I think we can all agree that the best should always get recognized and rise to the highest level. It is a basic principle that enables any country, company, team, etc to maximize their potential. In the case of a soccer team, we obviously want the best players, coach, management and staff possible.
Today we’ll focus exclusively on player selection for the youth National Teams – “the Top”.
We have had numerous one on one conversations with national team scouts for a couple of years. And they do know more than your typical club or collegiate coach.
However, their understanding of the game and player quality, although better than most, is not remotely impressive. It leaves me concluding, these can’t be the best eyes the country has.
The Basic Process
First, the scouts around the country watch the high level club, collegiate, and pro games. Make their assessment of players, then select the handful they believe are elite. These are then invited to National Team Camps, where further evaluation occurs by the National Team coach and staff. Finally, from the camp(s) a final selection occurs to form the team that will participate in a competition.
We’ve been to many camps, and this is where the biggest crime is committed. The players who demonstrated true quality end up not being selected.
What on God’s earth is the coaching staff watching? What is their criteria?
If they were judging based on Technical Quality and Soccer IQ, they have it completely wrong. From their selections, they seem to be willing to sacrifice these two critical traits in favor of physical attributes like strength and speed.
Well, looking at historical results, including our most recent U-20 World Cup blunder, it should be evident that something is wrong. We are not getting better.
Now, there are a number of reasons that can be cited for our shortcomings. Anything from infrastructure, to money, to youth development, to college – the list is quite long. But one thing that can be immediately fixed and requires no long term development, is a shift in our selection criteria. Size and speed need to be given a much smaller weight in favor of player quality.
It’s unbearable to think that a 5’6 Iniesta or Xavi, would be cut from our national teams. These are two of the best, if not the best, midfielders in the world. Guess what, if born in this country, I would bet the farm they would never have made the final cut. Instead of enjoying them on TV, you might have them taking your order at a local restaurant.
The country’s best players are not being selected. They are falling through the two final filters in the selection process.
Truly elite players are often times missed by scouts. And of the handful the scouts do manage to identify, maybe one, if any, end up surviving the final cut by the coaches.
What are we left with? Mediocre players representing our country. Instead of that truly delicious sweet cream we enjoy, we are given sour cream!
The result? Junk on the field, and results to prove it.