[Podcast] What’s Wrong with American Soccer?

soccer podcastListen in below, as John Pranjic does a great job of hosting a discussion on topics ranging from how and why 3four3 got started, to where we are now, to where we’re going.

And of course the biggest problem with American soccer – a system that limits our market’s potential, disincentivizes investments, alienates the majority of the soccer demographic, and puts the game on a leash for the benefit of a few and the disenfranchising of the many.

The current system is about power and control over the game and squashing both opportunity and agents of change. It is not benevolent, it is not about “growing the game” for all, it is not about unleashing the game for everyone’s participation.

And if we want that to change, practitioners [of all stripes] in the field need to get involved and make their voices heard.

Did I feel anxiety over speaking out against the regime that controls the game, and is a gatekeeper to the have and have nots in American soccer?

Absolutely.

They can make up any politically correct excuse, and squash us like a bug.

Please have a listen:

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Comments

  1. Bryan Hargrove says

    It’s always great to get an hour+ Q&A. The question that strikes me is how do younger coaches break free from a system that isn’t merit based? I have lots of friends who go into the coaching world ready to do good work and try to change the culture, but end up either quitting or succumbing to the inevitable mediocrity. Most even know that they are giving up and don’t want to but there is no other path.

    Seems like there could be some sort of online system built for coaches to run their own program where their futures are completely controlled by DOC’s and club boards. An organization that helps coaches with the admin work and lets them become contract workers or free agents. They can scout, recruit, and coach a couple teams a year. Set their own prices and policies. Decentralize the system essentially.

    Any thoughts? I know its not ideal but it might be a good work around for those who aren’t allowed to operate with different ideas.

    • Matt says

      I’ve been toying with the idea of starting my own club. A place where myself and other like-minded coaches can be free from the arms race that is youth soccer – where ego-centric adults try to build the biggest clubs possible, but for what? Better player development?

      Why not start something small and focused, where you can build a culture and style from the bottom up – only including the best coaches that share that same philosophy – as opposed to trying to change the mentality of these giant super-clubs.

      Not sure what kind of traction I’ll get, but I think it’s time to stop complaining and give it a shot. One thing I am sure of…it won’t be easy!

  2. Erick says

    Thought you may like some of the notes I took from my tour at Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper and RCD Espanyol.

    I will break down notes on both clubs separate but the one common theme was they didn’t care as much about formation but the teams all have to play the same style from young to old. They even say, it may not be the best way but it’s our way and it was prevalent through all their age groups even the girls (holly %*%$8 I was even impressed with the Barca girls team) college girls are going to soon have a run for their money in the states like our boys.

    They didn’t give us handouts all notes. We couldn’t even post pictures of just their media room (????) at La Masia. La Masia is just the area the poor or kids not from the area stay. It’s on the grounds of Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper which is the FC Barcelona training facilities for young to senior team.

    FC Barcelona

    I was shocked out how small the numbers were at the club. They had less overall players than we did around 200-250.

    They had u7-Senior professional

    They play 5v5 u7 to u8 then 7v7 until u12 going to 11v11

    u7-u11 3 days a week training

    u12-u16 4 days a week training

    u17 and up 5 days a week

    They only had 3 teams in each age group until they hit 11v11 broken out by ABC. Then they have 2 team per age group through senior team.

    Notes and from the talks with their overall director of club methodology. Also what I saw watching their u10 u13 and u16 girls B teams:

    - Very little difference between how the young and older teams practice day to day. There is just a small amount more time spent technically then what the older teams are doing.

    - Every session has technical and tactical concepts with very little physical work at the younger ages.

    - Possession practices all the time

    - Develop soccer players not by position. At younger ages the position finds the player

    - Very impressed with at a young age u10 (have a good video of this) in the game taking pictures and looking over his shoulder before he received the ball. All the kids were constantly taking pictures off the ball.

    - Movement off the ball was incredible.

    – The 7v7 game they played like a 3-3 and in the attack only CB stayed back around 1/2 line with GK just a few yards off (also impressed how they used the GK as another field player). Their OB would create the width and get very wide with the other 3 top players constantly moving off and checking into space to open up space for others (u10′s some were younger playing up).

