Fixing The Player Development Problem

Titans Bastard

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https://www.chicago-fire.com/post/2017/12/06/chicago-fire-soccer-club-and-us-soccer-foundation-build-50-mini-soccer-fields

The Chicago Fire Soccer Club, in conjunction with the U.S. Soccer Foundation and the City of Chicago, announced Wednesday plans to build 50 mini-pitches in underserved neighborhoods throughout the Chicagoland area in the next five years as part of the national campaign, It’s Everyone’s Game, aimed at dramatically expanding its impact on children across the country through soccer-based programs.
 

67YAZ

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Fantastic. This seemed to get buried on a busy news day here in Chicago (Board of Education moving to close 5 high schools, the IG recommending the school chief be removed, 4 shot in a gang-related fracas at an L stop...pretty standard mid-week stuff here). Anyway...a pic of an existing mini-pitch that the others will be modeled after:



Also key to note is that the Fire Foundation has committed to programming for these pitches. Their P.L.A.Y.S. program is a blend of soccer skills and youth development, so it's not intended to churn out polished talent. But more opportunities to engage with the sport should lead to greater, more diverse participation over time. Not to mention keeping kids safely away from gangs, guns, and drugs, which is sadly a pressing need here in Chicago.
 
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Cellar-Door

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Similar to Kyle Martino's pitch yesterday to Everyone's game about over/under and doing what they do in South America with Goals under basketball hoops.
 

Titans Bastard

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This article details Seattle's efforts to arrange for their academy --> USL players to pursue college degrees while playing professionally. The best prospects are already bypassing NCAA soccer. This sort of thing will encourage more of the next tier of prospects to do the same.

 

67YAZ

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This seems like the best place to post: a six minute profile of the Sullivan High School boy's soccer team, a Chicago Public High School that won a regional championship last season. Sullivan is a unique place where the large majority of students are immigrants and, for the past couple years, over 100 refugee students have enrolled each year. The film profiles last year's team, which was made up of 14 players from 13 countries and a coach who was an Albanian refugee 20 years ago.

When I suggest that US soccer should concentrate youth development efforts in immigrant communities, these are the kids I have in mind. Not only do they already love the game, but the investment in their development will pay dividends off the pitch, too.
 

Titans Bastard

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RSL just moved their primary academy from AZ (where they were partnered with the Casa Grande Sports facility) to Utah, where they've built a new USL+academy facility. However, they're staying involved in AZ in the form of a new partnership with a Phoenix-area club.

https://www.rsl.com/post/2018/01/11/real-salt-lake-arizona-re-established-phoenix-based-sereno-legacy-clubs-join-forces

Casa Grande has already replaced their RSL partnership with a Barcelona partnership; "Barca Academy" has taken RSL-AZ's place in the DA. It doesn't sound like the new RSL-AZ will play in the DA, but maintaining a presence there will be important for them given how small the Salt Lake City metro area is compared to other MLS markets. Glad and Lennon are a nice early haul from AZ for them.
 

Titans Bastard

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The USSF is reorganizing its lower-level licenses.

The E and F licenses are being replaced by a free "Introduction to Grassroots Coaching" course and eight "Grassroots Licenses". There's going to be both an in-person and online course (which won't be the same, it seems?) for 4v4, 7v7, 9v9, and 11v11.

To move on to a D license course, you'd need the Intro course, plus one online course, plus two in-person courses (one of which has to be 11v11).

I don't have an opinion about these changes yet. Since the Intro to Grassroots course is free and about 20 minutes long, I'm going to do it soon and report back about what it's like.
 

Titans Bastard

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Hey, anyone remember Kleberson? He's a U12 coach for the Philadelphia Union now.


The Development Academy announced some additions for next season. It's nothing dramatic, but all age brackets are getting new teams. Toronto FC has finally joined the DA after years of playing in local Ontario leagues. The Rio Grande Valley is getting representation, which is nice. I've always figured that area is THE prime "slip through the cracks" part of the country for various reasons. Hopefully RGVFC, which is backed by the Houston Dynamo, are funding plenty of scholarships.

Despite all the additions, it wasn't enough to carve up any existing divisions in half to reduce the demands of travel.
 

Titans Bastard

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Interesting concept. We'll see how much people actually get out of this:

 

Kliq

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It is kind of odd to me. Yes, it is an interesting concept and it could lead to some changes; but it almost feels like everyone should already know this. In the video, the player who matures early is praised as being a star and is pushed as a top prospect. Do coaches and administrators within USSF really not know that when they are evaluating 14 year olds that ones who have matured faster are going to look like better players, but obviously that doesn't mean jack to determining future success? Particularly in soccer, where physical size isn't a detriment in the way that it is in other major U.S. sports. Lionel Messi as a youth was the exact opposite of a physically mature player, yet Barcelona still signed him at 10 years old.

I don't know a ton about the process, but I do wonder if how we evaluate future success in other sports in the US effects how he develop soccer talent. The U.S. does seem to develop plenty of physically strong players; having guys that are not strong or fast or well-conditioned isn't the problem.

I remember years ago reading a feature article on Yao Ming and basketball in China. The reporter went to a basketball camp for elementary-aged children where the national sport organization was determining future prospects. The scouts evaluated future talent not only by how good they were on the court, but also how tall their parents are. The entire point of the camp was not to find the best players, but to find the players who will be the tallest. The reporter remarked that under this process, the Chinese would never develop a player like Allen Iverson, because no matter how good he looked on the court, he wouldn't be projected to be taller than six feet. Lo and behold, no Chinese guard has ever made a dent in the NBA.

