US Soccer Catch-All

Ah, the never-ending "Youth Movement" in US international men's soccer. Always promised. Never delivered.

It's like our best athletes aren't choosing soccer 5th or even 6th behind other sports.

Top_Shelf wrote:

Ah, the never-ending "Youth Movement" in US international men's soccer. Always promised. Never delivered.

It's like our best athletes aren't choosing soccer 5th or even 6th behind other sports.

There’s a whole lot less money in it here, plain and simple. Add that to the fact that the infrastructure for creating those superstars that do make the serious money isn’t there in any capacity you see elsewhere in the world and you’ve got your recipe for mediocrity.

Agreed.

I don't see why MLS doesn't capitalize on the inherent advantages of America and build THE feeder system that allows the world's best talent to thrive. Recruit the best, pay them tons, profit.

I'm sure more American kids would start to rethink football if soccer offered more money.

Top_Shelf wrote:

Agreed.

I don't see why MLS doesn't capitalize on the inherent advantages of America and build THE feeder system that allows the world's best talent to thrive. Recruit the best, pay them tons, profit.

I'm sure more American kids would start to rethink football if soccer offered more money.

MLS doesn't have the money to do that. We have comparatively low soccer viewership, and that won't change overnight. Europe has the highest viewership and the most money, as well as the best academies. It's a slow, unsexy process to improve our development system, but it is happening. I'm sure they could do it better, and I'd be as interested in hearing specific suggestions as I'm sure MLS and US Soccer would.

Ok, being a little more serious, why couldn't MLS allow a cap-free environment? Wouldn't extremely wealthy VC-types and/or oligarchs love to come camp out in America and throw money at sports?

I'm thinking here of money-is-no-object type owners like Khan (NFL Jags), Prokorov (NBA Nets), Paul Allen (RIP, Seahawks and Blazers). Someone who has a ton of passion for the game, loves American culture/lifestyle/real estate and wants to build a true world class team?

I know no one is getting peak Cristiano, but it seems like a plan of:
a) pay youngster talent more than what theyd get in Europe (or at least competitive)
b) sell them on building a brand in the #1 consumer culture in the world with Nike, UA backing
c) get that team LOTS of international experience
d) differentiate the team as THE place to grow as a young player with best facilities, best chance to play top teams (bc the boss is paying for lots of friendly exhibitions)
e) then send those players on to top clubs when they're ready for the biggest pay days
f) MLS could sell itself to world soccer as the development ground for A-talent, then slowly build to something more

Basically, paying more young American talent early could entice more players to choose soccer earlier.

Edit: no cap is horrible for MLS competitiveness. But it really seems like a legit way to capitalize on some of the American advantages to vault us ahead of other countries.

Top_Shelf wrote:

I'm sure more American kids would start to rethink football if soccer offered more money.

I wonder if the CTE situation in gridiron football is going to have any significant effect on this. I know I'm very unlikely to let any of my kids play, but we also have the privilege that football isn't their only way out of poverty. I kind of doubt it though; the machismo culture of toughing out sports injuries is too deeply ingrained.

IIRC, soccer has a high incidence of concussion as well, due to headers, etc. Otherwise I'd agree with you.

As I type that, your point about violence/machismo is a good one. Anecdata alert: I don't know too many UMC parents that are letting their kids play football.

While paying soccer youth to develop is a wonderful idea, I think we'd do well to make the sport less expensive on the whole, or require youth teams to provide more hardship allowances for kids coming from families who can't afford it. Youth soccer in the US is very much a suburban experience, and the more talented you are the more expensive it gets. If we could make soccer on the whole accessible to a wider demographic, we'd draw in a lot more talent.

To give you an idea, both our kids play competitive soccer. It's all year round, except for the high school season. Our son has played at the highest level league here in the Twin Cities, and it has cost us $6k+ each year for the past four years for him to play. (Our daughter is a level lower, and that's only about $2k per year total.) On top of that there are hundreds of parent hours each year driving to practices, watching games, and chaperoning on the frequent out-of-state trips. If you're coming from a single-parent family or don't have that disposable income, it's nearly impossible to do.

Over the years there have been lots of hard-working insanely talented kids from more challenging family situations who have played on our son's teams, but they've all dropped out after a year because of either financial or time constraints. Two years ago there was a kid from a family whose parents got second jobs and drove 90 minutes each way to his practices just so he could play on the team. They quit after one year because it just wasn't sustainable. There is one kid on his team now that we've all pitched in to pay for for the past two years (and who just got a full ride scholarship to college!), but that's the rare exception.

So many talented kids don't play soccer in the US because their families can't afford the fees associated with playing on a top team.

