The problem with soccer in the USA

Discussion in 'Soccer in the USA' started by NewDadaCoach, Jun 9, 2024.

  1. NewDadaCoach

    NewDadaCoach Member

    Tottenham Hotspur
    United States
    Sep 28, 2019
    #1 NewDadaCoach, Jun 9, 2024
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2024
    The main problem, and I'm not even sure it is a problem per se, but rather the dynamic that prevents us from being a powerhouse in soccer, is that we are a multi-sport nation.

    I'm seeing it unfold first hand, as a parent.

    My son has been playing competitive soccer for 3 years (u8-u10). But finally we gave in to baseball (because it's a rite of passage in America right?) and signed him up for Little League. And it's been great! Don't get me wrong. It has been a lot of fun. (He has also done basketball, flag football, tennis lessons, swim lessons, and lots of snowboarding.)

    But from a soccer development standpoint... the problem is that other sports pull and tug on our most athletic youth. Most do not just do one sport. And I'm not saying that that is right or wrong. But I am saying that it makes it hard to develop technical skills and tactical understanding of the sport on the same level of a kid in Brazil or Argentina, or Columbia. They simply will get far more minutes of play than our kids will get and far more unorganized/organic instruction. Other factors that add to this are ones we are already familiar with - pay to play and our culture of suburbia where the parents have to drive the kids everywhere. In Brazil there are more pitches and more dense neighborhoods with kids who play the soccer daily. There simply is no way to compete against this.

    We do have some nice pitches and lots of green space. Mostly they are big pitches. Our kids are not playing enough small sided games. In Brazil they will make a game out of nothing and get lots of touches playing small sided games.

    And last but not least, so many parents just do not understand the sport of soccer. And I'm not saying it's their fault. They simply grew up in a society that is not soccer-centric. They grew up in a society that values and consumes baseball, football, basketball, hockey, tennis, golf, nascar, Olympic sports (track and field, gymnastics, wrestling, etc).
    For the past 5 years there has been tension with my kid's mom, who does not get soccer one bit. She think he plays it too much (year round?! why?). Yes, she is a head-wind in his development. Yet, I can't say I blame her for it. She just was never exposed to soccer. She never played it. She never watched it. She is a fan of the SF Giants and the NFL.
    So... yeah... I do feel myself starting to lose the battle. There's only so much I can do. My kid loves soccer (and likes baseball too)... but will he ever get the minutes and touches of a kid in [insert South American or European or African country of choice]? No, no he won't. Nor will 99% of our youth.
     
  2. Elninho

    Elninho Member+

    Sacramento Republic FC
    United States
    Oct 30, 2000
    Sacramento, CA
    Club:
    Los Angeles Galaxy
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    That's been changing gradually. Over the last 20 years, participation in every youth sport has declined, but the percentage of children participating in at least one youth sport has stayed roughly the same. The obvious implication is: same kids playing sports, but fewer sports per kid.

    Where we differ from other countries is the general public attitude toward this trend. Most Americans seem to think it's a bad thing, whereas other countries seem to think it's completely normal.
     
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  3. Yoshou

    Yoshou Fan of the CCL Champ

    May 12, 2009
    Seattle
    Club:
    Seattle Sounders
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    On the other hand, there are a growing number of studies showing the health risks of playing a single sport. The nature of playing the same sport as a child grow can make them more susceptible to repetitive stress injuries common to those sports and has, apparently, resulted in a higher injury rate among single sport kids when compared to multi-sport kids.
     
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  4. NewDadaCoach

    NewDadaCoach Member

    Tottenham Hotspur
    United States
    Sep 28, 2019
    I agree, yet... our results have not really improved much.

    We absolutely got torn apart by Columbia. And this was supposed to be the best US team ever. All starters play in top leagues in Europe.

    Perhaps we should go back to our strengths as a multi-sport nation, which is athleticism. Lean into it instead of thinking we can compete on technique and tactics of the great soccer nations. Athleticism does matter in soccer, it can make a big impact.

    We got torn apart trying to play out of the back. People will continue with the same excuses and defend Gregg.
     
  5. NewDadaCoach

    NewDadaCoach Member

    Tottenham Hotspur
    United States
    Sep 28, 2019
    Yeah, especially if good mechanics isn't there, and of course pure bad luck plays a part.

    I think it depends on the sport too.

    Baseball - the shoulder and elbow joints are simply quite delicate. Very easy to injure if good form and good warming-up habits aren't there.

    Knees and hips are a bit more resilient.

    A kid who plays year round baseball is asking for Tommy John's or just a lot of pain.

    But soccer can be played year round with less risk.

    Football, you would certainly not want to play year round. Basketball - maybe but you very likely get a soft tissue injury. Or course it happens in soccer a lot too.