    - The coaches actively coached during the game. There wasn’t the guided discovery and them sitting on the bench being quiet. After one of the games we asked if that was common and the answer was yes but they didn’t coach the whole game they were only coaching the main points from the week of practice but within the game.

    - The most impressive thing was that it didn’t matter what age team or sex they all played exactly the same. It was great in two days how distinct that was in all the teams. They played a 4-3-3 older teams with one 6 and 8 and 10 in front. The 8 and 10 in all the teams when they had the ball played almost 10 yards away from the sideline. That opened up the field tremendously.

    RCD Espanyol

    We met with the u15 coach and overall youth director. The u15 coach spoke very good English and great back and forth during this presentation of the club.

    3 Main objectives

    - Club Identity, All teams playing a similar style

    - Develop Players

    - Keep players for the first team or to sell

    – Most players from the Catalina area and about 25-30 from other areas.

    - At the start of the meeting they had a cool chart. 2+2 = 4 but there are many other ways to get to 4 like 3+1, 4+0, 2+2, but they chose their one path for the club to get to their 4.

    - All practices tech/tactical topics at same time.

    -Style of system (they more than Barca like to play different formations that is player based. So their teams and players understand multiple formations to play.

    - They play a very high pressing game and possession based

    - Their practice organization was very unique on what they work on or how their coaches put a practice together. So much so that Ian talked about how NSCAA is going to list some of their practices in the same manner.

    – They would have individual and team oriented goals for each practice and going from simple to complex.

    – So they had a numbering system with for example a 0.5 would be activity with movement and no ball. Then 1.0 would be simple work introducing a ball.

    – The director would put out each week their topics and intensity of the training and then it was up to the individual coaches to select the exercise’s that fit (they had a library of different activities that could be used and this is was NSCAA is going to try and set up).

    – You would do 4 different activities each practice and again going from simple to more complicated and intense.

    – example would be a 2v1 transition into 3v2 game, then more numbers possession game, then even more number like 9v9 no goals, into a 11v11 game with goals working on topics chosen by directors.

    - Teams would train 4 days a week with the 1st day given to the coach to work on whatever. The other 3 days were dictated by the director of that age. Practices were about 2 hours with the first 20-30 doing either physical or video session.

    - All economical training with physical, tech, tac in every session.

    - They had 5 teams each in u7 to u11 then going to just 2 teams u12 and up.

    One specific question a coached asked was would they work on just heading or one technique at a time. They said no they wouldn’t do just one technique and it would be more functional or pattern of play with crosses and finishing with the head. The technique worked in game situation and they showed us an example of a tapped practice. They started out with mannequins and working patterns to start and broke down the technique with the tactics (which is just decision making) for that area of the field and positions.

    From what I understand the guy we talked with from Barcelona did a session at this years NSCAA convention that Ian said was brilliant so hopefully it will be on the web soon.

    • Kevin says

      Thanks for the notes Erick, highly instructive.

      Did anyone happen to ask how the U7/U8 teams were constituted?

      I assume that they recruited only the best from other local, but do they have a process to evaluate and release under performing players?

      Who did they play? Did they travel? Did they keep score?

      How did it compare to the no scores, no standings, no try outs, no pressure, just have a jamboree every Saturday environment advocated by USSF?

      Not that I fixate on U-littles, but sometimes those little cultural differences can be the most educational. My guess is that if the Barcelona and Espanyol academies tried to operate in the United States the same way that they do in Spain, their staff would be thrown in jail for child abuse.

      • Erick says

        Kevin,
        It was funny but these kids are like rock stars. As we were getting to the facility the buses were coming to pick up the players for their away games. So the parents had their kids come to the facility where they met with their coaches and then they came out as a team to load up on charter busses to go to their games. The games we watched were all home games at Joan Gamper.

        It’s funny but all their games at the facility are filmed. So the next day we could actually watch the games at the hotel on Barca TV. They even put out a top 10 goal list from the littles on the weekend. You can pull it up online and watch. There is a good one from when we were there that they show a u10 player hitting a very similar goal as Ronaldinho.

