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Belgian talent exposes U.S. youth development woes
by Julian Quisquater, September 8th, 2011 1:39AM

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TAGS:  belgium, men's national team, youth boys

MOST COMMENTED

[MY VIEW] In the wake of the USA's 1-0 loss to Belgium, a final score that mercifully spared the Americans from what could easily have been a more embarrassing result, many questions remain, but one resounds. How can Belgium, a country with a population of only 11 million people, have so many more bright and talented young players than the USA?

Belgium is hardly a superpower in the world of soccer. If anything, their failure to qualify for a World Cup final since 2002 puts them firmly outside the realm of even Europe’s second tier squads. Yet, watching Eden Hazard dance circles around American defenders and show glimpses of a Messi-esque ability to take over a match, one can’t help but wonder why the USA doesn't have one of those?

The most recent census puts the U.S. population at roughly 311 million people, a round 300 million more than little Belgium, and yet the talent on the field doesn’t lie. Hazard (20), Axel Witsel (22) and Vincent Kompany (25) were clearly in a class above any U.S. player on the field, with the exception of the aging Clint Dempsey (28) and Tim Howard (32). Howard managed to keep the score line bearable, but Dempsey could not make up for the painful efforts of the American strikers.

Not even featured in the match were Fulham’s Moussa Dembele (24), FC Twente’s Nacer Chadli (22), Arsenal’s Thomas Vermaelen (25), FC Porto’s Steven Defour (23), Ajax’s Jan Vertonghen (24), Chelsea’s Thibault Courteous (19), Manchester City’s Dedryck Boyata (20), and Genk’s Kevin De Bruyne (20), all regular starters or up-and-coming “world class” talent from Belgium.

U.S. fans can point to the equal ineffectiveness of Belgium’s strike force, but what most fail to realize is that Igor de Cammargo, Belgium’s man up top for the first 63 minutes, is the sixth choice striker at Coach George Leekens disposal. The same cannot be said for Jozy Altidore (21) and Juan Agudelo (18), neither of which challenged against a depleted Belgian defense. In only 27 minutes on the pitch as de Cammargo's substitute, new £18m Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku (18) came closer to scoring than any American player, and he appeared to be having an off night. 

Bright displays from emerging MLS star Brek Shea (21) and rediscovered 2010 World Cup attendee Jose Francisco Torres (23) could not hide the obvious lack of talent fielded by Jurgen Klinsmann.

Sadly, help in the form of fresh blood doesn’t appear to be on the horizon. The Americans only managed the round of 16 at the 2011 U-17 World Cup, and the U-20 squad didn’t even qualify for the first time since 1995. Couple that with Mexico’s title winning display at the U-17 level and two consecutive Gold Cup wins at the senior level and the USA looks like a side in decline surrendering Concacaf to their bitter rivals from the south.

In what would appear to be a game of numbers, the laws of probability continue to defy convention. Bigger countries should produce more world-class talent than small ones, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. The argument that the USA should be producing more talent strictly based on population is a flawed one, but it sure doesn’t hurt to have a wide crop to pick from.

So, what to do?

In 2001, the Belgian federation restructured its development system by providing domestic clubs with detailed documentation and instruction on how to oversee player development. Belgian national director Michel Sablon suggests that 95 percent of the clubs in Belgium have complied, and now play a 4-3-3 system with a focus on fostering talent rather than winning. Ten years later, whatever the Belgians are doing, it’s working.

A “Golden Generation” may very well be blooming in Belgium, but with more than 30 times their population, shouldn’t the USA always have one on hand?



51 comments
  1. Christopher DAmore
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 8:10 a.m.
    Terrible article, besides a bit in the middle of the game belgium didn't destroy the usa. Second if the writer thinks there is no talent coming up in the usa ranks then he is blind. Yeah the usa should have more talent, but soccer is still 5th best in the country for recruiting talent. Just give Reyna some time, btw he gave clubs the same directive as the belgium dude.

  1. Charles Parnell
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 8:48 a.m.
    Does anyone remember pick-up games? Our kids don't go outside any longer and play any pick-up games. The only time we play games are when adults organize them. In other countries, kids are outside playing soccer on their own, being creative and developing their skill at and much earlier age than ours. This is where they learn to be creative. IMO, that is one of the big reasons why we don't have the talent that other countries have.

