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The lack of soccer culture in the USA is the biggest hindrance to becoming a consistent performer at the world-class level.  There is truth in all being said, written, and done regarding the ‘No Need To Re-Invent The Wheel’ article. 

How many youth players were glued to the screen during the World Cup this past month?  How many of them went to the fields and re-created the greatest moves, passes, and goals scored by the best in the world?  Fortnight is a hotter topic for youngsters than the World Cup.  Very few players have the passion, drive, and ability to reach their potential! 

Pay-to-play also rejects a large number of very talented players.  Check out the video interview of Lukaku

His economic situation inspired him to reach another level of determination, grit, and attitude needed to become the best player possible.  I’m afraid there are not enough players who will do everything it takes to become the best! 

As professionals in the industry, we are partly responsible for the lack of soccer culture.  Pay-to-play, increased cost, travel, leagues, and out-of-state tournaments do not raise a player’s potential.  We must focus on what matters most at young ages: local competition (less travel = fewer expenses), enjoyment, and player-centered coaching.  Keep young players local so they play with their friends rather than building regional super teams for 10-year-olds.

Less focus on the labels (MRL, ECNL, DA, etc.) as all this promotes winning and recruitment of players and takes away attention at training sessions for players to improve their game versus coach-centered tactical activities to ensure a win (game in, game out, week in, week out).

WINNING DOESN’T MATTER (try to sell that in our current set-up).

  • Belgium: We don’t have league tables until the Under-14 level.
  • Croatia: “Our boys do not play in real competitions until they are 12 or 13, and even then, the result is not everything.  It’s not rocket science.  People focused on results before developments are a curse on the game’s future.”
  • USA – FUNdamental SOCCER: Motto – “The outcome of our children is infinitely more important than the outcome of any game they will ever play!”

I remain hopeful better days are ahead of us.

Erwin van Elst,

President Meulensteen Method LLC and Director of Coaching at SCOR-Meulensteen

Culture starts at the top and takes true leadership.  Instead of examining the root causes to “blame,” let’s begin implementing “solutions.”  Far too many people are looking at others, waiting for others, but how many are stepping up to make a change personally?

Yesterday, I posted a video on this topic with real, attainable, and free solutions. How many will implement these solutions, or solutions of their creation, into their soccer culture?

Who will look in the mirror today and make the harder choice to say, “today is the day I improve soccer in the USA”?

Gary Jezorski

“Well said, Erwin.  There is a strange engineering to the youth game here in the US.  I rarely see kids practicing on their own.  Everything is with coaches, and so much training is “speed and agility.”

I doubt we will ever be very strong at the National Team level.  The absence of a soccer culture coupled with the popularity of video games leads me to believe that kids are and will continue spending their free time in a more leisurely way..” 

Fredrick Bryant

The problem is not that we don’t have a soccer culture but rather that we have the wrong club culture.  Clubs are organized incorrectly, and coaches lack the education to design long-term training programs.

Lorenzo Murillo

I hear you, but I think we forget that in most countries, there is a “for profit” motive in soccer, but the way it works is much more in the youth players’ favor than in the US.  I am specifically talking about training or in-kind payments given as players become professionals.  USSF specifically does not allow this to happen, and it occurs worldwide.  

This is how Ajax, for example, funds the entire club.  Develop a player for free and sell him on for millions.  Ajax is for profit, but they don’t have to extract that money from the parents upfront. If they develop the talent properly, they get paid in the end.  

There is no chance of doing that in the current US system, so we have to extract the money from the parents, which leads to all kinds of dysfunction.

Bill Pennington

I agree with much of what you say. That doesn’t change my opinion about the established hierarchy here—too many overly influential old men who cling to their positions for all of the wrong reasons.

Rich Jablonski 

Our women are pretty awesome.  Same soccer culture as the men, I believe. Lack of top-quality coaches?

We have 325 million people—5000 colleges and universities with men’s and women’s teams.  Countless clubs, and every high school has girls’ and boys’ teams.  I guarantee we have more educated coaches here than anywhere else in the world.  We are just spread too thin.

