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  • Don Maples

Change is Inevitable-Growth Optional

I'll just let Geoff say what myself, along with many, many coaches in the United States have said for a long time.


My two cents is...In the United States, players who meet a flawed criteria (fancy club, physical traits of speed and size, even the time of the year he/she was born with preference given to January to March compared to October to December) are thought of as the "Best of the Best...Geoff is speaking truth, stating...

"Lionel Messi would not have developed had he come through the US system."

https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__www.theplayerstribune.com_geoff-2Dcameron-2Dwhat-2Dmust-2Dchange-2Din-2Du-2Ds-2Dsoccer_&d=DwIFAg&c=pZJPUDQ3SB9JplYbifm4nt2lEVG5pWx2KikqINpWlZM&r=UOP8VEVdddbtzXmk8CwvAA&m=9aFBdBnzWiTGOidfpSLGcpUQ9bm1mPk6HBATHRaS7Gs&s=lu0eEMhMsE1sznF-9XccTNudf43q2K7um9LX5frT1uc&e=


In the photo above, these three young ladies have something in common...left off their respective states ODP programs. Yet each one was recruited and/or played for an NCAA D1 program. Top players not being chosen happens everyday. What is being questioned is the process of selecting these players and the myriad of reasons.

Choosing the Best...Flawed System

“Doing a solid for a buddy either by choosing a player from their team, or hiring coaches based on "who they know" instead of "what they know" sets player development and programs back, many from which don't recover"

The soccer system in the United States is not a "dumpster fire", but it is severely flawed. Hiring a coach or choosing players for ODP, the DA, ECNL or college using the aforementioned criteria of "who they know", "what club are they with", what NCAA D1 or professional experience they have, etc... have proven to be bad criteria. Ask yourself this question if you beg to differ...How many coaches coming through the USSF system have made an international impact? The answer is simply...not many. Beyond some MLS success, it is difficult to find an impact beyond the 2002 USMNT coached by Bruce Arena’s. And we just witnessed close-up how little Arena has evolved in 15 years. The result from a system where players and coaches are passed over for the above mentioned reasons is evident...lack of player development, solid players/coaches passed over, college programs underachieving and not preparing players for professional play or the international level.

"If you want to see what’s wrong with U.S. Soccer in a single image, just go out to one of these fancy suburbs some weekend and spot the coaches of the fancy club teams strutting on the sidelines. Half of them are carrying themselves like they’re Pep Guardiola. I mean, the arrogance. It’s unbelievable."

There’s partial blame to be laid at the feet of the homogeneous soccer society we live in that quietly enforces a status quo. There’s partial blame to be laid at the feet of an Old Boys Club mentality among some decision makers in agencies, teams, and leagues, who decide what makes an attractive professional prospect. There’s partial blame to be laid at the feet of athletic directors who seek a "baby sitter" to watch over the kids while throwing money at a program they really don't care about. Would they do it for football coaching jobs? Men's basketball? Baseball? The answer to in most cases is simply, NO.


Today, I tell players, "play the game" and I am not referring to soccer. I am speaking of the politics of putting oneself in the best position to be seen. This means financial sacrifice for a family, painting our sport as more "elitist" to have their child play for a bigger club, a more "traveled" team and perhaps...for a lesser coach, but better connected to a network. I'll end with this thought from Brian Sciaretta , "The drop off in United States soccer development / player identification problem has been apparent for quite some time. But it leads to interesting questions...

  • What caused this fall-off?

  • Was the right talent from these years never identified properly?

  • Did U.S. Soccer identify the right talent for the youth teams during these years?

  • Did it have a big enough player pool?

  • Many players progressed upward through the youth national team system but were they good enough? Or were they promoted for the sake of continuity and familiarity?

A big takeaway is that youth national teams matter and do reflect the strength of the player development program. Some tend to believe the United States is on the rise again. Being on the sidelines watching the ENCL and DA, I am not seeing this trend. A lot of it is bad decision making on the field, transferring to making most college soccer unwatchable and the MLS is...well do they know the word "possession?"

Until we make the choice to not play "Good Ole Boy" politics with regards to hiring coaches for the ECNL and DA, colleges posting a job vacancy with no intent to interview anyone but the name of a good "baby sitter" and players chosen by ODP or id2 Programs should focus on the player. Not the club or coach the players are from. Too many top players are NOT playing ODP or id2 because of the politics and wonderful coaches are being overlooked.
"Just remember...Albert Einstein wasn't thought highly of early on, often overlooked. He changed our world. Somewhere out in the soccer world is a player, a coach, being overlooked and he/she could change the United States soccer direction."
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