A U.S. youth soccer reform update (FourFourTwo piece and beyond)

My FourFourTwo piece from yesterday gave a multi-part plan for rescuing youth soccer from the pit of despair or some other dreary place of your choosing, and it features input from Kyle Martino, Kevin Payne and two U.S. Soccer officials.

The intro:

“Promote a more unified Youth Soccer landscape where our members—rather than fighting each other for players—work together to bring more young people into our ranks as registered players and where we focus on Youth Soccer less as a business and more as a way to develop talent on the field and nurture our next generation of young adults.”

So read the platform of Carlos Cordeiro in his successful campaign for the U.S. Soccer presidency.

Cordeiro has spent the first four months of his presidency traveling the world on behalf of the ultimately successful USA/Canada/Mexico World Cup bid. In the meantime, youth soccer has progressed from a moderate level of chaos to a full-fledged tropical storm mixed with a Nor’easter mixed with Memorial Day beach traffic.

This piece had a long gestation period, but the timing is good. The World Cup bid effort is finished. Now it’s time for Cordeiro to look at the rest of his agenda. His platform has plenty of ideas that look good on paper — I didn’t recall any other candidates arguing against diversity, stronger adult leagues, etc. — but will require some effort to translate into reality.

But with all due respect to the other issues on that platform, youth soccer needs to be his first priority. (The transparency/diversity issues should be addressed concurrently, and other issues certainly shouldn’t be forgotten. Hopefully we can drop the nonsensical idea that Cordeiro’s next priority needs to be rescuing the NASL. We have a functioning Division 1 league and a functioning Division 2 league. If Cordeiro is going to devote a second of his time to any pro league in the next two years, it should be the NWSL. Period.)

One of my goals here is to keep asking questions and providing analysis. The outlets through which I can do so are dwindling. This sort of thing is a little too esoteric for The Athletic — and besides, I need to reach parents.

So I’m going to be working hard over the next few months to build Ranting Soccer Dad into a substantial brand. You can help on Patreon if you like (I’m going to make magnets and T-shirts!), but anything you can do to share my work would be appreciated. Especially if you can share it with parents. Maybe not parents who sit and watch every World Cup game like you do, but any parents looking for a good youth soccer experience.

At some point soon, I need to write about the next contested election. U.S. Youth Soccer holds its Annual General Meeting on July 28, and I know of at least one challenger to incumbent chairman (and USSF Board member) Jesse Harrell.



One thought on “A U.S. youth soccer reform update (FourFourTwo piece and beyond)

  1. Nice piece in 4-4-2. I couldn’t agree more that this should be Cordeiro’s priority. And if you’re really going to go on the warpath for youth soccer reform, I’ll be telling people to turn your way. My experience is that most parents simply have no idea. They don’t know enough about the system or the game and so they keep paying. And the more ignorant money in the game, the less clarity to the system. Dumb money makes messes. I would just add–because obviously it’s my beef–that a youth soccer czar, in addition to fixing the crazy stuff at the highest level, needs to pay some serious attention to what’s going on at the grassroots. There are simply too many players–the vast majority–who simply aren’t very good. I recently spent a weekend watching State Cup here. While I saw a couple of good teams, I didn’t see a single player who really stood out for his or her skills. And for the most part I just didn’t see much good soccer. There were teams at the tournament that regularly travel all over the Eastern and Central states looking for supposedly high level competition. So I assume these are fairly elite teams. But the soccer just isn’t very impressive. And I imagine it’s because of what we’re doing–or not doing–at the lowest levels. The fields we’re playing on, the conditions we’re playing under, the over-coaching of our kids… the most important years of technical development are wasted. Last month I went on an hour-long run around a local park where two of the three “elite” boys programs in our region train. There were at least a dozen teams out there that day. In 60 minutes of running around the park, I never saw a single game being played, not small sided, not half field, not full field. Nothing. Everyone was engaged in drills. I went back the next week for another run. Same thing. All season long. Drills and artificial games under the careful, watchful eye of a coach. Our kids don’t play. They develop no creativity. They have little love for a game that is fast, spontaneous, and beautiful. We may be teaching soccer skills, but few kids are playing the kind of football enjoyed by kids in other parts of the world. And, to conclude, let me be clear that you don’t have to be poor and live in a Parisian banlieue or an Argentine villa miseria to create those conditions. Perhaps to have the same kind of desire, but not to create the conditions.
    Keep up the good work.


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