It’s time to end the “You pay or you don’t play” system!

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The United States of America is by far the strongest country on the planet; in their hearts, nobody would ever question it. Mostly because the US is a huge land of “Ethnicities” that produces the best athletes in the world; nobody would question this fact either.

The US in the Olympics surpasses all of its competitors with their close to 3,000 medals; the sports dominance in Basketball, Baseball, Softball, Track and Field, Ice Hockey… the US is the best in the world; there is no argument about that either.

Men’s soccer is the sport played by the whole world. But sadly neither the men’s national soccer team nor MLS is one of the best in soccer in the world, the MLS still today is by far competitive, the fault is thanks to US Soccer that dictate a NFL sort of model and is keeping the league anchored behind all the top nations. The men’s national team is ranked 20th in the world and MLS is ranked 28th among the professional soccer leagues in the world. Both are far from being a success story and if things keep on going in this direction, they never will be.

The first goal for the USSF is to be profitable but when reading their mission statement: “to make soccer, in all its forms, preeminent sport in the United States and to continue the development of soccer at all recreational and competitive levels.” I’m a little confused…

The development of soccer in all the world starts at the grassroots. The top soccer nations went through a serious restructuring of their recruiting and youth soccer system and are blooming. Germany, Italy, Spain, France and Portugal are the perfect example…

…So, why not in the US?

The sleeping T-Rex has been awoken! The US men’s national team and their huge failure to qualify for the 2018 world cup in Russia has stirred the masses, so badly that not even US Soccer can hide.
Rightly so, Pay-per-Play parents want change in numerous areas of development within youth soccer here in the United States.

The common issue is the US ‘Pay to Play’ model and how it is holding back soccer development. The major concern is that the Pay to Play model in youth soccer creates in most cases exclusion based on socioeconomic backgrounds, and those families that are financially stretched cannot afford to pay the club fees. We keep hearing that we are missing talented players because of this.

Financial assistance is available at many youth soccer clubs, but they usually end up in the wrong hands, kids redeem these free handouts because the parents sign up as team manager and in most cases they have no passion for the sport to start off with. This is a terrible shame, lots of young talented soccer players that are left behind, simply because their parents don’t know someone at a DOC or board level at their local soccer club.

For those that disagree and think that you should pay to play, well I firmly suggest you take a look on Youtube or better still go and visit the soccer academies around Europe, all of which are 100% free, now go dig in further and see how the percentages of national soccer talent come out. And guess what? You’d see a very similar ratio (if not better) here in the USA .

That’s why so many British coaches end up in the US, because here they can rasp, while in most of Europe you would not be cashing in on parents hard earned money like club CEO’s DSO’s and Board members do here. This is a good reason I have turned down more than one youth soccer club offers in these past 13 months, I simply don’t want to be a part of something that simply is based to scrape as much cash out of parents pockets as possible.

However, let me get this straight and say that the European professional soccer clubs are not doing this just to be nice… They are investing in these young soccer players with the simple goal to get a return on their initial investment, either by creating homegrown players that play for the youth and pro teams, or by selling these young talented players to other pro or youth soccer clubs and academies.

Here is another good point why US Youth Soccer in general is way behind the rest of the world. Currently, club players are practicing between 2-4 hours per week, In Europe the average is about 10 to 16 hours a week, depending on the age group and category of youth soccer. How do you expect to develop a youth soccer player with 8 hours of practice a month? Now, if it was for example striker training or Goalkeeper training then yes as it is micro-training, but team training 80 hours a year????

US Soccer is to blame, they allow this to happen, all they do is hand pick a few good boys and girls and stick them in their development academy, they just delegate the state youth soccer associations to do the rest.

I am sure you see my point: to be professional in what you do, to create the very best environment for development, it takes money! The question is where will that money come from if parents are not paying for the American club youth soccer? I would make it the responsibility of the MLS soccer clubs to provide a free soccer academies and, as far as I am aware, almost all are fully funded academies in the United States Soccer Development Acadmy set up.

But still a country with more than 320 million citizens should be able to find 22-25 players good enough to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. When there are 12 million soccer participants in the U.S. This includes 5 million children between the ages of 6 to 12, 2.7 million participants between the ages of 13-17 and 966,000 over 18 players and still we yet have to see something better than Alexi Lalas or Landon Donovan, that were fine players, but nothing close to what Europe and South America is bringing out every year.

So, if you have any hopes whatsoever to see your son or daughter play one day at a pro-level. The chances are 1/48 compared to Europe, that’s how much behind we are in the greatest nation in the world!!

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