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Got Goals? Why US Soccer isn’t Up to Par

US soccer fails to be a consistent threat in world soccer.

US soccer fails to be a consistent threat in world soccer.

Jake Gerenraich, 5th Member of Jamaican Bobsled Team

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Soccer is arguably the world’s most popular game. Euro Cups, Champion’s Leagues, World Cups, all grab the attention of hundreds of millions across the world. The United States has had a growing passion for the sport over the past 25 years, with Major League Soccer (MLS) teams popping up in every major city. We have Developmental Academies (DA) all across the country for the best and brightest, who compete with teams both inside and outside of the country. So why, in the growing investment into the sport, is our national team still unsuccessful?

The DA grabs players from all over to play within a group of equally exceptional players, to foster development of youth into the professionals we have in the MLS and abroad. This is much like the academies we see in Spain, England, and France, programs associated with a professional team like FC Barcelona or PSG. Patrick Moran ‘20, says, “I really have no interest in watching the MLS play, it doesn’t have the same atmosphere or skill and clout the surrounds the Europeans and South Americans. The play just is several calibers below.” With modest viewer numbers, it’s safe to say this sentiment is shared by quite a few people. This problem might originate from the impact the DA leaves on the soccer community.

Chicago is a great example of the negative externalities produced by this program. With a just a few DA teams, kids who want to excel in the sport don’t have many options. These teams, like Chicago Fire Academy, train distances from the city, like Bridgeview, due to poorly-made deals with suburban locations. Aidan Chapman ‘20 says, “For argument’s sake, say I made the team. How am I supposed to get down there six times a week right after school in rush-hour traffic, with a moderate amount of school work? How can I deal with missing that many days?” This is a problem that prevents many from trying to pursue a spot on a DA team. Another challenge produced by this program is the division of skill it produces. Borderline players who don’t make the cut have to play down, with kids who are developmentally lower than them. The spots are so selective, so the skilled players who don’t play DA must play in leagues diluted with lower skill-levels. Quinn Greven shares, “We have players who are disincentivized from playing soccer, because they can’t play up at their skill level and they are frustrated with a lower level of play. These players don’t receive the development they need because they aren’t invested in, so there is a shortage of high-grade academy players being produced by the US.” Less players to choose from typically means lower average skill. Thus, if we really want to be a sustained threat as a nation on the soccer field, we have to find a way to invest in more youth development.

 

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Got Goals? Why US Soccer isn’t Up to Par