Top, are you underestimating the amount of money that's already in soccer in Europe? They already pay top dollar. They already recruit youth from all over the world (Messi is one example). The already have billionaire owners for whom money is no object, including middle eastern sheiks like the guy who owns Manchester City.

They also have the intangible but very real advantage that every soccer playing kid in the world has grown up wanting to play in Europe, for their big, famous clubs, and to play in UEFA Champions League, etc. MLS isn't something anyone dreams about.

That said I support my local MLS team, go to games, watch on TV, buy jerseys, etc. The level of MLS is definitely increasing, and I believe it could eventually become a league of choice, but I don't think there's a quick route to the top.

You need to get US people interested in the sport. What's its rank in popularity today? 5th?
I don't see that changing anytime soon.

slazev wrote:

You need to get US people interested in the sport. What's its rank in popularity today? 5th?
I don't see that changing anytime soon.

Based on the amount of air time each sport gets on ESPN, it's definitely behind Cornhole, a game named after the anus.

Godzilla Blitz wrote:

While paying soccer youth to develop is a wonderful idea, I think we'd do well to make the sport less expensive on the whole, or require youth teams to provide more hardship allowances for kids coming from families who can't afford it. Youth soccer in the US is very much a suburban experience, and the more talented you are the more expensive it gets. If we could make soccer on the whole accessible to a wider demographic, we'd draw in a lot more talent.

To give you an idea, both our kids play competitive soccer. It's all year round, except for the high school season. Our son has played at the highest level league here in the Twin Cities, and it has cost us $6k+ each year for the past four years for him to play. (Our daughter is a level lower, and that's only about $2k per year total.) On top of that there are hundreds of parent hours each year driving to practices, watching games, and chaperoning on the frequent out-of-state trips. If you're coming from a single-parent family or don't have that disposable income, it's nearly impossible to do.

Over the years there have been lots of hard-working insanely talented kids from more challenging family situations who have played on our son's teams, but they've all dropped out after a year because of either financial or time constraints. Two years ago there was a kid from a family whose parents got second jobs and drove 90 minutes each way to his practices just so he could play on the team. They quit after one year because it just wasn't sustainable. There is one kid on his team now that we've all pitched in to pay for for the past two years (and who just got a full ride scholarship to college!), but that's the rare exception.

So many talented kids don't play soccer in the US because their families can't afford the fees associated with playing on a top team.

The youth development for top level soccer in the US is broken. The private youth club system as it has developed and the state systems are a joke for many of the reasons you mention. Their motivation is their own sustainability and winning games to be the "best club" and attract more kids and parents to pay more money. For the professional clubs and the National Teams, the motivation to develop and cultivate youth players is an investment in future, high performing assets. This means the clubs or program is making the investment, not the participants. There is also a financial incentive paid to the clubs developing future stars everywhere but the US.

This article does a pretty good job of laying it out, IMO.

Fedaykin98 wrote:

Top, are you underestimating the amount of money that's already in soccer in Europe? They already pay top dollar. They already recruit youth from all over the world (Messi is one example). The already have billionaire owners for whom money is no object, including middle eastern sheiks like the guy who owns Manchester City.

They also have the intangible but very real advantage that every soccer playing kid in the world has grown up wanting to play in Europe, for their big, famous clubs, and to play in UEFA Champions League, etc. MLS isn't something anyone dreams about.

That said I support my local MLS team, go to games, watch on TV, buy jerseys, etc. The level of MLS is definitely increasing, and I believe it could eventually become a league of choice, but I don't think there's a quick route to the top.

I very well may be. I don't think a Prokorov (or whomever) does this overnight. I see it as a thing that takes 5-10 years to bear real fruit.

My issue is I don't see any plan to jump start things. I see a bunch of platitudes that have been said since 1994 and no coherent strategy put in place. Are we building a soccer culture here that will compete with world powers? Or do we lack vision, leading to turnover at the manager level on USMNT because no one knows how to define success (seriously, what overarching strategy did Bruce Arena 2.0 fit?)?

25 years of "building something" that cannot be defined, other than propping up cheap franchises in the 50th biggest media markets in the country.

We're a never ran in this sport and I don't hear anyone with responsibility for it at the national level able to state, clearly, how we will dominate this sport, like we do in every other one when we put our will behind it.

I'm actually OK with being a 3rd tier side...as long as we embrace it and stop kidding ourselves that it's our birthright to be #1. More than half my salt here (like, 90%) is frustration at the broader convo (in Sportsland, not GWJ) of "Why aren't we dominating?" when it seems obvious we just won't get clarity on what our goals are. There's just no strategy other than, "Shrug!"

bhchrist wrote:

This article does a pretty good job of laying it out, IMO.

Great read. All sound like interesting ideas. I'm particular to the futsal and pickup game ideas. I live in DC and I think there's a ton of opportunity to grow the local player base.