)

            I’ll be replying to another post below this one now. Best wishes. (If you haven’t seen my web site it’s http://www.soaringsoccer.com)

    • Rafael says

      JVK, I haven’t read all your posts above but I felt compelled to post something in response to your first post “bashing” Gary, 3four3, etc.
      My son was on one of Brian’s teams for four years and I was the team manager until the team dissolved due to money problems. I can tell you first hand that he and Gary and the rest of the bunch are a knowledgeable, dedicated, and informed bunch. The training sessions were always scheduled for 2 hours but the kids would come early and stay late and even practice with the older boys. They loved the coaching staff to the point that we couldn’t add many players because NO ONE would leave the team!!! Unfortunately, we had to ask some of the kids to leave so we could add better talent as the years went on.
      One thing I saw over and over was that Brian and Gary would scout kids and bring them onto the team and it took them 6 months to teach any talent level kid the “system”. And yes, it is a system. Every drill Brian would run had a purpose and a direction, which was to build skills to support the possession game. He had a game plan for each training session and each game based on the players he had.
      The thing with a lot of coaches is that they get any kid with any level of talent, whether learned or natural, and they beat the kid down and get less out of him than he has. The exact opposite is true from Brian. In addition to knowing how to teach the system, he is very personable and the boys loved playing for him. This intangible quality is never discussed in any of the blogs I’ve read but that is what gets the boys to give more than they think they have. Brian can just draw it out of them.
      Over the four years that my son played for Brian, we won a lot of games against more talented teams but not against the extremely talented teams. We had mediocre players at best but they performed at a much higher level than they should have. That is directly attributable in large part to the system and to a lesser, but not insignificant part, to Brian’s personality and dealings with the boys.
      One last comment, I have seen him do this type of thing with multiple teams over the 5 years that I’ve known him. His current teams have more raw talent than our team had. That’s why he is able to couple that with the system/personality to bring teams that are far superior to most teams they play. I always knew he could get it done and now he really is. There’s no one happier than me for him and Gary. Maybe one day they can really reap the rewards of all this hard work.

      • says

        Hi Rafael, I do see that I was accused of bashing earlier too. Here’s the thing. The only thing I may have bashed is the fact that all the language has been dancing around specifics.

        Here’s a blanket statement I’ve seen posted in many ways and many times. “Other coaches are just not doing a good job. They aren’t coaching like me”

        OohhhKaaaay???? No that was not a word for word. But it’s there. I have asked and I’m sure I’m missing something. Others keep saying “I love your stuff, I love what you’re sharing with us etc.” (What stuff?) Sharing what? How great the U11s are? Yeah we saw. Great. “High five” but now,… so what.

        I’m totaly interested in picking up some great ideas. Maybe there’s something simple that I’ve overlooked. So I ask, and nothing… Again others are saying “I like your ideas” Where’s it? I didn’t see it? I did see “showings of correct decision-making” which again doesn’t say anything. What is that? Correct for your team, my team, where, when and why etc. This isn’t a teaching tool for sure, I get it. But advertising that you can be a better coach by reading 3four3, it’s interesting, but it’s just talk. I guess I need to be shown. So this won’t work for me.

        So any way, the only bashing I read was not from me. The bashing is what made me post. I read it hear and also other blog topics. I read how all these coaches are no good. USA soccer is no good. MLS is no good. Alex Furguson is no good. Nobody is any good. (Well, the little Barca U11′s are real good though) I’m not one to tell the world how great I am. I don’t think much of people who are like that. You want to impress me, end world hunger. Lower my taxes, stop racism “on all sides” so I can feel safe. Or, if this isn’t possible, be a little humble and appreciate your success. Being proud and successful is one thing. People should be. Share. You might know him as a nice guy. I don’t know him. Reading doesn’t produce the sound to help a person decide the tone in what is being said. SO I’m sorry if I’m over inflating what I found to be negative. But it’s how I read it. I guess I still think it is probably arrogant. “Oh well” side by side, it just makes good people look better.

        I’m sure the coach/es of the kids in the video we watched are good. I’m sure they care. I’m sure we can all learn something from what is being taught to those kids. But out of the few teams I work with every year, I usually have a few very goofy, non athletic types. Some lack the ability to focus for 60 seconds. I doubt these kinds of kids exist on the Barca team. So what does that mean??? I guess we can’t all be the top dog. If you’re a king you should realize that the only reason you’re on top is because there are other below you.

        It’s possible that words being typed are sometimes not translated correctly. A misunderstanding of sorts. I don’t think I said this guy is a fraud. Or a joke, or anything like that. Just thought I hinted at his bashing is not required to get attention. I’ll listen more if there’s a positive energy. That’s just me. (BTW, I’m not a fan of Alex Furgeson, but I’d never say he’s a not a good manager)

        • Oscar says

          I agree there is too much bashing. I guess it’s because everyone is so passionate! The way I see it is 99% of soccer in the USA sucks! You just have to tear it all down and implement something good that has already been scientifically proven…the Barcelona way. At this present time in history, Barcelona is the solution and has proven that all other teams/managers do not know what they are doing. Everything we have been teaching players at the youth, high school, college, professional levels in the USA has been wrong. If “practice makes permanent”, our players are permanently flawed. Take a look at all the aweful games for concrete examples. There is no other explanation for the U23 USA team (population ~300 million) to get eliminated from the London Olympics by U23 El Salvador team (population ~6 million).

          Now teaching the Barcelona way is no easy task. I assume that is why Gary can’t simply write a post. It’s a way of life and mindset. Primarily great coaching is achieved by mentoring not reading books or online. It is much easier to learn to become a great coach if you are young, inexperienced and open-minded … just like it’s much easier to teach an 8 year old versus a 28 year old.

          Brian/Gary make it look so easy. I suspect because they work with highly selected elite players that are naturally talented and athletic (top 5%). In order to apply the Barcelona way to average players you need to analyze every player individually and implement, test, refine a personal developmental program. You have to be a “doctor” and “teacher”. If you don’t know how to diagnose and teach you will not succeed. I believe that is why most coaches have “tryouts” and “cut” young kids. It takes intelligence and talent to truly develop players. Coaches don’t know what they are doing and just want to form an athletically strong team to “win”. Most coaches in the USA should not be coaching, not just in soccer but in most team sports! Klinsmann replaced all the coaches for the MNT, U23 MNT, U20 MNT, U17 MNT. You have to do it the “right” way from the beginning. You can’t start the “wrong” way and then try to fix it. If you don’t play like Barcelona at 8 years old don’t expect to play at 28 years old.

          All the information is out there. You just have to search for it. Examine the public school system for student education in the USA. Educating a student is no different than educating (training) a sports athlete. Every student can succeed and every athlete can succeed.

          • says

            A few things to reply to you.

            Soccer in USA… Well passion fuels many things. I’m hooked on MLS. It’s what we have. And when you get to know a team and the players, you get to see improvement or decline. I’m not a fan of the blanket covering everything. We simply have a different culture. There was a time when USA was ranked very very low. Then there was a time when we broke the top 10. You still heard “USA soccer sucks” Well, I don’t know. Not every team can be Germany. Not every team can be Brazil. I guarantee you that if you had Brazil vs Brazil, it wouldn’t be the game you are familiar with. 20 passes in the back to lull a team to sleep then hit em with a lightning bolt!

            What I mean is, you love a team and latch on. If your kid was playing and wasn’t so great a player, you’d love your kids team right? (Right????) If you don’t care, of course things will just be what they are. If something is to improve or change, you have to make changes and do something different till it’s effective. Keep changing till something is working. (Of course give it a little time, but like they say, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always gotten” (Is gotten a real word?) That is a real phrase BTW.

            USA lost from two goalkeeping errors. The 1st goal seemed to me the keeper just had to reach up and jump to the ball only a little to have his arm length give the advantage over a guy using his head. Goal #2, I have a funny feeling he was assuming the ball was going to end up in “the bread basket” and he’d hold on to it,…. time up. BUT I’m not sure how it was possible to happen, he missed it. Why did he go down on his side from a shot so far away. No side step to get in line with the ball. So I think it’s possible the ball hit a little divot and he maybe also took his eyes off the ball. Very strange. And here you always hear the USA produces great goalkeepers.

            “DOCTOR & TEACHER” Yeah. I’ve always though coaching soccer is teaching in short pants. But the doctor too? “That is a great way to look at it.”