That is obviously an extreme example, but the video does make me wonder how the US has been developing talent up until this point.
 

The Gray Eagle

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This seems like a great idea: Atlanta's subway soccer fields.

"Atlanta’s train stations were nearly always adjacent to a giant parking lot – part of a 1970s park-and-ride policy that never really took off. The parking lots were barely used for what they were intended.

“I started thinking,” says Patel, “What if we convert some pieces of this land to soccer fields and use the train system as a network for people to get to games?”

Years later the result is Station Soccer, a collaboration driven by Patel between Soccer in the Streets, MLS club Atlanta United, and Marta, Atlanta’s public transportation agency. Patel’s now not-so-crazy idea saw the world’s first-ever soccer pitch built within downtown’s Five Points station. The location is important. Five Points is Atlanta’s busiest public transport hub and originally designed as a grand multi-purpose civic space that never met its full potential.

The Five Points field, opened in 2016, has proven such a success with communities from across the city that Marta says it is set to green-light up to 10 more locations in the next few years – beginning with two pitches to be opened at the West End station by the end of 2018.

The facilities are free for kids to use while fees for adult pick-up games and other events flow into Soccer in the Streets community programs. The end goal is for teams playing at station pitches to form a league where players use the train system to travel around the city for games – opening up low-cost organized soccer to previously ignored communities."
 

Zososoxfan

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This seems like a great idea: Atlanta's subway soccer fields.

"Atlanta’s train stations were nearly always adjacent to a giant parking lot – part of a 1970s park-and-ride policy that never really took off. The parking lots were barely used for what they were intended.

“I started thinking,” says Patel, “What if we convert some pieces of this land to soccer fields and use the train system as a network for people to get to games?”

Years later the result is Station Soccer, a collaboration driven by Patel between Soccer in the Streets, MLS club Atlanta United, and Marta, Atlanta’s public transportation agency. Patel’s now not-so-crazy idea saw the world’s first-ever soccer pitch built within downtown’s Five Points station. The location is important. Five Points is Atlanta’s busiest public transport hub and originally designed as a grand multi-purpose civic space that never met its full potential.

The Five Points field, opened in 2016, has proven such a success with communities from across the city that Marta says it is set to green-light up to 10 more locations in the next few years – beginning with two pitches to be opened at the West End station by the end of 2018.

The facilities are free for kids to use while fees for adult pick-up games and other events flow into Soccer in the Streets community programs. The end goal is for teams playing at station pitches to form a league where players use the train system to travel around the city for games – opening up low-cost organized soccer to previously ignored communities."
That's goddamn brilliant. Down here in Tampa, there is a renovated public park getting ready to open which features (I think) a pair of turf fields and goals. Badly needed since the city has a dearth of quality fields.
 

67YAZ

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That's goddamn brilliant. Down here in Tampa, there is a renovated public park getting ready to open which features (I think) a pair of turf fields and goals. Badly needed since the city has a dearth of quality fields.
It really is a brilliantly creative use of under-utilized public space especially because it’s connected to transit. The idea of youth teams traveling the city by train to get to matches is ingenious, will really push the quality of teams and development.

A lesson in this is for USSF to really work to find strong local partners and work to broker relationships that take advantage of unique opportunities in each region. That takes a lot of leg work - especially to make sure you get quality partners with similar values and aligned goals - but the results can be spectacular.
 

Titans Bastard

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Here's an interesting read on increasing competition to recruit domestic among MLS academies.

https://www.mlssoccer.com/post/2018/05/15/stejskal-mls-clubs-competing-head-head-academy-talent-far-home

Sporting Kansas City, FC Dallas and a few other clubs have been recruiting out-of-territory players to their academies for several years, but both Parry and Gonzalez said the competition has increased recently. That’s partially due to MLS last year eliminating the cap on how many out-of-territory players could be in a club’s system. Prior to the change, teams in MLS’s biggest markets could only have a maximum of two out-of-area players in their academy, while smaller market clubs like SKC could have up to eight.
In this league, some clubs are far ahead of others, but it seems that every year the structure of the system gets a little better. Clubs are being more aggressive about recruiting talent, savvier about providing the right developmental pathway, and there is increasing pressure from fans and media to give opportunities to young players.

The article highlights SKC and Dallas. Seattle has also recently signed young players to USL contracts from out-of-the-way soccer locales like Hawaii, Fresno, Bakersfield, and Las Vegas. They have a program that provides education money along with the USL contract, making it less of a risky/unappealing decision for players. Dallas has recently signed two players from Alabama and has a good unsigned prospect from Arkansas (a true rarity), as well as a whole cadre of players from El Paso.

There are still holes in the system. Given how much talent their academy has, it's a joke that FC Dallas doesn't have a USL team. Many teams need to improve coaching. LA Galaxy has a good-looking generation coming through the ranks, but they are currently getting zero first-team production from their academy, which is badly embarrassing given their local market. Etc.

Check back in a few years to see if there's a real uptick in talent production. Also check the ratio of keepers/defenders/central midfielders to all manner of attackers....historically an issue for the US development system, which teaches what it knows.