        They don’t have tryouts but scouts throughout the areas looking for talent. We didn’t get into the particulars of how cut throat it was for kids to stay vs other kids who come in. I can tell you that they are rated every game. From the Espanyol talks they showed us their evaluation sheet the coach fills out after every game and gives to the youth director each week. A 5 on the rating system was a keeper for Espanyol a 4 was a good player and on down the list. The turnover rate would have been a good question but honestly I was in a daze for two days and not thinking straight hahahahahah, just incredible being there and taking it all in.

        The coaches were very warm to the players and cared for them, that you could tell. I think they would operate fine in the US. You would just have the US parents trying to bad mouth them because little Johnny didn’t make the team so that means the whole club was crap hahahah.

        If all our clubs operated this way US soccer would win multiple World Cups. The problem is there is only a handful of clubs in the US that you can see a true philosophy from young to old and how they play. Watching 4 different Barca teams play was like watching the same team minus a few individual stars.

    • Benj says

      “u7-u11 3 days a week training

      u12-u16 4 days a week training

      u17 and up 5 days a week”

      We pay almost 2.5k a year for 2 days a week training through u17 (1 day a week during winter and summer). They are practicing twice as much as we are.

      That’s probably a huge part of our inability to develop players. Combine that with lack of pick up soccer…

    • Chad says

      Erick,

      Great comment. I just wanted to throw my 2 cents in here. I was an assistant coach this past summer at one of the FCBEscola camps that Barca offers all over the world, the one I coached was in Maryland. The camp teaches the Barca philosophy and hits on all the points you mentioned above. In one short week of camp, the FCB coaches taught width, depth, using the keeper, taking snapshots of the field, losing marker, receiving and passing, etc, to all the age and skill levels. The thing that stood out to me most was how simple the philosophy is and how easy the kids grasped the concepts. The Barca system isn’t over complicated and it just makes sense, especially to a young player who is eager to learn.
      It totally changed my way of coaching too. The camp made me realize that what I was doing as a coach before was complete crap. I admit I was a bit of a “Youtube” coach but the camp gave me a focused philosophy to follow. Of course I haven’t perfected the Barca way but at least it has set me on the right track.
      The point of this post is that you can go on to the FCBEscola website and apply to be an assistant coach at one of the camps. You will work directly with a Barca coach and learn the same exercises and coaching points they use in Barcelona. It’s a great experience if you can get into a camp.
      Now I am heading to Barcelona in March to coach at the FC Barcelona International Youth Tournament for 8 days. Great opportunity. I will get to see what you saw over there and I will be able to apply it to my coaching. Take care.

      • Erick says

        Chad,
        Would love to get your notes on what you learned that week so please share when you have a moment. Sounds like a great experience working at the camp.

        • Chad says

          Erick,

          I have a whole notebook of notes from just those 2 weeks, but I can give a brief overview of the topics and themes of the camp. What the Barca coaches stressed the most, concerning the technical aspects of player development, was how players were to receive the ball. We all know Barca’s use of rondos but many don’t know why they do them (not saying you don’t or anyone else here). The reason they use the rondo, first and foremost, is to instill the simple technical ability of receiving the ball the “Barca way”. Their philosophy is, if a player receives the ball from the left then the player will let the ball cross their body and trap the ball with their right foot away from the defender, and vice versa. This creates a body position where the player is automatically positioned to shield the ball from the defender and it also opens up the player to see the field and escape pressure if need be. If a ball is received from the left and trapped with the left, the player automatically paints himself into a corner. So their rondos are specifically organized to instill this. If a player receives the ball incorrectly then that player switches to become a defender in a rondo, ie 4v1 rondo situation he becomes the “1″. Also, the rondo teaches players to move into supporting positions when off the ball. In a 4v1 rondo, the players to the left and right of the player with the ball move up/closer to the ball to provide passing options. Also, the opposite player is urged to move along his line (between his cones) as to not hide behind the defender and to create a longer passing option. This simple philosophy can be used in any rondo situation. We often used the 4v1 as a warm-up and progressed to 10v4 as the players became more comfortable with the motions. There are multiple variations and games within the rondo system that Barca used. Too many to list here.