            “TRYOUTS” you know, never leave a kid hangin. I don’t care who you are, or who the club is. Be up front. “Hey we are going to make a team. If there enough, we will make two teams. But if there’s more not enough for two teams and too many for one team, we will help you get a place to play somewhere” (Or something like that.) If your club is big enough, maybe a good idea to call it player placement. (You’ll be placed where you fit in at the moment)

            Back to soccer in USA…. Though a technical kid is a technical kid, there are still going to be differences all through the USA. Meaning super hot & humid Florida with very short fast grass where if you touch the ball it will roll 100 yards. To Chicago with patches of grass and dirt and the ball will change directions from hitting divots. To my area where almost every field is super thick lush pitch of Kentucky blue grass in the 40 degree early spring or late fall and extra effort is needed to make a 20 yard pass. It’s also hard to Samba when you’re muscled are twitchin to keep your body warm if you’re not used to it.

            Last point, I’m a fire fan. Munich was my first team. But now it’s Fire. So they aren’t great. But they good. They are 2.5 hours away and it’s all I got. I hope they figure it out and get into playoffs. But just remember, One Barcelona player probably makes as much as the whole Chicago Fire club. You get what you pay for. You need the fans to come out and support to allow USA to afford the top players in the world to help influence our younger kids to emulate the teams everyone worships.

            My point… Bashing doesn’t help. “But helping does”

          • says

            Forgive my typing errors. I’m eating, drinking and typing at the same time.

          • Oscar says

            Good stuff all around! I enjoy reading everyone’s comments. It only helps raise the level of the game in our country.

  32. Christopher says

    I have to echo certain sentiments regarding this blog and video. I love this video for what it shows regarding what that team is able to do. I dislike the “arrogant” tone in the text during the video. I understand that being controversial can help drum up interest and an audience, and I get that this blog is probably trying to do just that.

    However, the Barcelona-way also includes humility. People come to blogs like this looking for insight and solutions. Trash talking and criticizing only goes so far, and mostly does more harm than good.

    From watching the video I was able to observe several things:
    1) the Barca team is well coached and highly skilled. Their technical and tactical understanding was very sophisticated. This is a well coached team. No doubt.
    2) the opposing coach epitomized the problems with youth soccer coaches with his constant yelling and unproductive coaching comments
    3) the Barca coach acted very respectfully, in great contrast to the opposition
    4) the quality of possession was very lopsided

    I didn’t need random arrogant text to confirm that. I showed this video off to several colleagues because I was so impressed with the play. All of them made comments about the tone of the text. It was a distraction and reduced credibility, which was unfortunate.

    I agree with a lot of what this blog says, but think that the message must be palatable for a large audience if we are really going to make a difference.

    Gary, keep up the good work. Your brother and you are doing a great job with those boys. I hope you appreciate the constructive criticism from some of us.

    • Gary Kleiban says

      I truly appreciate the feedback Christopher. There is so much I can talk about with respect to the tone of the blog (I can go on forever). Let me touch on a couple things.

      First, I want you to know it’s difficult for me. There is a balance I’m trying to have, but I don’t have the answers.
      On the one hand, content can be innocuous. On the other, “too much” and some people get upset.

      I have long understood, pleasing everyone is not possible. So what to do?
      For now, be true enough to myself that when I read my own stuff I feel moved.

      Now, you mentioned the “Barcelona-way” and humility.
      Well, let’s be real: Barcelona is Barcelona. They can say anything, and the world will listen.
      I’m a microbe trying to bring together some like-minded people. And by the way, don’t kid yourself about humility. There’s a difference between showing humility and actually being humble.

      But it goes far beyond that. I also believe that a fundamental problem with soccer in this country is that people get upset over precisely this stuff. You know this “arrogance”, this swagger, this flavor is an ingredient that fuels the fire behind the best athletes and coaches in the world.

      I believe much of our culture here is one of obedience, of compliance. Follow the routine, keep your head down and your mouth shut. And that creates robots. That is what stifles creativity. That is what stifles innovation. That is what supports the status quo.

      When it comes to soccer, our culture has no flavor! No personality! No fucking swagger! There’s no Kobe Bryant talking shit, dunking on your ass, and then staring you down!

      I’ll stop there. To be continued …

      But I do hope someday I can find a sweet spot that you can enjoy.

      • says

        EXACTLY NO FLAVOR, but look who runs the game, look how the package it, they all think messi never has a cross word to say, messi is from street soccer, street soccer is all swagger, all bravado, messi wants to humiliate real, no worry if they think he’s arrogant…Gary and the rest of 3four3 is great for this country because you know what ppl need is someone who critques the game and makes ppl think. Why are all of you looking for a map, u know how holland, brazil, spain etc created their football they argued about it! Look at Gary’s post about having an assistant coach to check you and to constantly and evaluate what you are doing in your philosophy

        Look we need to change and you all worried about his “tone” grow up! Muhammad Ali came and said i’m here you like it or you don’t and the country followed. This blog is making us talk, argue, work together about soccer, “so caring about his arrogance and tone is irrelevant”, in the end its about is this blog helping coaches, players, etc think about US Soccer? In my opinion it is….And like my mom’s used to say “If you can’t stand the heat, get the hell out the kitchen!”

        • Gary Kleiban says

          “I want everyone to bear witness, I am the greatest! I’m the greatest thing that ever lived. I don’t have a mark on my face, and I upset Sonny Liston, and I just turned twenty-two years old. I must be the greatest. I showed the world. I talk to God everyday. I know the real God. I shook up the world, I’m the king of the world. You must listen to me. I am the greatest! I can’t be beat!”
          - Muhammad Ali

          • Christopher says

            This is a case of the pendulum swinging too far one way then the other. I get your argument and can understand it, but I think that over time we will realize the “sweet spot” is really somewhere in the middle. I have no problem with “swagger” and I think athletes should go out to DOMINATE their opponent. But I have coached players that didn’t need me giving them any more reason to have swagger, especially off the field. Some players have a lot of shit in their lives and you need to stir in some whip cream for them. Other players have a whole lot of whip cream and you need to stir in a little shit for them.

            My point is the way your team played, and the result, was all the shit talking you needed. You made a big FUCKING statement without saying a word. Doesn’t matter how good your message is, if you come across like an ass most people are going to tune you out.

            I’m in your corner. I just want more people in your corner.

          • Gary Kleiban says

            I got you loud and clear Christopher!
            Hopefully I’ll be smart and wise enough to find “the path”.

  33. Michael says

    First off let me say I visit your I love your blog and out of many that i visit about the beautiful game this one is the best. I was in awe watching this video and cant waitt to share this with my boys and parents. I am the coach of the U15 Milan-Blackhawks #1 in Maryland at the moment and #18 in the nation.

    I am constantly looking to improve my coaching methods and find myself agreeing with your football philosophy 99% of the time. Is there any chance for training help? Or drills i can do to take my team to another level? IM a young coach and I admire your work here thanks for sharing what you do but i often find myself asking “please show us what you do in training”?

    Thanks so much….Great job Coach.

  34. CarlosT says

    If you guys want to see what this can grow up into, I can think of no better example than the second goal in Argentina’s 6-0 rout of Serbia in 2006: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5W6vBI3mGE

    Twenty-six passes then a goal. And if you pay attention, the individual skills required for most of those passes are not that advanced. They’re traps and passes that most decent players can do comfortably. Like Gary says, the technical bar isn’t that high. Look at the movement in both videos, though. They’re constantly in motion, opening up passing options, allowing the player with the ball to make a decision and execute it within a second or two. That’s crucial. One of the most frustrating things I see watching MLS games are the stretches of play where I see players get themselves into dead end situations because they hold on to the ball for four or five seconds either because they have no idea what to do with it, or because no one has moved to support them.

    Nice job Gary. I do hope you figure out how to get your training methods out there in a useful way. The game here in the States could definitely use your kind of approach.

    • Gary Kleiban says

      Where have you been my man?! I always like getting your views, and I feel you’re a good influence over on SounderAtHeart.

      With any luck we’ll coach Seattle some day.
      But I’ll take the U23s or the Academy for now …
      Go tell Adrian. :)

  35. Hank says


    How long do you spend on technical drills and how long do you spend on tactical approach during your training sessions. What does that look like?