But Parry and Gonzalez think it’d be better for everyone if the system is allowed to open up even more. Both emphasized that they’re committed to youth players in their own markets, but both indicated that they’d like to see Homegrown territories eliminated entirely. That’d create an open recruitment environment in which players could have complete freedom to join the club of their choice and would allow teams to openly recruit in the backyard of other MLS clubs. That's not allowed in the current setup, under which outside teams must first gain permission from the local club before recruiting a player who lives in the local club's territory.

“I think if you have a kid and you live in, say, New York City and you feel that Kansas City or Atlanta is a better opportunity for him to develop as a player, you as a parent should be able to send your kid wherever you want to go,” said Parry. “For me, it’s plain and simple.”

Parry and Gonzalez both feel that the league is heading in that direction.

“I think everybody at MLS, all the academy directors, all my colleagues – unless they’re lying to my face – they all say the same thing: they want open territories,” said Parry. “And I think it’s coming. We keep talking about it, but that’s our hope and we would love for the territories to be open.”
 

Titans Bastard

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USSF has hired Tom Byer to run a pilot program in Seattle focusing on technical development at young ages:





1. I've heard of Byer before. He's done a lot of work in East Asia and his name comes up every few years when somebody advocates the USSF should hire him. I'm not sure if he's legit or whether he's a self-promoter.

2. Targeting young kids and their parents seems like a good idea.

3. It's interesting that it's a joint venture between the USSF, Washington state youth soccer, and the Sounders. I don't know whether or not this specific program will make a big impact (and it would be really hard to know from the outside for a long, long time - the 2030s, basically) but I am encouraged to see MLS clubs being proactive in raising the base level of young players in their region.
Update!



I don't know the details -- this is just a teaser for a radio show -- but presumably someone will do a write up sooner or later.
 

67YAZ

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This is really depressing, especially the obsession over "metrics." That seems to me a completely spurious throw up resistance to a proven quantity like Byer. I do evaluation of education programs, and assessing participation and retention is right for a short-term pilot. Personally, I think technical ability is a little much given the state of US Soccer in general - Who's doing the coaching in this program? How experienced and qualified are the coaches given this a pilot? In any case...blecht.
 

DJnVa

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They wanted measurables in a program that was attempting to change things starting with kids as young as 3 and 4? Jesus.
 

Titans Bastard

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This is really depressing, especially the obsession over "metrics." That seems to me a completely spurious throw up resistance to a proven quantity like Byer. I do evaluation of education programs, and assessing participation and retention is right for a short-term pilot. Personally, I think technical ability is a little much given the state of US Soccer in general - Who's doing the coaching in this program? How experienced and qualified are the coaches given this a pilot? In any case...blecht.
Turns out it's even more spurious than you thought. Byer's camp claims that, despite what US Soccer stated, the pilot never even happened. Byer designed the pilot over six months per the contract awarded him, but the pilot was never actually implemented.

 

67YAZ

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Turns out it's even more spurious than you thought. Byer's camp claims that, despite what US Soccer stated, the pilot never even happened. Byer designed the pilot over six months per the contract awarded him, but the pilot was never actually implemented.

Ugh. But it’s really telling about the USSF - if only Gulati could get this done through the force of his position & connections, then this organization is too fractured to coherently address youth soccer. Or maybe any other major issue that doesn’t rely on major sponsorships.

But we knew this. The GM position saga tells us all we need to know. That job has been created in an intentionally limited way in order to preserve the power nodes that exist across the system. And youth soccer is just as Balkanized as the rest of it.
 

InstaFace

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Bumping this with a recent article that today is making the rounds over social media:

NY Times: Youth Soccer Participation has fallen significantly in America

Snippets:
Over the past three years, the percentage of 6- to 12-year-olds playing soccer regularly has dropped nearly 14 percent, to 2.3 million players, according to a study by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, which has analyzed youth athletic trends for 40 years. The number of children who touched a soccer ball even once during the year, in organized play or otherwise, also has fallen significantly.

In general, participation in youth sports nationwide has declined in the past decade, as children gravitate to electronic diversions and other distractions. Yet in recent years, while soccer continued declining, baseball and basketball experienced upticks, buoyed by developmental programs begun by Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association.

...

Brad Rothenberg, who co-founded Alianza de Futbol to develop amateur soccer among Latinos, said U.S. Soccer had invested little in identifying talent in Latino and African-American communities. Over the past decade, his organization has held more than 300 events across the country for young players and has sent dozens of them to club teams in Mexico.

In 2016, however, Mr. Rothenberg, whose father, Alan, was once the president of U.S. Soccer, said the federation told him not to promote its brand to the 250,000 Latinos who attend the club’s events, partly because Alianza had not produced what the federation thought was an elite player, partly because it was not a member of U.S. Soccer.

This derivative article (Why kids are quitting soccer) suggests that we're not giving enough opportunity for kids to freely play and enjoy the fun of play with their friends.

Perhaps competition from other sports is taking soccer's share of the pie. That said, youth soccer participation had always seemed the strength of the sport and the base of its hope for the future.
 

Zososoxfan

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Nothing terribly new here, but who doesn't enjoy some multimedia:


In short, there's not enough scouting and proper development of players and the pay-to-play and school model is at fault for the slow development. I don't know a lot of details about MLS academies, but it seems to be a step in the right direction in terms of incentivizing youth development.