          Along with the technical aspects, the coaches taught the tactics of the Barca 3-2-1 formation as well. They use the 3-2-1 up to U14 or so. Each day of the camp focused on different positions within the system and each exercise was designed to stress how they want each position to be played. For example, Tuesday focused on how players (specifically the back 3) are to be positioned when the goal keeper has the ball. Wednesday focused on the 2 outside players (who create width in the system), Thurs on the 2 midfielders, Fri on the striker (who creates depth in the system along with the center back). More specifically, the center back drills (they never called a position its position name, they always referred to the Barca player, i.e they called the center back position “Pique” and not center back) focused on playing back to the keeper and being the fulcrum and “deepest man” within the system; outside player-drills stressed switching the field of play using the mids or cb, dribbling at pace, and making the field wide; midfielder drills focused on possession, dribbling and losing your marker; striker drills focused on goal scoring, obviously, and playing as the “last man”. Almost every small-game exercise utilized a “joker” or “neutral” player, which is key because the joker always creates a numbers-up situation while in possession, integral in Barca’s tactics.

          Obviously there is a lot more within these details, like which type of player should play as “Pique”, which type can fill the “Xavi” role, etc. Also, respect for the coaches and for other players was really stressed at the camp. It was a microcosm of La Masia and it was cool as shit. There’s a ton more I learned but that is a good overview. A great learning experience for a coach obsessed with Barca lol. Let me know if you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them. I’m not an expert but I can give a very minute insight into how the coach.

          Chad

          • Erick says

            Chad,
            Thanks for sharing the info. I use Rondo and talk about receiving but funny I never thought of the simple idea of moving them as the monkey if they don’t receive with the right foot. Funny the smallest stuff can be missed at times. I’m usually disappointed by books I buy on Barca but man FC Barcelona Training Sessions 160 Practices from 34 Tactical Situations is incredible. They give attacking and defending situation and how Barca handles them. Then they give you the practice ideas on working all these situations. Over 26 attacking situations and 8 defending. Best book on practice ideas I have bought to date. Its from Terzis Athanasios.

            Funny you talk about their shape at the youth level, because you could clearly see it when we were there. Loved how high up their OB worked to create width and the mids and forward moving in and out to create special gaps. I think it’s a problem in our country that we don’t do enough functional training and hit more generically at the topic.

          • Chad says

            Erick,

            Have you used the info contained in that book? Does it work? I have been thinking of buying that book but I am so apprehensive about things with the Barca name on it. Most are garbage and only look to make money off of mentioning Barca on the cover with no real substance. I wonder if the exercises in the book are actual Barca exercises or if the author created them or got them from another source…

          • Erick says

            Listen, I was reluctant at first also. I have been burnt a few times on Barca salesman. This book isn’t saying they train just like Barca does but the author breaks down how Barca plays and then shows you how you can train to play like the analysis. Each person I have recommended the book to can’t believe how good it is. The reason I like it is for the fact that the way they talk about how they train in Spain and how a session should run is consistent with how the book breaks down a practice session.

            To be honest, I can’t find anything legit that shows the exact training games used on a consistent basis by Barca. His tactical understanding of how Barca plays is so spot on to what I saw first hand. His practices to get you to train based on the tactical analysis is the best I have seen and I have looked at a lot.

          • Erick says

            Chad,
            I hate recommending things so I don’t do it lightly. Let me know what you think. I would like another opinion from someone else who has seen things first hand. The other person who was on the trip with me enjoyed the book as well. They plan on using it when the snow melts hahahahah. I have older players and in Alabama they play high school during the spring so will have to wait but will be using it a lot when we get back together.

          • Chad says

            Erick,

            I bought the book and I am enjoying it a lot! Great breakdowns of tactical minutiae. Now on to coaching it! The same author just released a Borussia Dortmund analysis as well. Will buy.