    • Gary Kleiban says

      Great question!
      It all blends together.

      I’d estimate that exercises that are strictly technical or strictly tactical are probably split 60/40 (I’d have to time it).
      But that can vary depending on what we think the players and team needs at the time.

      Also, we have to be careful here. We need to really understand what “tactical” actually means. That term, like “development”, and “possession”, is loosely thrown around by people without actually knowing. (I’m not saying that’s you). I really need to write more about that…

      In short, “tactical” means proper decision-making. And in particular, at the youth level, that means developing their understanding of the game and enhancing their speed of play in order to execute.

      What does it look like?
      Again, I have to work on creating that content for you guys.

      • Soccer Purist says

        Gary well said. Half of our problem is that haven’t defined our terms. We throw out words like “development” possession, “tactical play” yet no one knows what these words mean exactly.

        Great minds think alike. My most recent post touches on a very similar topic. Tactics should be taught at the onset of a player’s soccer training experience. Don’t agree with using ages as a metric for curriculum. Its soccer age that counts. A tactic is simply a decision and our decision making is poor BC we have seperated technique from tactics. They’re linked. Teaching a player a technique without relating it to a decision/tactic is nonsensical.

  36. BillR says

    Couple of random comments:

    Wow. The result from last night for the U-23′s is a blow against progress! If Caleb Porter’s team fails to qualify for the Olympics, then people will want a return to the ugly kick-and-rush soccer of the past. That would totally suck!

    One of the things that would really herald the arrival of the game in the USA would be a broader base for the beautiful game than the immigrant population. Too often it is first generation immigrants that excel at the game for the USA to have a large base of players from a more diverse set of backgrounds. The players from families in the USA for generations tend to be athletes first and soccer players second. We need to turn this around and have enough culture to know what the game should look like.

    We need to get our cues from Spain, Germany, Mexico, South America, Italy (too) instead of England and Scotland. Getting MLS, USMNT, College and high school to start looking like the style your team instead of the English Championship (or worse).

    One little question about format for youth play. Almost all of Europe plays small-sided games on small fields all the way to U-14, plus more futsal. Your team plays 11v11 on full sized fields. Would it be better for them to be playing 8v8 or 7v7 on a half-side field? Spain, Germany, Netherlands all endorse this approach. Shouldn’t we?

    • Gary Kleiban says

      I agree with your cultural sentiments Bill.
      Here’s something to think about along those lines:
      “Why aren’t more ‘white guys’ in the NFL or NBA?”

      As for the 11v11 format, I don’t know what is correct. I’ll simply repeat my response from above:
      “I don’t have anything conclusive to say about moving to 11v11 at this age. There are pros and cons to everything. And it’s really tough to understand whether there are any real downstream effects. I would argue with anyone who thinks they have that figured out.”

      Having said that, the world powers of soccer are the gold standard. And we should take that very seriously.

      I want to end with this:
      We can change our infrastructure as much as we’d like, but as long as the quality of instruction remains subpar and the king-makers are the same, our upside will always be capped below the cream.

  37. Bart says

    Its great to see the game from that angle. You can really see the combinations forming and being set up. Does this team also play futsal?

  38. BillR says

    While we’re at I thought this was an interesting article to read on Barcalona’s philosophy under Gaurdiola. The kicker is this article focuses on defense. The folks that say Barça doesn’t give up goals because of possession, but I truly think this is not a clear view of how good the defense is. They give up few goals because they are gifted defenders at both an individual and team level.


    One little comment about your team’s play (a minor nitpick) is the utilization of the goalkeeper in a manner more similar to how Valdes is used at Barcelona. Valdes is a fantastic passer of the ball and contributes to the team’s success in possession. In the video the Barcalona keeper seems to be glued to the 6-year box even when possession is in the attacking half?

    Is this something that you seek to utilize as well? and if so how does this become incorporated in the team’s identity though practice and drill?

    • Gary Kleiban says

      That’s one of the best English-language articles on Barca I’ve read. Thanks for sharing.

      The keeper does get involved in playing out of the back (not seen in this video). But yes, it most certainly can increase in frequency.

      Our keeper(s) take part in the same technical work we do with the field players. And they play in all the small sided games.

      • BillR says

        On a similar topic have you read Graham Hunter’s “Barça” book? Not perfect, but very good and certainly an informative and enjoyable read. The chapter on the La Masia is extremely good as is the story of Pep Gaurdiola.

  39. Matt says

    Gary, really enjoyed the video. I think it’s so important to have video evidence that you can refer to when judging your own team. Thanks for providing a quality video to show what’s possible at U11. In the past I’ve found video of Ajax’s teams at young ages, but an American youth team is obviously more comparable. Great work. Do you have any other video available (either games or training)?

  40. Phil says

    The field is too big to tell how good these players are. They have way too much space to operate and they have enough tactical awareness to keep the game from getting too fast. Obviously they are good players, but size of the field masks their deficiencies. I’d love to see them on a much smaller pitch to see how their technique and decision making hold up under pressure.

    • Gary Kleiban says

      Absolutely Phil.
      These players have a boatload of deficiencies. I’ll work on producing smaller field size footage.

      However, we have to remain cognizant of their age and judge the deficiencies relative to their peers.

  41. says

    These boys do look older than 10, not doubting you by the way, just saying they look more mature.
    The football we see here is better than most adult teams.

    Intrigued to know if you work in tight areas mainly or larger areas such as 60×40?

    If I was working with them I would improve there vision, hardly ever saw a player look behind as a pass was made.
    Question for you is how will you play when teams are far more competent at defending, if a team comes and parks the bus, does your style iof play allow for changes? We have seen Barca struggle a few times this year when this happens.

    • Gary Kleiban says

      * We work them in ultra-tight areas. Small sided 1 to 2-touch play.

      * Vision is constantly being worked on. It is a huge part of the rhetoric. As for “improvement”, that is a relative term. The amount of “looking around” these kids do is already far ahead of our opponents. If you’re expecting to see them swivel their heads like Xavi, that is not only a multi-year endeavor but something that is naturally incentivized with higher speed of play.

      * How do you know Arsenal isn’t the most competent defensive team at this level? You only think otherwise because we make them look incompetent. Additionally, our team is very well known. We have a huge target on our backs. As a result teams have thrown everything and the kitchen sink at us. Parking the bus happens every other game. And like the real Barca, our philosophy does not change.

      We teach the kids how to pick the lock. Then they go out, and as a team are patient and try to be inventive in picking the lock. It’s called problem solving, it’s called nurturing creativity, and it’s deep. It’s not about changing a silly formation or launching balls up top and hoping for the best.

  42. says


    when you have a chance go to our website and watch U 8s and U 10s playing 11 v 11 in a stadium in front of 1000s of people. Skill is everything. http://www.tahuichi.com Feel free to contact me. I have been fighting this battle for 37 years. Hopefully we will win in the end.

    • Gary Kleiban says

      Can you provide me with a specific link to your videos? I can’t seem to find them on your site.
      To “win” this “fight”, people need to care and they need to be brought together.

      To do that, people’s emotions need to be engaged. So I don’t agree this Guandi-like slash Mother Teresa approach people advocate would work here.

      • says

        Hi Gary

        Here is the video. The part I want to focus is the last few minutes. The rest of it is about the program. I hope you enjoy watching the end of the video. Email me back if you have any questions of what you saw. I have been with the Tahuichi Academy for 21 years. I love it.


      • says

        Here is the video. The part I want to focus is the last few minutes. The rest of it is about the program. I hope you enjoy watching the end of the video. Email me back if you have any questions of what you saw. I have been with the Tahuichi Academy for 21 years. I love it.

        if you can’t get it. Just google tahuichi way video and this video and a few others will come up.
        Tahuichi Way International Youth Soccer Camp – Tahuichi Way Video

        ► 12:18► 12:18 http://www.tahuichi.com/video_768.lasso
        Aug 26, 2009 – 12 min
        Some cable and DSL connections might not be able to view this version, and dialup modems will take a long …


  43. Hank says


    Are there any plans to talk through where Porter did right and where Porter failed in this tournament failure.

    I was over at goal.com reading some of the comments and it is clear that most don’t have a clue what they are talking about. To be honest I don’t even think that most anyone had an idea that the U23′s were even playing games. Yet they comment as if they die hard follow them.
    Your thoughts? Maybe even a separate blog post.

