There’s only one way to describe my feelings for the United States Men’s National Soccer Team and that is embarrassed. The fact that the most powerful nation in the world can’t qualify for the World Cup is astonishing. Our country has 323 million people and we can’t put out a team of 11 guys to at least draw a Trinidad and Tobago team with just over a million people in their population.
All of the resources are there and this is supposed to be the time the United States turns into a soccer power when in fact the only thing they’re doing is regressing. Watching the loss to Trinidad & Tobago was absolutely excruciating. However, it did make one thing very clear which is that the United States Soccer system as a whole needs major reform. Major League Soccer is behind the rest of the world in development. Part of the reason for this is because American soccer players sacrifice four years of soccer development to go to college. College soccer is practically a game for old men.
You play about 15 games between September and November and then the players sit around and train while eagerly waiting for the next season to come. The rest of the world is putting kids through youth academies at the age of 13 and they keep training until the club feels that they’re ready to be put in the first team. Also, these academies have many teams and coaches that are constantly watching the growth and progression of these young players. These academies are also playing year round, usually from August to May, and don’t have to worry about the stresses of college coming into play.
These changes in the United States Soccer Federation need to come from the ground up. The issue is not just in the first team. It’s how we’re influencing soccer development as a whole. In the first team, though, there needs to be drastic changes. I think it’s about time that the United States started a youth movement in their soccer. Players need to start going to Europe at much younger ages experience the highest level of gameplay.
Part of this has recently started with the Under 17 Men’s National Team. They’ve just made the quarterfinals of the U17 World Cup. Their star player, Timothy Weah, currently trains in the Paris Saint Germain Soccer Academy and is rising through their ranks. Weah just scored a hat-trick on Monday against Paraguay to put the United States into the quarterfinals. He’s clearly benefiting from the European system and taking advantage of the rigorous developmental academies.
Overall, the United States definitely has some talent in Bobby Wood, Christian Pulisic and John Brooks. But there obviously needs to be a change in how we do things because not making the World Cup is absolutely inexcusable. We should instiutionalize the Pulisic method- promoting young soccer players to go to Europe would be very beneficial as they would receive the proper amount of gametime and development they need.
Contact Ben Polikoff at [email protected]