  3. Josh says

    Gary,

    This is a little off topic but I have to get it off my chest. First, that was a fantastic pod! Now onto my point/story…I, like countless Americans, have grown up in the NFL/MLB/NBA hegemony that is the US. I lived and died with my NFL or MLB team. Then, I went to live/work abroad in South America and got hooked on the beautiful game (and could care less about american football or baseball now). I came back and have been following American soccer very closely. Everything you say on twitter or here is absolutely 100% on point…especially “white culture” pervading the mainstream soccer landscape. It’s absolutely insane what this country could be if we unleash the beast.

    I’m not saying this to blow smoke up your ass, I just appreciate what you and Brian are doing! Please don’t stop!

    Josh

  4. Kana says

    Insightful interview. I’m one of those who is always asking why. Never ending curiosity in what makes other countries so superior in youth development and USA so poor.

    Comments you Gary made in the interview got me thinking. I started asking myself the 8 why’s (a simple technique used in engineering / manufacturing to get to root causes). My thought process went a little something like this:

    1. Why can’t USA develop world-class players?
    a. Answer: Because coaching isn’t aligned to that standard, vision, philosophy.
    2. Why is that?
    a. Because youth soccer and college soccer are not to those standards.
    3. Why is that?
    a. Because there is no connection at those levels to pro-centric player id and development.
    4. Why is that?
    a. Because the American model isn’t aligned to the international level
    5. Why is that?
    a. Because back around 1990 (new era of American soccer ushered in by hosting WC), those in power (many of whom are same now) followed the American sports model.
    6. Why is that?
    a. Because that’s all they know (i.e., Don Garber spent 15+ years in NFL prior to MLS and Gulati was a college professor).
    7. Why is that?
    a. Because USA didn’t have footballers to create the new model post 1990.
    8. Why is that?
    a. Because we don’t have the culture or historical backdrop to produce those types.

    You can substitute “why can’t USA play Champions League type soccer (or any top European league)? The mental exercise above leads to same place by about the 2nd why.

    What does this mean? Well, coaching is a symptom, not a root cause. We can have grass roots changes like the Kleibans and others are doing, but changing the system is fundamental and requires a sort of soccer-version of the Protestant Reformation. Who is our Martin Luther?

    As I see it, the most impactful change is from the top: Garber and Gulati. They are the incumbent gatekeepers. From there, everything flows downhill. Replace them with say someone like a Landon Donovan. Someone young with understanding of the world game and the pedigree, resume, influence to make change. Work closely with CONCACAF and FIFA to enable the transformation.

    • says

      We do have the culture.
      But that culture is disenfranchised. And that culture is comprised of millions.

      What’s most visible, however, is the culture that controls soccer in the US.
      It is THAT culture that doesn’t “get it”, and holds everything back.

      Landon Donovan? He’s from that culture that does not get it.

      • Kana says

        The point of mental exercise of 5 whys is that back in ~1990, we really didn’t have a footballing culture and got leadership that was born of that situation.

        Agree we now have pockets of footballing culture, but not enough gravity to pull it together. When we hit critical mass AND the pockets come together to a common goal, things will start to naturally improve. That is the big if. No doubt in my mind we will hit critical mass of minds thinking like you, Brian, and others. Just worry the right event or leadership won’t coalesce it.

        I don’t disagree about Donovan. He’s the best I could come up with from home-grown possibilities. So that’s my point. We’re limited by our historical backdrop. Even now 25-years on from watershed yer of 1990.

        Our Knight in Shining Armour is probably still an infant or twinkle in someone’s eye.

        • says

          The danger that I want to avoid here with talk of “culture”, is that most people equate that with:

          1) overall popularity of current pro game vs the other sports

          2) their primarily suburban soccer experience

          Both those views are terribly limiting as they fail to account for the HUGE Latino and immigrant demographic (ie culture).

          That culture is disenfranchised by the establishment. And since it is disenfranchised, what’s mostly visible in the mainstream is this immature “suburban soccer mom”, very casual “it’s only a game”, “1st generation soccer household”, culture.