    • Gary Kleiban says

      I’m sure I’ll write something up.
      However, top priority for the next 10 days is our trip to Barcelona. By brother is currently at La Masia with our U10s. The U11s in this video arrive next week and will compete alongside the likes of Manchester United, Ajax, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, and others.

      • Chad says

        whoa whoa whoa whoa, wait a minute! How are you able to go to La Masia!? Write a blog about that process per favor!

  44. Geoff says

    I watched the video a friend posted on Facebook for me and was instantly drawn in, I look for the same results with my U-10 squads, though Im in a much smaller state and player pool is a bigger issue than so-cal, But what I saw is a team that is great in 2v1 and 2v2 situations, which is all that is needed at this age, the rest comes into play as they age,

    do your sessions with this group and age ever involve more than maybe 3v3? and do you really expect to win games or is it just a product of teaching them to play the right way first??

    • Gary Kleiban says

      * Sessions definitely have exercises that involve more than 3v3.
      * Yes we expect to win games. If they play the right way, their probability of winning increases.

  45. Oscar says


    I can’t believe it took me 3 years to find this site! I’ve been trying to develop the same type of soccer philosophy but have been impeded by all the garbage I see in US soccer from the youth level to the national level. It’s great to finally read content from like-minded people. You have an awesome U11 team! Personally I don’t believe in tryouts and cutting players under the age of 13. My goal is to take average players and make them great. I have a limited roster and most come from 15min away. Tell me how you selected your players and from what distance they come from to train.

    • Gary Kleiban says

      Welcome aboard Oscar. The pleasure is all mine!
      I feel you my friend, there are road blocks all over the place!!

      What we all do is a function of what our goals are. Your goal is admirable and a challenge to be sure!
      Ours goals are to take the talented, and polish them! We care about all players, but our program caters to the elite. We want to build quality professionals.

      We scour the age group looking for diamonds. What a diamond is, is hard to describe in a comment. Luckily, we now have a program that is respected so loads of players come to us looking to get on board. I think we have a couple that come from an hour away.

  46. taqee says


    I’m trying to work on a project in Minneapolis and Minnesota, in general which, echoes what you’ve been doing in your area. I want to have a short conversation – how do I get in touch with you best? I’ve entered my email.


  47. says

    Hey, I am a senior in high school from a rural town in Virginia. First off, I just want to say that I am so excited that I found this cite and I was very impressed with your team their compose and confidence on the ball was superb. I started playing soccer two years ago (i know extremely late) and absolutely fell in love with the sport to the point where I literally have a ball on my feet every second I possibly can. Due to this extremely late start I could not attempt to take my game to the next level however I want soccer to be a part of my life. Sorry got to get to the point, I am writing a research paper on the failings and shortcomings of the vast majority of youth soccer organizations in America. I realize you must be very busy however, I was wondering if I could interview you via email or you could share your thoughts on this issue for my research paper. In addition, my friends and teammates are always looking for new drills to improve our touch and ‘decision making skills’ in higher pressure situations could you recommend any for us? Thank you.


  48. Erik says


    Great site!!! One thing i noticed from the video and correct me if im wrong is that your kids seemed to be better athletes than the other team. Maybe even a little bit bigger? Along with dominating them in possesion you seemed to also dominate them atheleticly and physically. Was that the case?

    • Gary Kleiban says

      Hi Erik!
      It only looks that way. On aggregate, most top-level teams in any age group have negligible differences in athleticism / size. We even have one starter on our team who was cut, yes CUT, from their former team because he wasn’t athletic enough! When he came to us, we couldn’t believe it! We signed his ass up immediately.

  49. John doe says

    Far better training has been given to the black team however the other coach tactically had no idea how to deal with the possession. “stay back let them have it there all day” i dont care how decorated you are if you are down a goal and you are saying that you shouldn’t be coaching. he gave the black team way to much time on the ball and discouraged his team. He didn’t know how to handle the situation. one thing i really didnt like. Developement does not come from a website. it comes from experience and analysis your way of futbol is not everyone’s way of futbol its nice pretty and an ok end product but to throw in your tag of ACTUAL developement is nonsense i’ve seen better team than this one who i highly doubt use your site remain humble not cocky just because you played some coach who lost his team the game.

    • Rafael says

      Dude, John Doe, you gotta learn to use some punctuation. I can’t follow what you’re saying. All I get from it is that there’s a hater in the house!!!!! Also, I know Gary personally and he’s the antithesis of cocky.

    • Gary Kleiban says

      Haha. The balls on this guy! Well I guess not at all, he chooses to be anonymous – at least JVK above has the nuts to link to his site.

      But sorry anonymous guy, you’re wrong on so many levels:

      * 12 minutes worth of video and you can deconstruct the other coach’s tactics? LOL!

      * “He shouldn’t be coaching”. Let me guess, you would have done better? LOL!

      * Knowing how to refine and polish (ie “develop”) the elite player comes from being an intense student of the game. This site attempts to be a resource for those who choose to be students (myself included).

      * Having “experience” is not an indicator said coach can develop a player. Not at all! You must have experience doing the right things (yes, there is a right and wrong). Guess what this site’s about?

      * Possession at the youth level is the ONLY STYLE that can develop a complete player. It’s clear you don’t know that.

      * Really interested in your reference to the “better team than this one”. Ok anonymous, ok. LOL!

      * Whatever my degree of “cockiness” is, doesn’t come from this one silly game. LOL! Silly rabbit …

      Anonymous, do you realize how cocky you’re being?

  50. Ryan Smith says


    So pleasing to see kids that have been taught to use their minds as much as their feet, to be able to think for themselves rather, than just produce the standard response to a situation – good players make good decisions. Yes, they are obviously proficient technically, but without the vision and awareness to ‘see’ the game they’d be like any other team, and I love that you take the time, as I do with my sons, to watch professional games and critique them constructively. You should learn something from every game you watch and every game you play.

    One question: do you feel that they benefit from playing on a full sized pitch? Personally, I think they get too much space and time and hence they’re not really under any great pressure. It’s why Futsal is such good training.

    I’ll follow their progress with interest. Keep up the good work and long live football (I know you lot call it soccer but it’s football really :) ).


  51. Chad says

    Gary/Brian – I have been intrigued with your site and your experience for quite sometime and enjoy the abundance of opinions put forth here. I am a young coach who is trying to find my ‘voice’ and I have a lot to learn. I live and breath soccer, I watch 4-6 games a week, play on rec teams, study tactics and coaching techniques, and coach when work permits me time. What I would like to know from you guys, if you are willing to share, is how you reached your coaching levels. Specifically, your playing experience, influential coaches you learned from, how you became connected to FC Barcelona, how you balance coaching and work (if you have a day job as well), how long it took you to be comfortable in coaching the tactics you wanted to coach, etc. I know this seems personal and you may be uncomfortable sharing so I will understand if you aren’t willing.

  52. says

    Here is the video. The part I want to focus is the last few minutes. The rest of it is about the program. I hope you enjoy watching the end of the video. Email me back if you have any questions of what you saw. I have been with the Tahuichi Academy for 21 years. I love it.

    if you can’t get it. Just google tahuichi way video and this video and a few others will come up.
    Tahuichi Way International Youth Soccer Camp – Tahuichi Way Video

    ► 12:18► 12:18 http://www.tahuichi.com/video_768.lasso
    Aug 26, 2009 – 12 min
    Some cable and DSL connections might not be able to view this version, and dialup modems will take a long …

    • Gary Kleiban says

      Very nice cony! The kids clearly have quality and flavor to their play!
      We got to get you on youtube man …

      So you mentioned above you’ve been fighting this battle for decades. Well, now you’ve got another brother at arms. One who’s willing to roll up in a tank!

      • says

        I am glad you enjoyed the video. Maybe one day you would like to go to Tahuichi. Just let me know. Yes we need a soccer REVOLUITION in the USA. We need to create soccer playgrounds (sandlot experience) for free, seven days a week and starting for kids at the age of 5. If we are to have magical players we need to first create a playing environment first then later these kids can be put into a coaching environment because they have the juice to move onto the next level. Players win championships. Feel free to call me at 5037994746.

  53. says


    First of all thanks for sharing the video and for being open to the comments made, as well as responding them.

