The recent performance of the United States Men’s National Soccer Team is the bi-product of a system that fails to find, cultivate and produce talent.
While the failure to make the World Cup is a reflection on the quality of our players and overall commitment of our country to the sport, one of the looming questions from the debacle is the simple concept of access. Do all of our children have the same access to participate in the sport and are our kids truly able to seize opportunities the sport provides?
The answer is a resounding “NO”. Our system and culture is not designed properly to find, cultivate and train kids at all levels. For starters, soccer fields are not accessible throughout the country and more need to be built in our inner cities. Second, academies are not available throughout the United States. Third, these “elite training” programs are not affordable for every family.
Pundits question how a nation of 300,000 million can lose to tiny countries who have areas without electricity and running water. Many question the heart of the players and their own commitment. What is obvious, is aside from Christian Pulisic, there is little talent and technical skill on the team. It is embarrassing for the United States to lose at home to Mexico, but it is beyond devastating to see Costa Rica have greater skill, Honduras to use more speed and Panama to exhibit more creativity.
In the past few days, the two greatest players in the history of U.S. Soccer have called for the U.S. Soccer Federation to direct resources to improve youth player development. Landon Donovan, who may be running for the Presidency of the Federation said recently that “We are missing a lot of the best kids and that should not be the situation in a country of this size and the resources we have….”
Meanwhile, former U. S. Soccer Team Captain Claudio Reyna said, “What I think has happened in the past 10 years is we’re confusing investment, expansion and growth…but are we really progressing? When I look around at certain levels I don’t see progress happening.”
Perhaps this World Cup qualifying failure was a blessing in disguise for U.S. Soccer. This country is indeed embracing the sport but still hasn’t learned how to play and in order to truly compete internationally, it will have to find and cultivate more Christin Pulisics. To that end, start with simple objectives like FINDING better players, CULTIVATING better players and making it easier for young athletes to be FOUND.