          Hence the conclusion:
          “We don’t have a culture”

          And hence the thought of waiting another generation until this specific demographic grows up.

          That’s my issue here – we must become aware of the millions that have a rich soccer culture here, and aren’t represented.

          We don’t have a system that’s open to everyone.

          We have a system that’s built of, by, and for one culture – the immature one. One that also happens to represent only a tiny micro slice of the total American soccer market.

          That’s suffocating the game in every respect.

          ****
          I’ll leave this for now with one final crucial note for everyone to think about:

          MLS is controlled by the NFL.

          • MG says

            “MLS is controlled by the NFL.” Well, it is almost like assigning a fox to manage a chicken coop. Why would the NFL want to develop a potential competitor for its viewership and sponsorship? They know that outside of North America they cannot compete with soccer. Accordingly, they will do everything to protect their stronghold on the North American market by keeping the MLS in mediocrity indefinitely.

  5. Kana says

    Below are three critical areas that needs immediate attention and a long-term solution. Who in USSF is laying down and executing the vision (like what Spain or Germany did)? Klinsman is largely focusing on national team players plying their trade in Europe, and completely ignoring the below topics. I try to keep up with USSF, but it’s deafening on real change to below.

    · Players are not the problem, it’s coaching and the system. We have athletic, passionate, skillful players who are limited by their environment.
    · However, coaches behave as rewarded. They are only as good or bad as the system dictates or as external influences demand (e.g., professional scouts or Academy). Change the system to affect a change in coaching. Re-wicker the system to incentive coaching. A tangible, incentive connection MUST exist from youth through college and into pro.
    · U18 and younger is where players develop fundamental skills and game knowledge. It’s directly affected by coaching and playing / player id philosophy. It’s where the recipe gets its ingredients. Get it wrong and the end product is affected.
    · Next comes 18-22, which is critical link between youth and pro. Almost all US kids have the wrong ingredient by this stage. And it often gets worse from here. College is not producing world-class talent. From coaching to style of play to level of competition to length of season. That is an undisputed fact. Our best players have come from IMG (e.g., Donovan and Bradley). We need regional IMGs! An alternative is to go Europe (e.g, G. Rossi) to be at that level. Find a way to change college or have an alternate.

    If I had to summarize, USSF along with USDA, MLS, NSCAA, ODP, IMG, and all regional leagues have to find a way to align themselves and move to a common vision to integrate, align, incentivize all levels of development. Writing coaching guides is a band-aid treating symptoms. We need and demand better. It’s not impossible, other countries have done it. By default, USSF is the leader. Is Gulati the footballer who will champion this? I doubt it! He’s not even a footballer. A Platini he’s not.

    • Joel says

      “a bandaid that treats symptoms.” this is great thought. it is the truth. the scariest of all things though, is– that bandaid IS the culture of America. In America we live on the surface. We only treat the symptom.The western idea of medicine is only to treat the symptom and make money and this philosophy permeates almost every aspect of life including our soccer. Sure there are niche healers looking to root out the cause and solve the dis-ease but by and large they are outliers. they are the voice of one crying out in the wilderness. It is scary. It is sad. We need an entire generation or two to, sadly, die off or step down due to senility before real conscious shifting change occurs.

      • Kana says

        Agree Joel. But even is current leadership dies off or steps aside, it will be a Herculean effort to fix foundation / systemic issues. It will bring HUGE change. The many hundreds or even thousands of incumbents are also gatekeepers. So its just not fixing the top, leadership down the footballing hierarchy has to fall in line or change. That is often hard. Most companies change by mass firings or “convert or die” type tactics.

  6. Armando says

    Good stuff Kana.. Tried the 8 whys and came to similar conclusion. We are reaping the bad outcomes. Never heard of 8 whys, but it opened my eyes and how I see the larger issue. I used to stop at coaching, now I understand it’s much deeper foundational issue.

    In business, which sports is at all levels, ability and background required of leader’s changes as it matures. At some point, leadership has to change. Business 101 stuff from college.