    I took your advice and watched the video from differing perspectives. Coaches who like their teams to pass and move, will see a great team. Coaches who at this age like their teams to being using “skills” to beat players 1v1 wont see much evidence of that and players on a couple of occassions passing the ball to a team mate when the didnt have too (conditioned too). But as you have said in one of your previous comments – its a 12 min video – so you dont see the whole picture.

    What you can see though is a group of kids, who are enjoying.playing and want possesion of the ball and are not prepared to give it to the other team, when one of their team mates can have it instead.

    As a blogger of my own lesson plans and someone who will admit to still be learning. I started to blog my own sessions plans (fortunately people do read them), not as direction to the best way to teach kids, but as reference point from someone who wanted to learn because I realised that I didnt have all the answers just because I watched a lot of football or had been coaching for a number of years. For me your post and video raises more questions than answers (as all great blog posts do) and I am going to spend some time exploring 3four3 to find out more about the “Blocks” you mentioned in one of your earlier posts.

  54. Gareth says

    Hi Gary,
    Thank you for sharing your video. It is a pleasure to watch. It is encouraging/refreshing/challenging to see such a mature display of Tiki Taka from players of such a young age. Even more encouraging is that you stayed true to your style (many do not as they are outcome driven) in the State tournament which reiterates the fact that winning is, and should be, a natural byproduct of playing attractive and attacking football. The players collective understanding, trust in one another, and the value they place on simplicity, at such a young age, is impressive- simple is not always easy! The by-product of a lot of hard work and the setting of high standards on a daily basis at training. Congratulations!

    We are in the process of developing a similar culture within our program here in Iowa. Obviously much more limited in the access of players. However, although our teams may never be as good as Barcelona, it should not stop us from trying to get as close to it as possible.

    I shared your video throughout the state and with several other prominent club DOC’s to try and raise the bar. If you are okay with it, I will shoot you an email to follow up with some questions about the development of club cultures.

    Thank you for raising the bar!

    P.S. I just finished a good book that you may find of interest – BARCA: The making of the greatest team ever’. Provides some interesting insight into the culture/values at Barca (and the new La Masia), something that is essential for those of us trying to develop a similar culture.

    • Gary Kleiban says

      A warm welcome Gareth, and thank you for spreading the word!

      Just a couple reactions to your comments:
      * We are “outcome driven” as well. We want to win every time we step on the field. Only difference is we want to win “the right way”. It just so happens that if you know how to play the “right way”, probability of winning goes up (that’s where people get hung up).

      * I’m excited to hear your program wants to do the same! You don’t need the best players to play this way. I know, we’ve been doing it since 2003 at all levels of play and age groups.

      * You may not get to Barca’s level, but you’ll actually be working on player development. The alternative is your players get little to nothing.

      We’re privileged to have you join the community here!
      Email me any time!

  55. says

    Gary and Brian,
    Thanks for posting this video and for the blog!!
    I have found a lot of great “meat” in your posts and comments.
    This is obviously a very talented group of players, coached by a coach that has a clearly defined game philosophy (possession, attacking, pressing, dominating soccer, in short the good stuff that every decent youth coach should aspire to). From this highlight is very clear that Gary and Brian know what they are doing, in terms of putting that philosophy to practice, and their team dynamic is very impressive.
    The result of all of this is extremely attractive and effective soccer. It is quite impressive stuff, still the awe that such fact seems to provoke in many of the comments is revealing of the overall status of the youth soccer scene in the States.
    I surely rather take the awe, then the attacks on what Gary and Brian have accomplished so far.
    The futbol culture and the talent pool available in South Cal is maybe unique in the country, nevertheless and unfortunately my experience confirms Gary’s verdict that a lot of the good talk we hear is lip service and packaging.
    But there is light at end of the tunnel :)
    I do believe your efforts will help change some hearts and minds and raise the expectations at all levels. That’s not small feat!!
    Thanks again for showing what walking the talk looks like, and the generosity with your time and knowledge.
    I”ll try to contribute with something more substantive in future comments.

  56. says

    I know the intention is to implement a system very similar to La Masia, but how similar can you guys actually get here in California? The official affiliation with Barcelona trumps the Bradenton, FL academy that US Soccer operates. Is the goal to eventually make this Barca USA academy a destination for serious players and families? Is the goal to start housing players from a young age and bringing them through the ranks? Do you guys see this becoming a much bigger venture than it is now and creating a professional American team eventually? Is the money there? I know your goal is produce top quality professional players, but Barca’s success seems to come from developing the players and then keeping together for their professional careers. Like I mentioned the other night via Twitter with you… Wouldn’t it be tough for a player to learn all of the right things and then get thrown into an environment where their teammates are light years behind them? Like entering the MLS draft for instance and getting sent to god knows where with god knows who as your coach. Or, as some people argue, like Messi when he returns to Argentina to play for his country. The overall product just isn’t as strong as the club, even though the talent is obviously there. Thought I’d share this video I just came across, too :) http://youtu.be/Xywh5abBpxU

    • Oscar says

      Love the inspirational video. Thanks for sharing.

      Not sure La Masia can be successfully implemented in the US. First of all they scout and recruit the best players in the world. How many is that ~10 players every year out of ~6 billion? Do they really develop players for just refine them? Should most kids get left behind at the expense of the “elite”? I would agrue that most countries producing top players are corrupt and responsible for horrible civil rights violations.

      Check out http://antiworldnews.wordpress.com/2012/03/28/soccers-nature-vs-nurture-debate/

      Personally I believe over 80% of athletes can become top-level players. Unfortunately we only focus on the <0.1% of athletes, ie the majority of NCAA athetes do not make it professionally…that's another topic.

      Second reason why La Masia wouldn't work at this time, we are basically a NFL, NBA, MLB loving nation. There is very little monetary incentive to develop soccer players in the US. I can't even watch women's and men's national teams because they are not broadcast on regular TV/Cable channels.

      I might be exaggerating but the Mexican National team might as well be our imported and adopted National team. The Mexican team seems to play the majority of there games in the US, sell out stadiums, generates probably more money for US than Mexico. They are basically owned by Univision and Telemundo.

      Perhaps what should happen before La Masia comes to the US is FOX, NBC, ABC needs to buy a foriegn team to train and compete in Europe and challenge the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Bayern Munich…sorry Premier League not good enough yet. Instead of watching foreign teams competing in foreign leagues we can have a domestic investment. That would change the culture in our country and provide a monetary incestive to develop US born players. Sounds cool but crazy.

  57. Adam says

    I’m curious about our (American’s) fascination with width. Watching the video I noticed that most of the attack came from the width. There was one situation where a nice piece of combination play occurred for a shot from the top of the box but other than that it was primarily get the ball wide and send in a cross. For the sake of exploration I have to ask questions. Again, I’m not looking for answers rather to either challenge our current thoughts and or reconfirm what we already know. And so I ask, where does the opposing team want us to go? Out wide. Why? Because it’s the least dangerous part of the field, in which case if the opposing team wants us to go out wide and we do go wide, my next question has to be, how good are we if we can’t go up the middle? That leads me to ask, why do we go wide? To open up the field, to stretch the defense…..absolutely, but shouldn’t the first answer be because we can’t go up the middle. It seems to me that we would teach kids to explore that option First and when it’s not ON to execute plan B, using the width. I’m not saying using the width isn’t a good thing I’m just saying maybe it should be plan B. For example in minute 2:51 the right winger gets an opportunity to penetrate straight at goal. After he beats his defender there isn’t a defender within 10 yards in front of him, in fact the closest defender in front of him is running out wide to pick up the overlap. So why doesn’t he attack the middle here? Why not go straight to goal? For some reason he hesitates, waits for the overlap then plays it wide only to be stuffed. Now maybe he was coached afterwards to go straight at goal when an opportunity like that presents itself. But it seems to me the talk after the game should be when its not ON up the middle look out wide for a second option not the other way around.
    The point of all of this, the conversation/exploration, then becomes, of the many opportunities Barca created what would be the impact on the game, players in our country if the majority of those attacks created came from an attack up the middle? What would a team at U18 be like if they spent the first several years of their competitive career attacking the middle of the field?

    • Ken Sweda says

      Good observations, I noticed the same things. Curious what the response will be. I’ve seen exactly the same thing in MLS. So much of the play (other than the usual boof-ballery) happens literally within 2 yards of the sideline. I’m sure what the guys are doing here is just part of the development process as opposed to a staple as it appears to be in MLS.