I would also agree with the article from @InstaFace 's post. I honestly think that setting up tons of concrete fields with goalposts in urban areas and giving out tons of free balls would yield more talent than any structured program the federation ever could. I read or heard somewhere that getting kids comfortable with the ball at their feet from a young age is pretty much the most important step in development, since dribbling a ball in football is more difficult to learn than in basketball or hockey considering you need to synchronize propulsion and ball control. Many of the players worldwide from tough backgrounds talk about how growing up they were always playing and had a ball at their feet. It's honestly not all that different from any other sport, although I think American football is an exception.
 

Titans Bastard

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This may be the most explicit statement of support for solidarity payments and transfer compensation that I've seen from MLS. Don Garber:


It's been true for a while that the biggest road block is the players' association. If I were them, though, I'd probably hold on to this as a bargaining chip for the next CBA.
 

InstaFace

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why would the players' association care how transfer fees are distributed, nevermind have a say over it?

I just read this excellent analysis (I scoffed initially at that guy's Patreon request at the top, but after reading it, he's got a case...), and I'm still left quite cold. Gulati himself was incredibly disingenuous, it seemed to boil down to him not feeling like he had leverage over MLS given that's where his bread got buttered. But this quote by the MLSPU, man...

“We have said consistently that training compensation and solidarity payments are bad for players, and would treat players differently than employees in any other industry, including sports,” Foose said. “For example, it’s absurd to think that a business school could demand a fee from a company that hired one of its students. Yet, that’s the kind of payments the youth clubs seek.

“No player should have the market for his services adversely affected by these payments. This is not to say that players and the Players Union don’t believe in and support youth development. We do, but it should not be funded through a tax on randomly selected professional players’ contracts.”
IT DOESN'T AFFECT WHAT YOUR PLAYER GETS PAID TO HIMSELF PERSONALLY. It's a team dividing the pie for selling an asset. YOU LIVE IN P&L LAND, THEY'RE NEGOTIATING A BALANCE-SHEET TRANSACTION. TAKE SOME FUCKING ACCOUNTING 101.

And that's before we get into how junior-high-school level his analogy is, to say nothing of his idea that the set of players who attract interest from buying clubs are "randomly selected". Has he heard of headhunters? They're paid a bounty for bringing to a company a new employee meeting their exacting standards. It's a pretty big industry, and clearly a company's willingness to pay is fixed, and thus zero-sum between the headhunter and the employee, so any employee hired under those arrangements must have seen their compensation go down accordingly. So Foose must have heard of the vicious antitrust lawsuits that HAVE NEVER EXISTED BECAUSE THEY'D GET LAUGHED OUT OF COURT. Most particularly because the bounty is one-time whereas an employee's compensation is ongoing, so the longer and more successful the employment arrangement proves for both sides, the greater the time over which that bounty amortizes, meaning that the ultimate financial affect on successful employees approaches zero.

You can find as many situations as you like in which an employee's services have multiple parties making financial dealings over them - and in basically no case can the employee themselves complain of having their compensation affected, nevermind being illegally restrained. E.g., some non-compete agreements are bought out by either an employer or an employee sufficiently willing to meet a (when reasonable) rights-holding ex-employer's terms. Multi-level marketing schemes see participants willingly join into a situation where their commissions on sales "rolls up the food chain". Has Foose ever heard of the contractual conditions that music labels impose on young talent? Or perhaps heard how literary agents are compensated? If only he were there to sue an entire industry over it!

...as you might suspect, my patience runs thin with this sophistry. But even that nonsense doesn't explain why the MLSPU would think that their players' compensation would be affected by a foreign club purchasing the contract of an MLS player. Like, he's not your player anymore. He's going to a different federation, and is probably fucking thrilled about it. So you have standing to sue because... he used to be in your union? And your decision to sue BW Gottschee or whoever-the-hell youth club when they want a share of NY Red Bulls selling to Paris Saint-Germain is based on the legal theory of... what, exactly? We get some indication farther down from the Dempsey/Yedlin/Bradley suit:

52. Mr. Foose stated that the imposition of any training compensation or solidarity fee, either internationally or domestically, is an illegal restraint of player trade. Mr. Foose argued that the purchase and professional signing of a soccer player involves a "finite amount" of money, and that any money from that transaction that is forced to go to the youth training clubs is money that is directly taken from the player in the transaction. Mr. Foose's position was, in essence, that a player transaction is a zero-sum game between the player and the youth training club, and that US antitrust law inures to the benefit of the player to block the imposition of a solidarity fee or training compensation.
There are no better answers I can find, and this amounts to "we don't like it and we have greater resources to pursue frivolous lawsuits than some rinky-dink youth club who could really use that 20 grand we don't want them to have".

Better lawyers than I populate these boards, but my amateur reading is that Mr. Foose has no fucking idea what he's on about. In the status quo, the selling club receives 100% of the transfer fee (absent sell-on provisions that complicate the math, but never mind that), and the player receives nothing. In the FIFA DRC / solidarity world, the selling club receives, whatever it is, 80%-95% of the transfer fee, and various youth clubs receive the remainder according to a complex formula - and the player still receives nothing. The player gets what wages they negotiate under their playing contract, regardless of who they're playing for, and when that contract is up they are free to negotiate whatever else they can get a club to pay them. And if they don't like those arrangements they can hold out or otherwise whine in the course of a transfer to get a bump in exchange for accepting the transfer - at least, if the transfer is to a team with greater financial resources who might expect to be shaken down in such a fashion, and will price the transfer fee lower accordingly. But in no case, from what I can tell, would player wages go up or down based on who is receiving a transfer fee.