Patrick Holman

Having spent a week in Houston last October with Rise SC, it’s clear that the lack of top-quality coaches in the US is a problem.  I’m a brit on my UEFA B. I’m also studying for a sports coaching degree.  These qualifications will one day get me into the states coaching soccer.  But if the fundamentals aren’t laid at the grassroots with your homegrown coaches, then the world stage will always be a distant dream.  Success at the international level starts from a young age; for the last 20 years, many countries have proven that.

For me, desperate to go and work in the country, immigration is so complex.  I was offered a job last year coaching but had to source my visa.  This would have set me back thousands before I’d even had my application approved.

Top-quality courses need to be offered at reasonable prices to your grassroots coaches.  Maybe that’s where the investment should come in, tutors from around the world that could deliver these courses, change the mentality and improve coaching to all ages.

I’m not saying it’s terrible as it is, but it clearly could be a lot better. 

Mark Russell

Karl, beloved brother, as you know, sports in this country are a monopoly.

The problem with that monopoly is that in soccer (the real football), we do not have regular leagues here in the USA like in the rest of the world. It is challenging to compete well in soccer even though we have great players in the states.

In soccer, in this country, we do not have divisions, like in the rest of the world, in which teams, if they do well, can move up a ladder of success from a lower division to the first or premier division and vice versa if a club does badly that club can fall back to lower divisions if they keep on having bad years. They can even disappear because they are so bad.

We have an entity (MLS) that no one can get in unless someone pays (I think it is now 150$), and it has to be approved by the rest of the teams already in it by a vote.  Nothing like that happens in Europe or the rest of the world.  …

Therefore, without that, this country with all its money (that is why many European clubs come here to the states in their preseason – even though it is not wise to do – because they get paid lots of money for the few games they play here in beautiful USA and also because that way they can promote their clubs and sell lots of their teams’ t-shirts or official team shirts to the American public because here in the states people have the money to spend) will not go far in the real soccer stage of the world.

Another problem is the “pay to play” environment in the USA, where parents with money (no money, no honey) can pay clubs to include their children in one of their teams regardless of their potential.

I have to go now, but I hope this info helps.  Take care, my friend.

Fernando Rodriguez Sanchez

Great article.  It’s true most parents are the problem, along with coaches who look at their win-loss column.  Training and development at young ages, touches on the ball, learning to see the field, and gaining knowledge on the players’ part of how to play, not the coaches’ theory of play. 

Mark Radetic

Just imagine that an organization comes up and blames the customers for failing to provide a successful product.  Whoa!  What about knowing how to coach so that wide adoption is achieved?

  • The US does not have enough clubs and enough competition.
  • You can get the tables and the ranking of youth clubs from all European Countries, including Belgium.
  • Some people pay good money to go and play in those “Top European” youth tournaments.
  • A Porto-Benfica U17 game can result in throwing rocks at the visitor bus and invading fields.
  • My advice to coaches and club managers:
  • If you are unaware of the facts, you should not comment or at least don’t blame parents for your lack of capabilities.  Propaganda will not help the players or your business/career.
  • Antonio Reis

I was heavily involved in youth soccer for years.  I coached for 15 years and was president of a club of 2000 players for 4 years, among numerous other positions.  There are so many factors in the soccer world to address.  There isn’t any simple solution.  

Parents have certain expectations.  Clubs have many different missions or goals, sometimes not with the player as the key focus.  

We are lucky in Portland, Oregon, to have a pretty good soccer culture.  But we also have our other challenges.  Lack of fields to play on.  Competition with other sports for space.  New high-density housing with no backyards like we grew up with for kids to play etc. It’s not just video games.  Dan Desmarais

The US has great talents all over, but it is wasted due to the league structures and cost.  The number of clubs to absorb all players for growth are few, unlike other countries with structured small community clubs and town clubs. 

Ray Odhiambo

I think the focus on winning in the USA hurts development.

I also think that some of the faults of scouting shown in “Money Ball” are prevalent in the American scouting system for college.  Where the look of the player; if they look like an athlete, they are moved to a good college, while a great player who does not fit the mold is overlooked.  

Ian Wheeler

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