    They stagnate and too vested in what they started to act or do differently. Gulati and Garber need to step aside and allow new growth, thoughts, ideas. Their cycle has come and gone. But most incumbents fail to see that. They pretend reinvent.

    Donovan lacks political savvy. Someone from Europe should replace Gulati. Same reasons we went to Klinsmann. We are better than 1990 but still lack the right home grown footballers to make real change. Sports commissioners are typically lawyers. So why not Jacques Pelham or someone who thinks like him to lead MLS!

    • Joel says

      I would pay Horst Wein a RANSOM to come here and be given complete control of the youth game with the understanding that US Soccer is to follow suit. That solves the both development part. Then we need someone to solve the business aspect, i.e. pro/rel and how the clubs operate.

  7. Joel says

    Just listened to the Podcast and enjoyed it thoroughly. Well done. I’d like to say that the smartest thing I did was reflect on the first landing I made on a random search in 2012 and allowed the content to seep in – which then led me to start from the beginning- including all the commentary along the way. I’ve covered it through twice and it has changed my whole view of the game and I am grateful.

  8. Kana says

    The point of mental exercise of 5 whys is that back in ~1990, we really didn’t have a footballing culture and got leadership that was born of that situation.

    Agree we now have pockets of footballing culture, but not enough gravity to pull it together. When we hit critical mass AND the pockets come together to a common goal, things will start to naturally improve. That is the big if. No doubt in my mind we will hit critical mass of minds thinking like you, Brian, and others. Just worry the right event or leadership won’t coalesce it.

    I don’t disagree about Donovan. He’s the best I could come up with from home-grown possibilities. So that’s my point. We’re limited by our historical backdrop. Even now 25-years on from watershed yer of 1990.

    Our Knight in Shining Armour is probably still an infant or twinkle in someone’s eye.

  9. Antonio says

    Stumbled into this site a few weeks ago. Been reading, digesting info. Really great stuff!

    Ignorance + complacency = fuel for the immature system. No incentive to be anything other than average. Our system is average. Why? Well….

    A system feeds off of it self and perpetuates based on its DNA. Yes, systems have a DNA! It’s in the form of those who founded it, those who govern it, those who administer it, policy, structure, processes, procedures, beliefs, rules, regulations.

    Like human DNA, a system’s DNA is the basis and limit for all it will ever or can be.

    American soccer system is run by humans, not gears and motors. How this system operates is a direct result of the humans who administer and govern it. Each system’s DNA comes into existence when it is created. It operates as envisioned. Lacking a common operating vision, the system becomes erratic and subsystems work against one another. It becomes sub-optimized. This is the case for any human run system.

    The folks who molded American youth soccer, college, and MLS had it wrong from Day 1. Each was formed in isolation. Each has matured in isolation. Our overall system (youth to pro) is really a system of systems. We’re trying to integrate but it’s complicated. It’s almost always better to start anew, but we can’t. We are stuck with our Frankenstein. Can we turn her into a super model? Well, not if the bones aren’t right. How about a homely girl who’s ambitious?

    But like human DNA, our system has it’s genetic limits and there may be a limit what it can be . . . but unlike human DNA, we change our soccer system DNA. Go after the root causes, not the symptoms. I think this is where @Kana was going.

  10. Armando says

    NFL control MLS? Let’s look at its leadership and that of MLS.

    Sunil Gulati: an economics professor. Played AYSO level soccer. No European or South American footballing pedigree. Just a technocrat.

    Robert Contigulia. USSF head prior to Gulati. No footballing background or pedigree. A doctor by trade. Has some coaching and soccer playing experience, but not to a level that understands international football. Strictly 1970s/1980s copper standard stuff.

    Alan Rothberg. Before Mr. Contigulia. Absolutely no footballing credentials. An American sports fan. Connections to Olympics and NFL moguls got him into backdoor of fledgling US soccer back in 1980s.

    Werner Fricke. Before Mr. Rothberg. Actually is a footballer. Too bad it was before 1990 when USA reemerged from long slumber in international football.

    Can you believe USSF had no president from 1974 – 1984! Discussing any USSF presidents prior to 1990 is pointless.