    But... I'm in my 40s and have torn my ACL and my rotator cuff. Coming back from the ACL wasn't that bad. I still play quite physically on the field. But man, my shoulders are shot. Don't think I'll every be able to play goalie again. Only reason I can play catch with my kid is because I switched to throwing left (try that in your 40s)
     
  6. An Unpaved Road

    An Unpaved Road Member+

    Mar 22, 2006
    Club:
    --other--
    Other sports and activities are fun too. And most kids will go with fun over the type of singular obsession needed to raise the overall level of soccer development.
     
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  7. Yoshou

    Yoshou Fan of the CCL Champ

    May 12, 2009
    Seattle
    Club:
    Seattle Sounders
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    And that is a very good point. The presence of other sports means that kids in the US can select other sports to play if they aren't enjoying another sport as much. In other countries, the kids can either play soccer, or nothing. There are other sports (rugby, cricket, etc), but they are so far down the popularity totem pole they aren't really an option.

    I will add that another benefit of multi-sport is that it decreases burnout. My son was a good soccer player and had been only playing soccer since he was able to walk. He reached a point where he was just burned out on playing soccer and wanted to do something different.
     
  8. NewDadaCoach

    NewDadaCoach Member

    Tottenham Hotspur
    United States
    Sep 28, 2019
    I agree, I'm not saying its bad to play multiple sports. But just that it creates a unique dynamic in the USA compared to other countries. We are good at developing athletes, not necessarily soccer players. So we should lean into athelticism. Back when Barcelona was hot circa 2012 everyone want to play like them, including the US. But we don't have that level of technique and IQ which would require a soccer-centric development pathway. We should just admit we are athletic and use it, it can win games in soccer.
     
  9. NewDadaCoach

    NewDadaCoach Member

    Tottenham Hotspur
    United States
    Sep 28, 2019
    Interesting, I would not be surprised if my son begins to make baseball his 1st sport over soccer. It used to be soccer all the way. But he's really enjoying baseball; partly because he just had a great season, got lots of minutes and won the championship.
     
  10. Yoshou

    Yoshou Fan of the CCL Champ

    May 12, 2009
    Seattle
    Club:
    Seattle Sounders
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I think you're reading too much into the Colombia loss. Also may be misplacing what is to blame. Player development in the US has increased significantly in the last decade or so and, as you noted, it is producing some of the best players we've had.

    I also don't think the issue is with player quality. Rather, the issue that the US has is with producing top quality coaching. I'm not going to comment on whether Berhalter deserves to be the US's head coach, but I don't think there is any question that he is far behind the quality of the head coaches for the top teams around the world.
     
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  11. PJ234

    PJ234 Member

    DC united
    United States
    Oct 17, 2021
    Playing in concacaf doesn't help either.
     
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  12. Crawleybus

    Crawleybus Member+

    Oct 18, 2013
    Club:
    Chelsea FC
    The biggest mis-conceptions about the USA and football

    1) If only our best athletes played football.
    2) The rest of the world only plays football.
    3) Our players are 'fitter' or 'stronger' than players from other nations but lack the skillset.

    I've heard these over and over and none of these have any basis in reality at all!
     
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  13. Lionel Richie

    Lionel Richie Moderator
    Staff Member

    Real Madrid
    South Korea
    Nov 12, 2009
    Club:
    FC Barcelona
    #13 Lionel Richie, Jun 12, 2024 at 3:57 PM
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2024 at 8:25 PM
    I don't know how it is in the US now. When I lived there, everyone I knew personally weren't into soccer. There seems to be more interest now. Living abroad, I haven't been able to watch MLS for a long time, so I'm unable to make an opinion about that league. I've been able to watch the World Cup games and was impressed at the number of US fans in the stadiums. On the other hand, the recent home game of the men's Olympic team with Japan had a lot of empty seats. Maybe it'll be different with the national team's friendly against Brazil? I woke up early today for no reason and realized that the game will be broadcasted here. I'll watch this friendly. People in South Korea are able to watch South Korea's away friendlies with the US. They get impressed at how the US women's team attracts full stadiums. Ji So-yun said in an interview, "why didn't I move to the US earlier?" When she was a Chelsea player, she had a chat with her fans on someone's podcast. I asked her whether she planned on joining the NWSL or not. She replied that there was a US team that asked for her, but she chose Chelsea instead. In my opinion, her response to joining Seattle Reign shows how good the US soccer system really is. Except for certain Asian countries like Japan, Asian soccer is corrupt. Some Asian countries are more blatantly corrupt than the others. This is one of the reasons why a lot of the Asian teams lag behind the Western teams.
     
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  14. NewDadaCoach

    NewDadaCoach Member

    Tottenham Hotspur
    United States
    Sep 28, 2019
    I don't think I agree with this completely.
    I do think #1 is not a very great argument. There are plenty of great athletes playing football.

    3) I think our players historically were not as technical as other countries like Brazil and Spain. They play a lot more and naturally develop more technical gifts as a result.

