Last-minute election plea: Think of the children

We, the media, have failed you.

We’ve been distracted by the drama. The politics. The personalities.

Not that the personalities aren’t important. The next U.S. Soccer president has to build bridges and trust. The right personality to do that is essential.

But we’ve failed to shed enough light where it needs to be:

Youth soccer.

Soccer has grown by leaps and bounds in this country in terms of viewership, sponsorship and just a general sense of “bigness.” Youth soccer has not kept pace.

Where we need more outreach, we’ve gotten more elite programs.

Where we need more kind introductions to organized play, we’ve gotten ham-fisted mandates such as the birth-year age-group switch, which U.S. Soccer is only now beginning to realize was a colossal mistake from idea to execution. There is no elite player-development reason for forcing the other 90% of the pyramid to have less fun playing rec soccer and perhaps — just maybe — advancing into elite soccer.

We’ve forgotten that every elite player starts as a rec player. It may be in organized U5 soccer. It may be playing on a tennis court in an apartment complex where the residents have marked out some makeshift goals.

We’ve focused on the Athletes’ Council — a group of good people getting their names dragged through the mud by tinfoil-hat conspiracy theorists. And frankly, they’re too focused on meeting amongst themselves. Heather O’Reilly didn’t need to fly across the Atlantic to talk with Shannon Boxx and Kate Markgraf. They should be out talking with state youth representatives.

The state youth reps have been forgotten. They’ve been upstaged by the athletes and the adult associations, some of whom have not covered themselves with glory in this process and may have frankly demonstrated that they have too much of the vote. Maybe USSF can bring in colleges and combine them into the Adult Council? Might help.

But it’s our fault. We, the media, have forgotten to talk about all this. All the reasons why youth soccer has been stagnant, both in terms of adding rec players and developing elite players.

So it’s up to you … well, mostly the Athletes’ Council. Leave your meeting room. Go to the bar. Talk to the states. See why they’re frustrated. Then vote accordingly.

 

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