The buying club has a set willingness to pay. First theorem of marketing: demand is exogenous. And while the selling club more or less needs to take the best offer, what fraction of that offer they keep (vs have to give down the food chain) has absolutely no influence on their decision to accept the offer or not. And one thing it certainly doesn't influence is the player's wages, because the player is under contract (or else they'd just be signed on a free transfer).

Basically, I'd like Foose-ball here to explain to me whose trade is being restrained, when the market for a player's services is not even being consulted on the transaction (his compensation is fixed under contract - nobody is giving him bids for his services, as he is already promised to the holder of his contract). Restraints on free-agent player movement? Sure thing. I buy Bosman. But these are players under contract; there are trades of players under contract in every damn pro sport, which is something players accept because it increases overall demand for their services (in growing the league / fan interest / less 'wasted' salary on the books), while leaving total wages unaffected.

The article I linked to goes into legal standards of review for restraints of trade, but moves on assuming Foose is correct, which I think is very fucking arguable.

The first thing we do, let's kill all the stupid lawyers.

edit: wait, we do have an antitrust lawyer here. I'd like to invite @bowiac to wade into this morass if he's so inclined.
 
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Titans Bastard

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I recently griped about the USSF's murky decision-making hierarchy and the mysterious hiring freeze for youth national team coaches here. The two guys in charge of YNTs, among other things, are Nico Romeijn and Ryan Mooney. And speak of the devil, Mike Woitalla at SoccerAmerica did a good joint interview with the two of them that was published today. The subject of YNTs didn't come up, as the interview was focused on another subject that's near and dear to my heart: coaching development/education. This is another area that, according to the latest USSF org chart, is under their joint supervision.

Woitalla asked this good question:

SOCCER AMERICA: If we accept the idea that licenses make coaches better and the courses will make us a better soccer country – the fact is they’re not easy to get. For example, the cost. The cost of getting U.S. Soccer’s higher-level licenses is about five times the cost of a German DFB license. Why are they so expensive?
...and got a rambling non-answer from Romeijn, who basically weakly defended the program and pointed to one country in Europe that also has expensive licenses.

Another good question:

SOCCER AMERICA: I’ve heard many complaints that it’s difficult to get into the courses, because of a lack of availability. Early this year, and recently, when I’ve checked the availability of A, B and C license courses, most of them were already booked full. If someone in California wanted to take the next available C license course, that person would have to travel to Virginia or Illinois. Currently, the U.S. Soccer Coaching Center site does not list any A or B license courses in 2018 that have open registration. And if they were open, they require significant travel for most coaches. Are you able to accommodate all the people who want licenses? I’ve even heard that half the people who have recently wanted to get A or B licenses can’t find available courses. Is that true?
This is particularly important because the USSF-run Development Academy is now clearly the pre-eminent youth soccer hub, establishing the USSF as the gate-keepers of elite youth soccer. And the USSF has a requirement that ALL DA coaches have at least a B license. Academy directors need an A license. Demanding that top clubs employ qualified coaches is good. But if you are also in charge of certifying and educating coaches, you have to do a better job making these courses widely available.

Romeijn gives a bullshit answer about how the Pro license is geared towards people actually working in pro environments and that it's not for everyone. That's fine, but he ignores the more important issue of the A & B licenses.

Woitalla did a nice job of following up with these points and Romeijn again wasn't very convincing.

Here's another non-inspiring moment:

SOCCER AMERICA: Under the age of 18, 25% of the USA’s population is Hispanic. How many Latino coaches do you have with A or B, or even C licenses?

RYAN MOONEY: At the moment we don’t have demographic information in the DCC [Digital Coaching Center], so we’re not able to tell you, at least at this time, gender and/or any other type of demographic information. We are looking at how we can have the candidates voluntarily identify their information, so we have at least some semblance of data. But we don’t have a definitive answer.
Weak.

Woitalla then goes after the disparity between the number of Latino grassroots coaches and the number of Latino C/B/A licensed coaches and in federation coaching jobs.

SOCCER AMERICA: But if you look at the Federation level, at the youth national team coaches, at the A, B, C licensed coaches … If we look at the national team head coaches on the men’s and boys side, we have one Latino. And the last time I checked there was one Latino Technical Advisor [out of 12]. I assume to get into those positions, you have to go through the coaching licensing program. Wouldn't any organization, not just soccer, be interested in having the staff at the highest level reflect the demographics of the country? Isn’t it common sense that that usually helps an organization be successful?

RYAN MOONEY: I think there’s certainly a common sense approach to what you’re saying. I think what’s also a challenge, and it’s not to be combative, but it’s worth noting that for the roles, whether its youth national coaches, or previously Technical Advisors, there also needs to be an interest and a level of engagement from a candidate.

It may be the case that the opportunity we have to offer or the location of the opportunity, or the compensation, or whatever it may be, is also not necessarily of interest to … and I’m not saying it’s not of interest to the Latino applicant.

I share very openly that we have had active recruiting efforts to try and reach more diverse applicant pools and we have found that many times, very unfortunately, that the interest is not there for the opportunity or the job we have to offer.

I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong. I would certainly be in support of us having a better and more diverse representation across all of our roles in the organization, not just those connected to the field.

At the same time, it’s something where those recruiting efforts and the interests have to go hand in hand for us to create those opportunities.
This is also a very weak answer. If you can't attract any Latinos to federation jobs, maybe a little self-reflection is in order?