  1. Ernest Irelan
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 8:50 a.m.
    simply put, IT IS ALL ABOUT THE MONEY IN THE USA.....that is how players are developed an selected in the youth process...IF ONE DOES NOT HAVE THE MONEY, ONE DOES NOT PLAY IN DEVELOPEMENTAL CLUBS AT THE HIGHER LEVEL....secondly, the USA has so many popular sports for youth to select from, an many are PUSHED into these in their youth by parents, school coaches, peers, etc...they do not get the opportunities to participate in soccer enough to develope to an elite status...3rdly, our referees really lack the knowledge to control games an the players, again, POLITICS involved in he scene...just too many serious injuries as a result also because of this improper training an teaching how the game should be played. Quantity does not equal Quality. As one famous German player/coach once told my son, "soccer has to be played with the heart, not for the money" or you will never be a true soccer player.....

  1. Ernest Irelan
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 8:56 a.m.
    Mr Parnell, you are dead on....as a lad, I used to play ball of some sort unti dark after school, all summer long, with my buds..but, it was baseball, basketball, etc..no soccer then in the area..now, we do have some that play soccer when they can, but, it is so difficult to find a place for them to play "street ball"..yards are usually not big enough, parks are full of baseball, tennis, volleyball, basketball, etc..soccer is last it seems in the "space allowed" areas, but, we are making some inroads with that...we do need some leadership after a point...that is where we that know something about the game, need to step up an help where we can.....good article you wrote, dead on...

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 9:19 a.m.
    Great article even though some people fail to see the point. Cris, he was talking about talent wise in comparison. I don't know anyone who is following Reyna's system and I coach soccer as well. Ernest, you are correct about pay to play but I disagree with the excuse of there are 5 other sports and that's why we don't produce the best. Argentina and Brazil who are best known for Soccer are catching up at a fast pace to USA in Basketball. This is also the case of Spain and Germany. How come USA isn't catching up in soccer the same way? Wouldn't these countries have the same excuse as far as their top athletes choosing soccer first? Soccer is the most played by youth in the USA of any other sport. Usa has the biggest organized youth soccer program in the world. Why are small 3rd world countries producing better and more pro baseball players than USA? I can tell you why. Development is nonexistent in USA especially in soccer. 90% of these pro soccer coaches get paid to win at the younger ages. If a good hearted coach we're to develop over winning games he will lose his job. There is no money for any youth Academy or club to develop players because they don't profit directly for a homegrown player getting a. contract. Every club knows they can lose a player to another club at any point in time because unlike other countries there is no transfer fee to be paid from club to club at the youth level. That is why there is so much "irresponsible " recruiting going on where top stack their top 2 teams limiting all the playing time these great players used to have. USA wants to do everything different and it is easy that it has failed in soccer and why. This is not counting the fact that there is a bias towards Hispanics here that will take time to turn around and that countries like Mexico are taking advantage of. When will USA learn.

  1. Amos Annan
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 9:21 a.m.
    WRONG... you can't compare the two countries. In the US, all the talent goes to Football, Baseball & Basketball. In Belgium, every little kid is playing soccer and only soccer, everyday. They play pick-up games EVERY day. You are lucky to have a kid practice twice a week in the US.

  1. Tim Mccoy
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 9:41 a.m.
    It's always "youth development woes" when the national team takes a loss. Wasn't this the third game with a new coaching who is playing "mad scientist" with player selection and formation? Have we not witnessed teams from "soccer culture" countries fall to an experienced US side due to tinkering by their coaches? I recall a young Mexican side being given a pretty thorough spanking. If you don't think that Zindane, Henry, Ferdinand, Vidic, Adebayor, Messi, etc. wouldn't be playing football, basketball, or baseball if they grew up in America you're sadly mistaken and that's why Claudio's grand scheme won't have as big of an impact as expected. There's no doubt the youth soccer alphabet soup contributes to the problem. Parents want competition at ages where small-sided, non-competitive games should be played and some of our organizations provide what the paying customer wants instead of what's right. Reality, soccer is a diversion at young ages until our best athletes can play the sport they really desire. Desire is the key...you have to really want it to become great at anything (of course it helps to have a genetic pre-disposition to go with the desire because wanting to be a great athlete/musician/pilot/etc. doesn't make it so).