    USSF BoD. Can you believe Donna Shalala is there! Yes, another academic with zero footballing knowledge. Claim to fame from being on Clinton’s staff. Good ole’ Don Garber is on the BoD. How chummy! And so is good ole Robert Contigulia. Rember Don Garber is an almost 20-year NFL-er with no footballing pedigree. The BoD is filled with a variety of non-footballers (save Jeff Agoo) and low level footballers.

    Did you know Lamar Hunt (ie.., Lamar Hunt Trophy) founded the AFL, MLS and NASL? He had a huge early influence on American soccer.

    Did you know that the new Atlanta franchise, Denver, Seattle, Dallas, New England have by NFL owners?

    Second in charge of MLS, Mark Abbott, is a lawyer with no footballing credentials. Gary Stevenson is another with same non-international footballing pedigree. Grew up on American sports model. Several others in leadership like this.

    Our entire system was created by non-fotballing technocrats, lawyers, marketing types, academics with influence from American sports model. Starting to get the picture? Maybe Gary is on to something. But it’s deeper than the tie to NFL. Where are the footballers in this picture? They aren’t laying out the vision . . . the lawyers, technocrats, professors are! WTF! At least club soccer is run by footballers.

    Growth of US soccer is linked in part to influx if immigrants from Mexico, Central America, South America, Africa, Europe. Let the doors open wide! But problem is the white-collar largely Caucasian types cater to the middle class soccer mom. So does college.

    The immigrants have the culture but drowned out by “the man”.

  11. Armando says

    Cannot simply hire a new leader and “wallah” white smoke lifts and we are now Spain. Spain and Germany were mature footballing countries. They had established ways of doing this, deep culture, and a hundred year head start and lessons learned passed from generation to generation. Easier for them as they were defined and somewhat optimized.

    USA on the other hand, is far less mature. We got many more lessons to learn, culture to develop and all the structural stuff to work on. Change is much more complex. Exponentially so and almost insurmountable in my humble opinion.

    Many of us believe soccer isn’t a business or an organization. “It’s just sports”. That’s completely wrong. It’s a business, an organization. There is an element of maturity we can’t overlook or pretend isn’t there. Jose Mourinho (as much as I can’t stand him) recognizes this linkage . . . so to do many / most top notch coaches in Europe. Parts of this is covered in their European licensing requirements.

    There has to be a business model. It supports / compliments / enables optimization of the sporting model. For example, La Masia is more than a development model, it’s also critical to their business model. Conversely, clubs like Ajax sell their players and based on their business model.

    USA youth soccer has no business model. Pay for play is the model. Among a myriad of inhibitors and fundamental problems, it’s not pro-centric and has no connection or incentive mechanism to professional soccer. College is slightly better, but totally wrong incubator for professional soccer on par with Europe. Both are devoid of a true professional sporting model that is of value in an open system such as international professional football.

  12. Coach P says

    Before I do the survey (new to this site but longtime observer), wanted to share thoughts.

    My brother is an engineer in aerospace manufacturing. He often talks about minimizing down-stream issues by focusing on up-stream quality, raw material, processes, people, vision of end product characteristics.

    He and I were talking about problems of youth soccer. We started to compare it to manufacturing principles.

    A big focus of youth coaches and clubs should be on producing end items of high quality. This should be their primary mission and purpose and continually strive to improve. If my brother’s company produces bad avionics, it takes years to whittle it out of the system. The focus has to be as far up-stream as possible to ensure end item quality.

    Same true in youth soccer. We push hordes of inferior soccer product through the system. Similar to how schools often graduate students who lack basic skills.

    So a topic I’d like to seen discussed at 3Four3 conference (and NSCAA but that is more a networking opportunity and hyping the college system) is “How Do We Improve Up-Stream Development”? This has to be an ongoing focus in US Soccer.

    I coach the U14 – 18 ages. Annoying how much lack of coaching of basics occurs at younger ages. Then I’m stuck with them. I talk to my colleagues at younger ages and I could write a 1000 page book on politics and non-soccer influences and how they impact player development.

    Let’s try to impact this Gary.

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