The USSF can't solve all our soccer problems, but they can facilitate innovations and solutions by creating an environment that puts our player development in a position to succeed. Too often, there are bureaucrats of questionable qualifications who aren't doing a good enough job and there's nobody around to hold them accountable. Gulati was terrible at holding coaches accountable and I'm not just talking about Klinsmann, I'm talking about women's NT coaches and men's youth NT coaches as well.

My big hope is that the GM role grows to have more clout because we need a guy like Earnie Stewart to be able to sweep out some of the nonsense. At the moment he can't have a big impact because he doesn't even touch youth national teams, to say nothing of coaching development. Ultimately, though, we need a serious professional in charge of all this, not a Dutch PE teacher or the former assistant coach at Elmira.
 

Cellar-Door

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People taking the courses who are on Twitter say that unless you are in the same city the "grassroots" license (2nd lowest) costs between 1k and 2k and usually requires taking 2 days off from work. It scales heavily, going to C gets you into the 5k range, all the way to A is closing in on 15k, and scaling time off from work at each level.

The underrated issue with USSF is that every person involved in the youth side is unfit for their jobs, from the bottom all the way up to Ramos, and that the purpose of the youth side is to funnel money to partners and members not to grow the sport.
 

Titans Bastard

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The underrated issue with USSF is that every person involved in the youth side is unfit for their jobs, from the bottom all the way up to Ramos, and that the purpose of the youth side is to funnel money to partners and members not to grow the sport.
You know I'm no Ramos fan, but to be honest I don't think he has much to do with this. It's the relatively more nameless guys in the USSF who are calling the shots on this. Ramos is the Youth Technical Director, which at this point I think is just a glorified title for coordinator of youth national teams. One thing that he's done well with is getting all the YNTs on the same page and improving communication between the managers...at least, when we had YNT managers. But I don't think he's anything close to a decision-maker with coaching licenses or the DA or a host of other issues.

And honestly the biggest power player, who we rarely talk about, is Dan Flynn. He's been the CEO of the USSF for a long, long time. I'm starting to wonder if the lack of accountability in the USSF flows not just from Gulati (and now Cordeiro), but also from Flynn, and to a significant degree. Flynn had major heart surgery recently (the Klinsmann firing was famously delayed because of it) and he's not a spring chicken, so I imagine we'll have a changing of the guard soon. God only knows who.
 

Cellar-Door

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You know I'm no Ramos fan, but to be honest I don't think he has much to do with this. It's the relatively more nameless guys in the USSF who are calling the shots on this. Ramos is the Youth Technical Director, which at this point I think is just a glorified title for coordinator of youth national teams. One thing that he's done well with is getting all the YNTs on the same page and improving communication between the managers...at least, when we had YNT managers. But I don't think he's anything close to a decision-maker with coaching licenses or the DA or a host of other issues.

And honestly the biggest power player, who we rarely talk about, is Dan Flynn. He's been the CEO of the USSF for a long, long time. I'm starting to wonder if the lack of accountability in the USSF flows not just from Gulati (and now Cordeiro), but also from Flynn, and to a significant degree. Flynn had major heart surgery recently (the Klinsmann firing was famously delayed because of it) and he's not a spring chicken, so I imagine we'll have a changing of the guard soon. God only knows who.
Oh I don't think Ramos has much power, I just think he's bad at his job.
 

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Well this is fun:

Herculez Gomez has been on the coaching issue the last day or two. MLSPA jumping in now, basically saying, that USSF has made it impossible for current top tier players to take the coaching courses, which just shows how insane it is. These are people with:
1. Money
2. Incredible access to facilities
3. Direct access to Academy players.

Yet because of the limited number, location and restrictive structure and travel.... not one of the 200 players who qualify and expressed interest have been able to earn a B license for the 3rd straight year. MLSPA actually suggested that an independent coaching education and licensing group should be started.

They also imply what most people think is true, that USSF sets things up to ensure that they control who can take the courses and that if USSF doesn't want you, you can't progress.
 

67YAZ

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First, Woitalla did a great job. Superb interviewing.

The issues that pops for me is how much more diverse USSF needs to be. The USSF definitely needs to import the technical expertise that folks like Romeijn have, but those expat experts need to be part of a team that really grasps the social, political, and geographic divides of soccer in this country. That means someone like Romeijn needs to be partnered with several people, not just Mooney (who seems to have spent his entire career in upstate NY before getting a USSF gig - no wonder he doesn't get SoCal).

In this regard, Ernie Stewart could be a pivotal player. As Dutch and African American, he might be uniquely positioned to see US soccer from a foreign perspective and with a sense of how race and class impact the sport. The GM job is definitely limited right now, but like many I'm hoping that Stewart can use the position to build bridges and bring into USSF some of the folks who have been locked out.

It's going to be slow going, though. The fundamental problem with USSF is that soccer as a formal sport grew up as a hundreds of little fiefdoms scattered across the country. The USSF more or less used the 1994 World Cup to organize those fiefdoms into a loose coalition. In the years since, the effort to make a coherent, organized system out of this mess - with MLS playing both a helpful and hindering role at points - has been lurching and frustrating. That won't change soon without some visionary leadership and highly competent team running things.
 