  58. Steven Anthony says

    Excellent video Gary. This video is a great motivator across the board for kids and adults. Your kids have such patience and precision on the ball, it’s incredible. I’m curious, but do you run many 1 touch, 2 touch sessions in your practices?

  59. Nuno says

    So the MLS site puts out this:

    “How to respond to Mexico’s domination?”


    “Mexico’s victory over Honduras in the Olympic qualifying final officially gave El Tri CONCACAF’s U-23 championship, finishing off a clean sweep for Mexico at every single level of the pyramid in CONCACAF men’s tournaments.

    The Gold Cup title, the U-23 title, the U-20 championship and the U-17 title (not to mention the U-17 World Cup crown) gives El Tri every title outright within CONCACAF, a feat never before done in the confederation’s history”

    IMHO, this video and some of the articles put out on this blog would give USSF and MLS some pretty good clues

  60. Chad Poniewasz says

    Gary/Any coach here – I have only coached U14s and this Monday I begin coaching U8s for the first time. I have a good idea on what I want to do development-wise. Any advice/drills that have worked for you in developing your players in this age group? Thank you All!

    My email is chadponie@yahoo.com if can find time.

  61. Daveed says

    Hi! Truly amazing display. You have great talent. I’m wondering about some stuff.. I’m coaching a team of 13 year olds in Norway. I’ve had them for five years now, and I’ve always been pushing hard on the technical development. Mostly the feeling with the ball, having them use the ball, individually, at all times during the training sessions(with exception of the actual playing sequences of course). But there is still a LONG way to go before they reach the level of technique that your team shows. I suspect this has a lot to do with them skipping the “homework” I give them. My questions are;

    - Do you use hard dicipline to make them train harder between sessions? Do you have any tips regarding this?
    - Is there a particular form of technical rehearsal you would prefer?
    - Are you doing much for the purpose of creating a “team spirit”?
    - Do you advice your players to combine soccer with other sports?


    • Gary Kleiban says

      Hi Daveed!

      Q: “Do you use hard dicipline to make them train harder between sessions? Do you have any tips regarding this?”
      A: Well, the culture we establish with all our teams is one of excellence. We want to be the absolute best individually and collectively! And it doesn’t matter what level of play we happen to be at. So the players are crystal clear on what the expectations are. And they know if they aren’t continually developing, they likely won’t be with us for the long haul.

      Q: “Is there a particular form of technical rehearsal you would prefer?”
      A: I don’t understand the question.

      Q: “Are you doing much for the purpose of creating a “team spirit”?
      A: It’s interesting. As hardcore and as demanding that we are, the players love us and don’t want to play for anyone else. We strive for the highest team spirit of any team in the land. And I’d bet we have it too! I can’t prove that to you, just point you to one of the goal celebrations on this video as evidence (where the kid comes to celebrate with Brian), or the 2nd video in this post: http://blog.3four3.com/2012/04/11/fc-barcelona-us-youth-soccer-academy-mic-cup/
      This is built by being disciplinarian, mentor, and best friend all in one!

      Q: “Do you advice your players to combine soccer with other sports?”
      A: Absolutely not.

      • Daveed says

        Maybe I should rephrase the question:)
        Do you have a favorite exercise you use during training sessions, that developes the technical abilities of the players? (e.g. rondo/piggy in the middle, which I’ve heard they use alot at la Masia.)
        And thanks alot for the answers, very interesting!

        And one thing! This particular video has REALLY caught fire in Norway! The youth head coach of SK Brann Bergen, a club that has reached quarter finals of the cup winners cup in Europe, has referred to this video in the norwegian press, saying that you’re miles beyond most of their 15-year olds. BUT, he thinks you’re actually Barca from Spain. Now, I know that you beat a team from la Masia, and probably a lot of other great sides, and that a lot of people are talking about you. But don’t you think it would be cool, if not beneficial, if people knew that you’re from the US? I bet people in bigger footballing nations are watching it as I’m writing this, and all you have to do is change the description, and include a link to this site!

        • says

          Who was the English Elite team you beat in Spain Gary?

          What are you doing to help find that Messi type of player, passing and keeping possession is only good if you can unlock the best of defences, your squad are currently doing a great job of that, what happens when you meet far more experienced players/teams in years to come that can make it very hard for you to find a way through?

          Your readers should also look at http://www.keeptheball.wordpress.com

          • Gary Kleiban says

            * All I know about that English team is their name.

            * Keeping possession as an individual or as a team is the single most fundamental concept in the game. Getting better at that single fundamental develops everything.

            * Far more experienced player/teams in years to come? We are already familiar with the highest levels of every age group. We already know what it takes to succeed. And what you’ve seen in the video is it.

            Here’s something else to consider:
            The level of coaching is so poor in this country, that players and teams don’t get any better. They really don’t. Any improvement comes naturally from players themselves or from recruiting. That’s what makes us so successful, our teams and players actually do get better and better and better, beyond just natural progression. We have the support of a clear philosophy. And we know how to execute it. That’s the difference.

          • Oscar says

            “The level of coaching is so poor in this country, that players and teams don’t get any better.”

            Gary, make this a new blog!

            It doesn’t take a genius to figure this out just watch any BORING, AWEFUL youth game. U13 boys play like U12, U11, U10, U9, U8 boys!!! Where is the development? Ask the “paid” coaches.

  62. says

    Gary I could not agree more with your statement “Keeping possession as an individual or as a team is the single most fundamental concept in the game. Getting better at that single fundamental develops everything.” Young children need to learn how to keep the ball as an individual, not being told at 5&6 to pass pass pass.
    I work for a company in the UK called http://www.premierskills.com, we are a private coach education company founded in 2002. John Cartwright (Arsenal 1st team coach 1980s, England U17 European winner and twice won the FA youth cup with Crystal Palace) started the company, because he has been saying this for 40 years “Practice How You Play, Play How You Practice”. A coach without a clear vision of how he wants to play, is like driving a car which can only turn left, you go round in circles and never reach the end destination. Premier Skills are trying to get coaches to think differently, just like you and your blog are doing for thousands o freaders.
    Coaching in the UK is no better, and I would even say Man U and Arsenal are still some way behind certain foreign teams, talking youth coaching here. What people do not realise is the game style is so important. People coach a turn, a dribble in isolation, what is missing is time and space awareness and you cant teach that over night, it takes lots of time and chaotic environments. The standard of coaching at our academies is poor, we have big physical players who can run like the wind and have excellent technique, but lack skill, they lack the ability to play in tight areas and make those extra inches.

    This is not aimed at the guys here, but any coach who has watched the video and would like to do the same as you here. Just remember you are dealing with children and having a youth squad that is treated like a pro team, ie you will drop them if needed, could in some cases be very upsetting for the individual, just make sure the parents & players are absolutely clear of what you are about from day 1.

    • Gary Kleiban says

      Hi David and welcome.

      Sounds like you and your org are trying to do things right. England needs it!

      And your suggestion of being up front with the parents & players is correct. We do it. Both know exactly what our program is about, and understand it is meritocracy. We’re on a relentless pursuit of footballing excellence.

  63. Larry Chen says

    Hi Gary,
    Premier plays 7v7 (not including the goalies) in the U8/U9/U10 age groups.

    Our club typically uses 3-3-1 with a single
    CM. in this case, the CM needs to check back
    & be very influential in playing out of the back.
    Do you agree? Is there a preferred formation that
    you would employ? How about using 3-1-1-2 using DM & AM?

    How did your team learn to play thru the midfield
    vs the wings? It seems difficult to learn until
    11v11. Do you agree?


  64. Alex says

    I’ve watched this video many times and have shared this video with many people. Aside from the high level of tactical and technical ability the boys display I am equally impressed with their physical competency in movements on and off the ball. Truethfully the two really go hand in hand with the boys being able to physically coordinate the movements necessary to produce efficient technical and tactical play. My question as a sports performance coach is how much time, if any, do you or your staff spend working on elements of coordination, balance, strength, etc? Essentially do you find that you are able to select players from your area that are already physically literate at ages 6,7,8 or is this a focus of your training at the younger ages?


