While attending United States Soccer Federation (USSF) A license audit I had the pleasure of listening to the U17 National Team coach from Holland. The views of the Dutch indicate clearly that a different soccer culture exists in their country.
The Dutch coach stated that the development of the individual and the team was of the utmost importance. The best players should train together and play against each other, talented players should train between 3 to 6 times weekly and should play 1 or 2 competitive games during the week. The most important thing he said to me was that youth development is a joined responsibility of the country’s governing body of soccer and the clubs.
There is organization and connectivity from top to bottom. The reason for this is that there is a common goal…to produce players that can play for the National Team, in the domestic professional leagues, and professionally throughout the other top leagues in Europe.
Let us look at the USA in the same categories. Players fall in love with the sport after they have started playing it. They do not start playing because they are in love with the sport. The most important thing is winning at many youth clubs, because it is seen as a measure of success. Individual and team development takes a back seat. The existence of so many clubs hinders the possibility of the best players playing together. In addition, our best players train 3 times a week at most.
The biggest problem is that there is no common goal or relationship with USSF and the youth clubs in the country. Let us examine first the goals of most clubs. They say player development, but constantly recruit players.
Why?…because they want to win a State Cup or league title. This attracts better players to the club. What happened to developing your own? Then we deal with the disconnect between the USSF Academy Programs and the Olympic Development Programs. Players have to choose one, so the best players are never all together.
Then we have the training centers established to identify players with the ability to play for the National Team, who may have been missed. Guess what? USSF Academy players are not allowed to attend. The United States is also the only country where the better you are the more you pay. Some players, therefore, do not have the opportunity to play.
As you can see, there is no defined path. Every man for himself. Despite this, we are still very competitive internationally, but I wonder what our potential would be if the soccer structure resembled that of the Dutch, or any other developed soccer country.