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Fantastic. This seemed to get buried on a busy news day here in Chicago (Board of Education moving to close 5 high schools, the IG recommending the school chief be removed, 4 shot in a gang-related fracas at an L stop...pretty standard mid-week stuff here). Anyway...a pic of an existing mini-pitch that the others will be modeled after:



Also key to note is that the Fire Foundation has committed to programming for these pitches. Their P.L.A.Y.S. program is a blend of soccer skills and youth development, so it's not intended to churn out polished talent. But more opportunities to engage with the sport should lead to greater, more diverse participation over time. Not to mention keeping kids safely away from gangs, guns, and drugs, which is sadly a pressing need here in Chicago.
Here’s two new mini-Fire pitches in a park by my house. Good location in a large, very popular park in a mixed income neighborhood with a significant Central American immigrant community.

I tried to take a shot without a lot of kids on it just cause taking pics of kids in public places is creepy. But about a dozen kids playing around on it.

Edit: hmmm, photos aren’t loading. Well, these new pitches look just like the model one in the quoted post. Really glad to see this and excited to bring my kids this weekend.
 
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Titans Bastard

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The second segment of this podcast (starting around 46:00) is an interesting in-depth discussion/interview of Seattle's academy director. It delves fairly deeply into the Sounders approach to building a developmental pipeline & related issues (solidarity payments, MLS homegrown territories, youth player recruitment, how to move players up the ladder).

Up to now, the Sounders' academy successes have felt more like one-offs than the result of a top-notch systemic approach. Both Yedlin and Morris were recruited as HS seniors, then went off to college for a few years, and were eventually signed. But now Seattle has more longer-term local products and are unearthing overlooked Hispanic talent from random places (small-town central WA, Merced, Bakersfield, etc), their youth teams are winning lots of stuff, a ton of academy kids are getting called up to YNTs, and there's an extremely high level of integration between their academy teams and their USL squad.

It'll take a few years to tell if the talent is really there and whether the Sounders are truly doing a good job of nurturing it, but I'm sensing that a good thing is brewing.

I'm waiting for one MLS team to find a way to turn into a true academy talent factory and build a clear and obvious competitive edge over the rest of the league that everyone else will be forced to try to replicate. No one has done this, but some contenders: Dallas, NYRB, RSL, maybe Seattle now. It's a joke that LAG isn't walking over everyone with all the SoCal talent, but they've been epic failures.
 

Titans Bastard

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Maybe the Revs?

:drums:
Hey, the Revs recently recruited a couple of players from Burlington VT and Syracuse via a new home-stay/residency program! The organization is impeccable in its ability to remain exactly 6-8 years behind the rest of the league.
 

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Falling Through The Cracks, Part 243: Salinas, CA edition. This is a good read, providing insight into the obstacles faced by Mexican-American players, especially those not located in major metro areas. Lord only knows what kind of talent has withered on the vine in the Rio Grande Valley.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-mexican-soccer-dream-20180920-story.html
This stuck out:
Dany’s family never had the time or money for academy teams based in Bay Area suburbs such as San Jose or Santa Cruz that are designed to funnel players into the American system. He played for Salinas club team El Camino. Each year, he went to showcases like the Alianza de Futbol tournament put on by Mexican clubs seeking a line into often-overlooked Latino communities in California, Texas and beyond.


It's a great microcosm of USSF, a highschool loaded with kids who are getting offers from Mexican clubs, who are being scouted by Mexican clubs. And the USSF probably has no idea they exist, because USSF is only scouting the kids who can drop the cash and who have parents who can drive them to the chosen few clubs (mostly loaded with kids who have no future in soccer).
 

Titans Bastard

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It's a great microcosm of USSF, a highschool loaded with kids who are getting offers from Mexican clubs, who are being scouted by Mexican clubs. And the USSF probably has no idea they exist, because USSF is only scouting the kids who can drop the cash and who have parents who can drive them to the chosen few clubs (mostly loaded with kids who have no future in soccer).
The unwillingness of the USSF and of MLS to engage with Alianza is baffling. Alianza basically has ended up funneling kids to Liga MX clubs because they're the ones who show up and show interest. Alianza does all the work and serves up some prospects. This shouldn't be hard.

The mildly good news is that MLS clubs (like Seattle a few posts up) are recruiting talent from random places in CA's Central Valley, for example, and Dallas pulls kids in from El Paso and the Deep South, but we need something more systemic that's bigger than the efforts of a few clubs.
 

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At the last district I worked at (HS sped teacher) me and another teacher reached out to this organization in town- it was a group of mothers of kids with disabilities who had been running a social club of sorts to give their kids a space to socialize, work on life skills, and be accepted. When these ladies started the club in the 1960s/1970s, it was the sped dark ages- kids institutionalized, locked away, treated like sub-humans. These mother advocated and fought for their kids- in this particular city they were able to get the mayor to give them space at an old social hall (VFW/Lions Club/etc) and they worked out of there for years. When we found out about this spot, we approached the ladies to see if we could work out a deal to use some of the space (multiple large rooms in this joint). Many of the people with disabilities had died, and there wasn't much of anything going on. We talked to them about helping to revitalize their organization with new kids who needed a place like this and some new ideas on how to be more effective for kids with disabilities in the 21st century; we offered to help fix the place up and give them what they needed. They flat out (and rudely) refused. A couple of the ladies, now in their 70s/80s were openly hostile, including the President of this group. They'd rather see their organization die on the vine than change the way they had done things.