    • Mike says

      I too am interested to see Gary’s response on this. My own experience working extensively with players in the 6-8 age range has been that it is extremely important to include an abundance of training for coordination+balance+agility+speed+fitness at this age. Fortunately there is one activity that is absolutely perfect for developing all of that, and the best part of it is that the kids don’t even realize they are doing any “physical training”. They think they’re just playing lots and lots of soccer. ;)

      • Oscar says

        Mike, what is the one activity you are referring to? Please describe.

        It is my understanding that these players on the video are highly selected, talented boys perhaps less than 5% of players. You can’t just take average players to compete in Europe. Most coaches are lucky to have 1 good player on their team. Most players need a tremendous amount of work in agility, balance, coordinate, speed up to ages 14. I would leave out strength and fitness since their bodies have not matured. Development for every player should be different and can’t expect the same performance from everyone. Build players not teams and the results will come.

  65. Kevin says

    Here’s what having a unique and entertaining philosophy can do: (This is an audio clip of Barca’s fans singing immediately after being eliminated by Chelsea).
    This shows why Barcelona is more than trophies and winning, they are a culture, an identity, and a unique, brilliant, and exciting way of playing that fans will always appreciate win or lose. The great, and memorable teams that changed the way the game is played throughout history can be remembered, and talked about at length in both victories and defeats. Teams like Holland in 74, and this current Barca are examples. If Chelsea are to win this year, good for them, they will have their trophy and have won the biggest tournament on the planet, but very little will be remembered of them 10 years from now, and they certainly won’t have evolved the game in any way.

  66. clubcoach says

    this is a system that takes a full club to support. Barca is what Barca is because from top to bottom they all play the same style. U9-Senior Squad. While the video was fun to watch and a fantastic testament to truly teaching a possession oriented game, what will amaze me is if they can continue this stye, this success, this level from U11-U19. At some point as the Barca-USA club affiliation grows other coaches will have to train the teams. Will they truly understand the La Masia philosophy? Will they be able to check their own egos to fall in line with their Clubs system? Many teams will join this affiliation but how many will truly flourish? How many coaches will fall in line with the bigger picture in mind? Can these coaches apprentice others in their ways to start building more staff? The 2 big problems with club soccer right now: too many coaches are in it for themselves and their reputation or fame and coaches are just as guilty of jumping ship for greener pastures as the players are. Coach gets offered more money and bam gone etc… The problem with our youth is that our coaches dont buy into a development system and teach it, learn it, love it, live by it. Whatever gets them paid a few extra bucks. How can a coach expect to learn, develop himself if the club always changes, the mentor always changes, the desire to develop kids the right way always changes.A fundamental belief in a common goal pertaining to the style of play a club wants to teach will do wonders for player development. To me the system doesnt matter. 3-4-3 4-3-3 4-4-2 4-5-1 whatever. But once a club has an identity on how they want to play they can begin to identify the technical needs of the player who fits in their system, how to begin to teach their system and continuity for the kids of playing the same system from U9-U19. When the ideology and training is all leading to the same ultimate goal, players can actually begin to achieve the 10,000 hour rule and master the techniques of this game.

    To me being able to replicate this success at U11, over and over with teams and through the different age groups, that will be special and amazing because it would have taken more than a couple coaches and some of the best talented players in the local area,

    As of now its some impressive coaching/training with some very talented kids. I have seen teams like this before from different cubs, maybe not the same great possession but teams that have kept the ball more than their opponents and won a majority of their games. But those teams from those clubs were the talisman of the club, and the next age group down and team coming up didnt even try to play the same style. One and done happens all the time. I would love to see Gary and Co. breed successful team after successful team and have current teams able to continue the level of success the barca name and la masia demand. to me that would make this and im sure, videos from this team/club that more special.

    congrats on what I see as step one, maybe someone can finally break the mold of the traditional youth soccer club in the USA, maybe even send more kids to professional clubs rather than the college system?

    sorry for any rambling, very late here. once again congrats on this and good luck on the next step!

  67. says


    Excellent job! The team looks fantastic…. It looks like they played some LA area teams in the California Cup a few weeks later that were not in the state cup and lost to one; Wolfpack White who in turn got thrashed by another team in the finals. Do you have video of that game? I think we learn as much or more from our mistakes and losses as we do from our successes. How did they beat your team and then in turn lose badly to another team? I imagine that video would be educational.

    • Brian Kleiban says

      Hey Dave,

      That is not the team in this video. That is Barcelona Blue, the 3rd team of this age within the club. California Cup is played by majority of the teams who don’t feel ready for State Cup competition. We don’t have video of these games as we weren’t there since state cup runs on the same dates at different locations.

      • David Edders says

        Brian. Thanks for clarifying. As I said in earlier posts, I investigate everything. I love the ideas in your blog, but a couple things just do not sit right and questions remain with the video. Perhaps you can shed further light. For starters, these kids wear the Barcelona uniform and call themselves Barcelona USA, but as best I can tell there is no U.S. academy for FC Barcelona. I can see your group is actually a U.S. based fan club out of LA. Please confirm…you are not FC Barcelona Academy right? To an outsider it looks unclear and to me possibly a little deceptive. It looks like the club team has been around for about 12 years or so, but have only had really great U10,U11 teams in the last couple years. Why not earlier? 2 or 3 out of 12 is not that great a record. Even the Arsenal FC coach in the video may just have a bad team this year. The club also seems to have many teams and age groups, but never any significant success older than U11. Why is that? Does it have anything to do with the following? It is my understanding that these kids in the video do not pay some or any of their fees for playing. Is that true? If so, aren’t you really showing us an all star video rather than proof of concept for your ideas?

        • Rafael says

          To add to NOVA Mike’s well put post, I don’t think Brian and Gary were coaching those earlier younger Barca teams. They have only had these teams last year and this year. Maybe that’s why the club has “only had really great U10,U11 teams in the last couple years.” Brian or Gary correct me if I’m wrong.
          I am a believer in the Barca system but I’m a much bigger believer in the Kleiban/Barca system. There are a lot of imitators who profess Barca Barca Barca but don’t do the work to make it happen. That is not the case with the Kleibans. This I know first hand and say with confidence.

        • Brian Kleiban says


          Let me see if I can shed some more light on the situation for you.

          There is no official Barcelona Academy affiliate in the United States or in any other country world wide. The only affiliated clubs that Barca works with exist within Catalunya.

          Our current club was founded 12 years ago by the president of the Barcelona California Penya, Paul Walker.

          What we have created over the last year is the Barcelona USA Academy program. It is an elite program within our club that we started with the youngers last season at u9, u10, u11. This year we added a new team (new u9′s) and each team graduated up to the next age group. We model our program to closely resemble the training environment of a top european academy.

          That being said, the club president invested first in getting the proper coaching education for us. I have been to Barcelona for 2-3 week periods over the last 4 years to enhance my knowledge in the barca total futbol methodology. With that, I can “infect” a lot of players in our program with proper training sessions to give them a huge advantage over their peers.

          I have only been working in the club for 3 years now. The club had won countless state cup and surf cup titles over the years at various age groups. The problem most of those teams had was lack of infrastructure, stability, daddy coaches, and the always difficult economic short fall when dealing with underprivileged kids from the demographic represented in our club. Paul Walker was a pioneer of sorts in wanting to give kids an opportunity to play “club soccer” regardless of their financial situation. In the past (90′s, early 2000′s) club soccer was geared in the pay to play system. A ton of talented kids had to stick with local leagues since they could not afford the cost of club soccer.

          To answer your question, there have always been teams with success within the club. It hasn’t just been the last 2-3 years. What we have changed is the training and culture within the club. Our teams don’t win playing kick ball and relying on the horses to run by and hopefully convert on a goal scoring opportunity. Each team within the academy has a clear IDENTITY. Possession when we have it, high pressure when we lose it (the ball). It’s not just talked about like at most competitive clubs who preach the same song. It’s worked on in training and translated onto the pitch on the weekends.

          The kids within the academy program do not pay training fees or club fees. It is mostly a funded program. The only requirement is for the parents on the teams to fundraise and actively participate in the program to feel a part and show 100% commitment. They need to have a vested interest so both the parents and players understand the level of commitment needed to achieve excellence on the field.

          The video clips in this post aren’t a one time thing. Each time the teams take the field this is what the product looks like. The u10′s are the same as the 11′s. The u9′s will begin to have that engrained in them as well this year.