  1. Brad Hallier
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 9:50 a.m.
    I maintain the biggest problem with youth soccer in this country is the desire to win and not develop. I've even stories about ODP coaches doing everything they can to win. Pigeonholing players at the U8 level, insisting on passing all the time or playing kickball, etc. I don't think it's necessarily lack of pickup games (which would help) as much as the mentality of youth coaches and parents.

  1. Joseph Pratt
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 10:08 a.m.
    In the US you can drive down many streets in cities in towns across the country and find kids playing basketball, or shooting hoops in their driveway. They are tossing a baseball or football to each other in their yard or a nearby park. Their dads join in, and pretty soon you've got a 2 on 2 football game. The kids play all sorts of pickup games in sports other than soccer. It is the exception to see a kid in his yard juggling a ball, or in his driveway banging shots off the garage door or into a pop-up goal. In Europe and South America, one drives around and sees...soccer. Everywhere. In streets, yards, parks. So in addition to whatever training they get if they happen to play club soccer, they are out playing on their own. By the time they are 13 or 14, the sheer number of touches on the ball that an individual kid has had in one of these countries is far higher than it is in the US. Combine that with the fact that our kids are, indeed, playing all these other sports (I've got kids on the U12 boys club team that I coach who juggle basketball, baseball and hockey around their soccer), and the population math gets turned on its head. The effect is like a funnel, and the result in the US is a much smaller talent pool that would be implied by the sheer size of our population. The percentage of kids in the US who play only soccer, and play it all the time (meaning on their own time as well as club time), is drastically smaller than it is in Belgium, or Mexico. We can have all the "curricula" issued from on high that we want, and maybe it will help. For that to happen, Reyna's curriculum actually has to be adopted by clubs - does USSF have the authority to force that? No. But even if all clubs adopted it, and focused purely on player development, we're still only talking about elevating the quality of training that kids engage in twice a week. Unless they really fall in love with the game enough to want to play it on their own time, wherever and whenever they can, our youth development efforts will always lag that of the top soccer nations...and even the Belgiums of the world. So what's the answer? It's simple-sounding, but surprisingly difficult for American coaches to do: get kids to LOVE the game. Get them to LOVE playing, love it so much that they will do it without being asked to. Will the new curriculum help? Maybe, but the key will be for coaches to allow the kids to just play, to create, and to have fun. Help them fall in love with the game.

  1. Walt Pericciuoli
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 10:13 a.m.
    Our current "development" system is not producing the next generation of great players. Our two most talented players Donovan and Dempsey (I don't count Goal Keepers) were developed long before the Academy system and Super Clubs came along.Our two best players ever, Ramos and Reyna in their youth never "benefited" from "professional" trainers that are now provided by the Academy programs and the Super Clubs. As proven by the recent results of our U17 and U20 squads, there does not appear to be any of these kind of players ages 16 - 21 now in the pipe line. So, what conclusions should we draw about our current "development" system? Jurgen has a huge task on his hands. He should have been given the reigns after the 2006 WC.

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 10:35 a.m.
    Excuses. If Argentina and Germany play soccer every day how did they produce Nowitzki and Ginobli? Argentina always competes vs USA as of late as well as Spain and Germany in Basketball. Why? Basketball in these countries are not even the 2nd sport. So what you guys are saying is they can produce top athletes at multiple sports but we can't? The biggest reason is because USA is lazy. USA parents have to pay somebody else to have the incentive just to take him to practice and games and that's a drag to many. This is why so many kids own video games. They are very expensive but are worth it to parents to avoid parenting. Stop making excuses for the obvious and get out there with your kids to get the most out of them and get a workout yourself. Other countries aren't lazy. That's reason #1.

  1. Mark Grody
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 11:08 a.m.
    How does that explain American success in other sports? Is it just soccer parents that are lazy?

  1. Anna marie Dwyer
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 11:13 a.m.
    As a parent of a soccer player (female) who came up thru the ranks I can tell you this - When my daughter first began soccer it was on an organized, intramural team at age 8. By 9 she discovered she liked to be in goal.She joined her first travel team and the coach insisted she play only keeper. I, along with several other parents, tried to tell him she would not develop unless she also played field.He refused to budge, insisting she remain in goal (his interest being 'in the win' as she was/is a very good keeper). My daughter was fortunate enough to be in ODP for two years at which time she did many field drills, which helped her enormously in goal as her foot skills are now quite developed.I know our situation is not unique. I know too of male players who were quite good, having played with friends, brothers, etc.all their life as well as in high school were not looked at in college because they did NOT do ODP. So, in my experience there are basic issues in development that, if allowed to continue, will hamper any national development in the sport. Is that our problem now? I don't know. I do believe that Klinsmann is trying out various players, match ups, etc. to see what can work and what won't. I don't think a player should remain on the team simply because he's been there for a few years. Example, Donavon. He can be quite good but he can also be quite lazy. In my mind if you're not out there all the time with all your heart then you shouldn't be there at all.