While I was pissed, I had some feelings of empathy- when times were dark, these ladies, with little to no support, had fought and advocated for their children. They had done it their way and it had worked, so no way they were going to let someone else come along and tell them they were doing it wrong, they needed help, that things needed to move in a new direction. And so they just refused to change and work with new ideas, even if it meant their organization and its purpose would soon disappear.

That's how I think of USSF sometimes. To the guys that were trying to run things on a shoe string budget in the 80s and early 90s, their way must feel like a huge success (and who would anyone else be to judge? Were you in Port of Spain in November of 89?). But at this point they're just a bunch of crusty old bitches, embittered by time and tragedy, unwilling to change even to the detriment of their beloved.

(obviously the analogy is a bit tortured- greed factors in more in the footy story, while grief factors in more in mine. But I think some of the same basic emotion and thought process is there)
 

InstaFace

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whoa. solid story

(and sounds like you need to approach that mayor to make the case that your kids need the social hall more, if you haven't already)
 

Dummy Hoy

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Without distracting too much from the thread (and I just made the story because it's how I think of the USSF), I've left the district, so I'm not involved there any more. Also, getting a meeting with a mayor (especially in a city like that) is pretty challenging. We managed to set up a meeting with him to get permission to harass city departments into giving our kids vocational opportunities, but it's not a place where a sped teacher just strolls in and starts asking for priority.
 

Titans Bastard

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I think @Dummy Hoy's story is a great analogy.

I'd add one piece to the overall picture to polish off how US Soccer is run today. Let's suppose, in addition to reasonable teachers like Dummy Hoy, there were also voices in the community who were taking much harder and harsher runs at how these ladies were running the organization. Overheated accusations not just about their methods, but about their motivations.

I think the Idiot Wing of US soccer fandom is not necessarily enormous, but it's large enough to trigger the sensitive defense mechanisms of the Old Guard, so when reasonable ideas come from the Dummy Hoys of the world, nobody in charge is truly listening at this point.

----

Secondly, I came across this great thread about Salinas and Watsonville in particular and the intersection of poverty and opportunity in general:

 

Titans Bastard

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This is somewhat tangential, but this podcast interview with Sebastian Salazar gets into some good stuff about the USSF old boys' network and the USSF-media relationship.

https://343coaching.com/podcast/soccer-by-3four3/episode-121-espn-analyst-telling-mls-usmnt-american-soccer-fans-what-they-need-to-hear-sebastian-salazar/

Too much commentary on the US soccer media coverage tends to be either apologetic or conspiratorial; I think Salazar strikes the right tone in his explanation of why the USSF's feet aren't held to the fire to the extent that they should.
 

Titans Bastard

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Very interesting news here from Paul Tenorio. MLS is considering ending or heavily reducing "homegrown territories". This would be a very welcome change, as it would be easier for prospects to vote with their feet and gravitate towards MLS organizations that have better developmental track records.


Major League Soccer is considering eliminating homegrown academy territories, according to multiple team technical directors, a move some believe could significantly improve the country’s domestic player pool. The technical directors cautioned there is still plenty left to decide regarding how such a change would occur—most believe there would still be some sort of protections in place for MLS teams within their markets—but they are confident that the change will occur in the near future.

“It will happen,” one technical director said.

Under current rules, MLS teams are prohibited from looking for youth players in territories that belong to other MLS teams. The change would likely not be introduced until at least the latter half of 2019, when the 2019-20 development academy season begins, or perhaps not until the start of the 2020 MLS season. Any new regulations still have to go through multiple layers of approval, from the meetings of the clubs’ chief soccer officers (one of which is currently taking place in New York) to the product strategy committee made up of a small group of owners to a final vote by the MLS board of directors.
 

Titans Bastard

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The Yedlin / Crossfire Premier case about solidarity payments is plowing forward:


The basis for not paying out solidarity fees or training compensation is rooted in a side agreement made during the Fraser v. MLS litigation in the late 1990s.

Upon receiving this information, Crossfire demanded that MLS remit the required solidarity payment to the youth academy, or explain the legal basis for its refusal. Documents obtained by The Athletic show that MLS and U.S. Soccer claimed that a nearly 20-year-old order, the Fraser Consent Decree, prevented the league from making the payments.

The Fraser Consent Decree was entered in 1997 during a lawsuit in which 10 MLS players challenged the legality of MLS’s single entity structure. The USSF was originally a co-defendant in the case, but was allowed to withdraw after agreeing they would not implement rules that prohibit the movement of players who are out of contract. USSF and MLS interpreted that agreement to mean they were not allowed to pay training compensation or solidarity payments.

With the assistance of the USSF, MLS repeatedly used the Consent Decree to justify its refusal to pay solidarity payments or training compensation. Numerous pieces of correspondence obtained by The Athletic show both the federation and MLS refusing to facilitate solidarity payments based on the consent decree.
USSF looks bad here:

As far back as 2008, the USSF has been involved in trying to prevent such payments. In a letter obtained by the Athletic, the USSF threatened “disciplinary action” against the youth club Dallas Texans if they pursued a claim for solidarity payments for the sale of Clint Dempsey overseas.
The MLSPA might not be as big an obstacle as feared:

The USSF has not been quite as enthusiastic, but it has not openly opposed Crossfire’s claim. And with no threat of a lawsuit from the MLSPA looming on anti-trust or child-labor grounds, it’s unclear who exactly is opposing the Crossfire claim at this point.