          Oh, and this clear cut identity has been given to each team we have worked with over the years. Be it bronze, silver, silver elite, gold, premier. Boys and girl. High school or club. It’s not a matter of talking about it or making excuses as to why it’s “impossible” to play this way since we don’t have xavi’s and iniestas.

          IT CAN BE DONE! I’ll have to work with some of the parents from our previous teams on getting game film to post something on the other teams and levels we’ve worked with. We didn’t have the camera system at our disposal back then.

          Fact is, the most impressive thing is that these boys are 10 or 11 years old and they are able to interpret and execute at such a high level after only a couple years of work. Sky is the limit and since seeing is believing we felt that a glimpse of the boys in action would open peoples eyes to the endless possibilities we have as a soccer nation with incredible talent at our disposal.

          • Chris says

            How long did it take you all to actually implement this sort of mentality at your club? I imagine that it didn’t just happen over night and there was a certain amount of trial and error to get to the place that you are now.

          • Jacob says

            You wrote that you habe been in barcelona for 2 ore 3 weeks in 4 years. How did you arrange that. Is that possible for me aswell. I Would love that. I already took 2 courses with René Meulensteen, coach of the 1st team of Manchester United. I visit Ajax on a regular bases. Barcelona would be a great oppertunity for me. Can you give me some information? I would be thankfull to you.

    • Nuno says

      Did anyone say war of ideas, propaganda, misinformation, rumors, wolves in sheep’s skin

      Welcome to the jungle of American Youth Soccer

  68. Lothar says

    11:09-11:20 is all any of you doubters need to know. Two passes, top of their defensive 18 (after a bad, hopeful long ball from the yellow side) to back of the net, and they knew exactly what they were doing with a lob from the defender to the mid, who slotted a perfectly weighted ball in for a striker who obviously knows how and where to go, let alone finish.

    • Larry says

      went back & re-watched 11:09-11:20 of the video. I have some questions about the play .. Brian or any of the other coaches out there ..

      Was the 1st pass & long ball to beat a high press line (since I thought this sort of style in not Barca style)?
      Was the team taught how to beat a high press in this fashion?
      Was this an individual tactic or a team tactic taught by the coach?

  69. SimonMagnus says

    Do all BarcelonaUSA teams from the different regions in Cali. practice this style of play, or is it just the academy?

  70. J says

    aside from the clear gulf in class between the teams in terms of footballing intelligence and awareness, the most telling thing through this whole video for me was:


    “CHASE IT!”


    and everything else that Arsenal coach was screaming, the guy shouting could be the Wenger of u11 football for all i know but i’d guess not by the shouts, i’d also bet money that everything the other coach is saying is 10x more encouraging/specific

  71. Norrie says

    Great stuff guys you obviously all work very hard at practice as everyone of the boys are comfortable on the ball and have no trouble with their mobility. I personally can’t see why anyone would want to critsice this style of play as everyone of the boys take part and not just a few of the stronger ones. Great job keep up the good work.

  72. fritz says

    I’m a recreation and tournament team coach in Ohio with significantly less experience than most or all of you. That said, I do have some understanding of the game. Let me list what I noticed immediately in the video. Spacing (positional discipline), support, and chemistry. The weight of the passes was terrific and the decision-making was just bizarre for this age. Except for their size and speed, I imagine the could beat all the top high school teams in my area. I haven’t seen anything close to this level though I have seen some local futsal players who are very good. In Ohio, I pulled my nine year old son out of “premier” soccer because there are 40-some clubs in Northern Ohio and there are kids playing who literally do not know how to kick a ball correctly. With the exception of Challenger Crew Juniors, run by Chris Dore, I just don’t see a program with a system where I see U9 players learning to play like the U14 and U12 teams. It’s a mad scramble for $$$ and it seems every new club is started by a former local college player who thinks he can do it better. I’d love for my son to play at a higher level but the daddy coach applies to me in two regards: There is a communication issue because of our relationship and I don’t have the knowledge. I am good with teaching ball-control but tactics are not a strength for me. Here are my questions for you if you will answer them:
    Are you familiar with Rene Meulensteen and do you agree with his training philosophy (focusing on moves and tricks and the 1v1 situation)?
    How often and for how long do your players train?
    When you say you’ve spent weeks in Barcelona, are you a guest or can anyone go and observe their training?
    I just read about a 10 year old from Florida who is going to train with Barcelona for a year. He isn’t with a big name club, at least I’ve never heard of them. So, why is it necessary for a kid to play on a top club if they aspire to join an elite European academy? Having read about Ajax’s selection process, kids being on winning teams has nothing to do with their selection process.

  73. Jacob says

    I am a trainer from the Netherlands and i am impressed by this film. The ballpossion is great. The all now what to do. They are tactical much better than the other team. But what’s making the biggest impression is there passing skills. That technique for childeren U11 for a whole team is first class. How do you teach them that. I am new on this blog do you have drills we can exchange?

  74. Mog says

    Are the fields you play on always this big and nice? I ask because, at least over here, the fields are nowhere near this. The grass is torn up, bumpy and the field sizes are tiny. Point being it’s one thing to play possession ball on a huge turf field vs playing possession soccer on a much smaller bumpy field where the balls are bouncing all over or rolling down a hill.

  75. Declan McCullough says

    Great video, never seen players as young as this with this sort of ability or discipline in USA, would be greatful if you could email me some drills on how you work towards this style of play?

  76. Renea says

    My daughter and I love this video. I wish we could find something remotely close to this in WNY. We pay for a “premier” club training that is a far cry from this, ridiculous really. If anyone has connections to great soccer for youth in the Rochester/Buffalo NY areas let me know. We would love to train this way! BTW, I love reading your articles and posts Gary. To the point and no bulls$#%!

  77. says

    I’ve now watched this at least 5 times over the past few months. You know, these kids are awesome. The yellow team isn’t bad either. But what I think I notice most is that the Barca kids, they are mature mentally. They share. They are not selfish.

    I feel it’s a catch 22 for most of us. We want them to take players on. We want them to be confident and do so, especially in the final 3rd. But there’s one play in particular that I love. It’s about the 1 inut 12 seconds mark. A defensive Arsenal long ball is intercepted with a one touch pass. Number 8 (I think it’s #8) brings it down like magic and passes it on right away. Then tears down the right side. Ordinarily I think the player in the middle would keep the ball and take a shot. But nope, he passes it back out deep and wide to the #8 who crosses it for a score.

    So please share your most common activity you use to keep the ball moving and circulating. It must be pretty fun for them in order for them to continue to maintain possession in a real game and especially one at the level of importance you were in.

  78. Kyle says

    On the second goal, ‘Wenger’ is yelling at his players to ‘get back! Let them have it in there!’
    Ok, so ‘Pep’ has his boys play it out of the back, take what is given to them, switch the point of attack, look for the first opportunity to score, and promptly do so.
    Playing soccer simply is harder than simply playing soccer. Barça playing simply, while the Arsenal are simply playing. Well done Cules…

  79. David says

    NOVA Mike. I have spent time on other threads and not only investigate (impossible to investigate everything), but have at least a passing familiarity with the club if it is not obvious. I think Brian’s kids look great and he is clearly an excellent coach as well as an honest and forthright person based on his reply/comments below. He could have been defenisve or spun it differently, but he did not. He truthfully admits they are not FC Barcelona, their coaches are not FC Barcelona coaches. They are a fan club with good relations to the real FC Barcelona and they try to develop the same style of play and have had enormous success doing it. Per Rafael’s comments this latter part is most important and the effort to change youth soccer in this country is commendable. I wish them luck, but investigation shows that, away from Brian’s team, many of the Barcelona USA organization’s collaboration partners from Florida to Maryland, Virginia and more would, I believe, use a different word than ‘deceptive’. In my opinion, I believe they would call Paul a fraud not a pioneer. I have spoken to parents who feel deceived and others who believe they are part of FC Barcelona and if you ever looked at the everchanging website yourself you might see how they could be misguided. I just hope that does not tarnish what I think is a solid effort to improve soccer in this country.
    On a minor note, I disagree that my question make slittle sense. A typical travel team (at least around here) tries to be competitive, holds tryouts, selects the best kids etc., but they do not pay the kids way. At that point it could arguably be called professional. If the goal is to improve US soccer in general then you have to have something that will work for typical youth teams across the country and not just special ones that can pay for the best. The point may prove irrelevant…hopefully so.., but it is a legitimate question to ask.


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