    We value physicality. It's part of our DNA. Rough and tough and fast and strong.

    But we have become more balanced in the past couple decades.
     
  15. NewDadaCoach

    NewDadaCoach Member

    Tottenham Hotspur
    United States
    Sep 28, 2019
    Of all the pro sports in America, soccer has the most foreign born players. The problem with this is it limits how American players can develop. Just imagine if there were another 100 roster spots filled by Americans in MLS.
     
  16. Yoshou

    Yoshou Fan of the CCL Champ

    May 12, 2009
    Seattle
    Club:
    Seattle Sounders
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Isn't that more a result of soccer being the only sport with a major professional US league where US/Canada is not where the best players are developed? Obviously, there are other sports where good players are developed outside US/Canada (Hockey, Basketball, Baseball), but for all of those sports, US/Canada has the best development systems. It's not like the other leagues are specifically ignoring talent outside the US/Canada, there's just not a lot of that talent outside the US/Canada for them to select.
     
  17. Crawleybus

    Crawleybus Member+

    Oct 18, 2013
    Club:
    Chelsea FC
    What makes you believe this? perhaps its 100 years of Hollywood and its god awful stereotypical portrayals of different nationalities? Until the US can get past this stereotyping it isn't going to find the answers. The good people of the USA are NO DIFFERENT to any other human beings on this planet, they have the same capacities as everybody else and that includes their capabilities, if you want to 'root out' the shortfalls of the US national team then you have to look at 'other reasons' than 1) If only our 'best' athletes played football 2) Everybody else only has football and 3) We are 'fitter' & 'stronger' but lack the skill set required - because there is no truth in any of that.
     
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  18. NewDadaCoach

    NewDadaCoach Member

    Tottenham Hotspur
    United States
    Sep 28, 2019
    #18 NewDadaCoach, Jun 12, 2024 at 9:43 PM
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2024 at 9:55 PM
    We don't play as much as Spain and Brazil. Therefore we won't be as skillful. Its that simple.

    They have more history in it; they watch it more; they debate it more. They understand it on a deeper level. There is a lot of history and passion in the sport in most countries. We do have some history... but its not vast like baseball was in the early 1900s. It just took a back seat to baseball, basketball, football. We are good at developing athletes because we have a lot of avenues. Youth to HS to college to pro. This isn't the avenue for soccer mostly. We win a hell of a lot of Olympic medals. We are a great sports nation. But soccer was never #1 here like it is in the rest of the world. Our high schools have been great platforms for kids to develop at a low cost in wrestling, football, baseball, basketball, track and field, volleyball, golf, tennis, and other stuff depending on the school.
    But you can't play 4 months of soccer a year and become great. Sports in America has always been a seasonal thing. A sport for each season.
    For soccer you need to play year round. It takes more hours to reach mastery than the other big sports.

    All of our top players are in Europe, as they should be.
    And MLS is growing.
    So yes I think we are moving in a positive direction.

    My kid is doing Little League. Let me tell you, a great bargain in terms of development for the money. It's pretty much all volunteer ran and they had 16 games in the regular season PLUS playoffs PLUS inter-distric playoffs, PLUS all-stars. The fields are in excellent condition. The community does this for the passion and to give the kids a great experience.

    This does not exist in soccer. Yes there are many rec leagues. They have very spotty coaching, are usually 8-10 games, not much in the way of tournaments and playoffs and such. To do that you have to do pay-to-play soccer clubs (which we do). But the Little League experience is just more enriching compared to the low-cost (ie rec) soccer experience.
    Yes you do have club baseball which is a money-grab, just like club soccer. But a kid doesn't need to do that until high school if at all to go play at the college level.
     
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  19. jaykoz3

    jaykoz3 Member+

    Dec 25, 2010
    Conshohocken, PA
    Club:
    Philadelphia Union
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    One of the bigger barriers here in the US is the pay to play system. "Elite" youth soccer has mainly been at pay to play clubs in the US. Most often in white suburbia. Those are real barriers to entry. There's literally millions of athletes in the United States.

    It's not just soccer either that this is the case. Prime example is the sport of Lacrosse. LAX is largely viewed as a sport played by rich prep school kids. Now where I grew up, Central New York State, LAX is played in all of the public schools. Many of the school districts run feeder programs as well. Now contrast that to where I live now outside of Philly. LAX is by and large played at the private schools, and at the public schools in the more affluent suburbs.

    Another way to say it is that if you're a great basketball player, someone will see you and give you an opportunity to advance up the levels (college, pro). If you're a great soccer player in say North Dakota.....there's a substantially lower probability that you'll be seen and given an opportunity to move up the ladder.
     
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  20. soccermilitant

    soccermilitant Member+

    Jan 14, 2009
    St.paul
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Then who is going to foot the bill for youth leagues/ programs then?
     

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