By Mike Woitalla
Bayern Munich’s youth program has produced current German national team stars Philipp Lahm, Thomas Mueller and Bastian Schweinsteiger. The 40 top players that came out of its academy in the last 12 years have a total market value of $320 million.
In an interview with Kicker Magazine, Bayern’s youth director Werner Kern shared some insights into the program:
“The joke is that there used to be more talent than today. They used to grow on trees, because it was common to play pickup soccer after school. But the clubs didn’t have the infrastructure or the scouts. The boys from the small towns had no chance to land at the big clubs.”
Bayern’s youth players attend school from 8 am to 4 pm and Bayern employs six school teachers to oversee the residency hall. “The players who master school and soccer become mentally strong,” says Kern.
Bayern invites players into residency at 15. Taking players younger than that out of their parents’ homes is detrimental, says Kern. Before age 15, only players who can reach the club with the Munich subway play in Bayern's youth teams.
“Traveling 100 kilometers (60 miles) to practice is crazy,” says Kern.
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OVERCOMING THE ‘AGE RELATIVE’ EFFECT. The English FA aims to change its youth calendar from September to August to the internationally common January to December following studies that revealed players born in the summer are far less likely to be selected for clubs' youth academies. Nick Levett, the FA's national development manager, told the Guardian:
"For the 2009 season 57% of kids at Premier League academies were born September to December; and 14% were born in May-August. Where are the May to August kids? The simple fact is that adults have voted them out of the game because of our desire to pick bigger, stronger, faster players. We're looking at changing grassroots [local clubs] football to run January to December. We know from research that we'll [still] get a bias in January to April kids [being chosen by scouts] but it does mean then that the 'summer borns' are the middle group for club football and the end group for school football. So they're not age disadvantaged for everything.”
Levett added that "We also need to look at the pitch sizes. We need smaller age appropriate pitches [that] will less benefit the physical player and more benefit for the technical player."
(While American youth soccer leagues use a mid-year cutoff, when U.S. Soccer launched its Development Academy in 2007 it adopted a Jan. 1 birthdate cutoff that coincides with international competitions, such as the U-17 World Cup.)
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U-17 SUPERSUB. In two straight games at the U-17 World Cup, Alfred Koroma scored two minutes after coming off the bench. He scored the USA’s final goal of a 3-0 win over the Czech Republic in 89th minute of the Group D opener. On Wednesday, he came on at halftime with the Americans trailing 1-0 against Uzbekistan and scored another superb goal in the 47th minute.
Koroma moved with his mother to Fort Worth, Texas from war-torn Sierra Leone at age 9. He joined Bradenton residency at the age of 13. He returned to home to Texas in 2010 and played for Solar Chelsea SC before rejoining the U-17s for qualifying.
Uzbekistan came back after Koroma’s strike to score on a penalty kick and beat the Americans, 2-1.
“The players went onto the field too relaxed, in slow motion," said U.S. U-17 coach Wilmer Cabrera. "When we finally reacted we were down 1-0. This is a mental game. Uzbekistan was motivated and more aggressive, more into the game than our players.”
All four teams in the Group D are tied on three points going into the final day of group play. The USA faces New Zealand on Saturday (7 pm ET, ESPNU, ESPN3.com, Galavision) with second-round passage on the line.
VIDEO. Check out Koroma's goals and highlights of the USA's first two U-17 World Cup games HERE.
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A HECKUVA COMEBACK. The U-18 Pateadores of Southern California, coached by former UCLA coach Todd Saldana and former U.S. World Cup player Tom Dooley, reached the Development Academy playoffs despite forfeiting 16 points during an 11-game spell in which it used to two players ruled ineligible because they played junior college ball in the fall. “Credit the boys because they could have easily used [the forfeits] as an excuse, but they accepted the challenge,” Saldana told Goal.com’s J.R. Eskilson.
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PARENTS BEHAVING BETTER? Twenty-six percent of youth soccer leaders around the country responding to a survey conducted by Korrio, a web platform company, say parents’ behavior has improved in the last two years, 54 percent indicate it’s stayed the same, while 20 percent noticed a downturn.
Eleven percent claim their club had no sideline problems with parents last season; 58 percent described their parents’ sideline behavior as “good” (experienced a single minor incident with at least one parent/family); and 31 percent described it as fair (minor incidents with more than two different parents/families).
The survey also reported that 42 percent of respondents say that sportsmanship among players has improved over the last five seasons; 18 percent noted a slight decline.
Go HERE for more survey results, including data on how much volunteers contribute to club administration and other trends.