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 11:20 a.m.
    Walt, I agree with you 100%. Lets talk about goalies though. Howard is a huge part of USA success in past years. He never received goalie training until after H.S. He was a forward for most of his youth career. Why is it so promoted to hold goalie training for the slowest kids on the team usually? Money. Money. You have to be an athlete to be a top goalie. It's not a mystery. Its easier to sell goalie training than physical training. USA gives customers what they want.

  1. Raffy Afarian
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 11:33 a.m.
    I got two words for you all, Johann Cruyff. Look him up and see his accomplishments.

  1. Walt Pericciuoli
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 11:36 a.m.
    Luis, I think for the most part, our goalkeepers are some of the best in the world.Besides being great athletes, the hand eye co-ordination of our American kids, that carry over from other sports as well as video games gives our keepers a big advantage.In the case of Howard, although he did play field positions in his youth, he also had a very good goalkeeper trainer working with him throughout his HS years and played exclusively in the goal for his club team.Not sure if the trainer was paid.

  1. Charles Bauer
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 11:54 a.m.
    The final score wasn't "merciless", it was "merciful"...thankfully. The debate about player development goes on. And on. Profit motive, competition from other sports, culture, all play a part...the good news is that getting a fresh pair of eyes at the top, or close to the top, in Klinsmann should help identify the talent that IS out there, but which gets consistently overlooked by entrenched politics and systems which limit the players who even get a chance.

  1. Ric Fonseca
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 12:14 p.m.
    Holy smokes, a badly researched article, followed by some very good comments, including Amos'! All are spot on, but if the writer has to ask and compare apples (Belguim) and oranges (USA) then ask why we the oranges don't produce the talent given the poluation, then he has no clue. Luis, and Walt, SPOT ON again. Simply stated, the entire, complete, the

  1. Ric Fonseca
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 12:22 p.m.
    OOOOPS, sorry, hit the send button before finishing thought, whole US Soccer structure MUST change from the bottom up as was said many years ago, remember the inverted US Soccer pyramid theme? Lordy be, I can't count the times I lost many kids from my teams, being PROHIBITED by their parents from continuing soccer after "the fall season" as volleyball or basketball followed by T-ball, baseball, or softball kicked in. But that was then and sadly this is now with the same mindset even though we seem to making some snail-paced progress. Maybe in the not so distant future the tables will be turned and writers such as Quisquater will write another one decrying the fact that the mega-populous USA has surpassed a lesser populous country and in par with the soccer playing powers!

  1. cony konstin
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 12:46 p.m.
    Our youth soccer system is very good if your focus is learning team work, battle against gangs, drugs, youth obesity, or to learn other life skills. But to produce magical players our youth soccer system is not the right environment. It is up to MLS to make pro players and not our youth soccer establishment. When the MLS starts creating their own leagues starting with kids at age 5 and set up a playing environment instead of a coaching environment then we will start to see some special players come out of this system. Meanwhile if you are coach set up more free play days for your kids so at least they can a have more fun.

  1. Newman w Stemple
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 1:32 p.m.
    After reading these posts for a long time, I will comment for the first time. I kicked my first soccer ball 58 years ago and have been involved in the game since then. I became a referee and a high school coach after playing in college during the '60s. As the years passed in the '70s and '80's, I was repeatedly asked by non-soccer friends when the USA would be able to compete with the rest of the world. My answer then was very simple, "When young athletes living in the inner-city neighborhoods of this country can expect to earn a salary equal to gridiron football, basketball and baseball players, soccer will attract the top athletes and the USA will be competitive." I believe that my answer is still true today. Most of what I read from those who regularly contribute to these blogs is true. The millions of youngsters playing soccer in this country are coming from afluent suburbs. Their life style does not contribute to their development. Our society has made these young people weak and soft. Somehow, we must bring soccer to the neighborhoods of this country where young people are hungry to improve their position in our society, i.e., those young athletes with the desire to get out of the 'hood and improve their lives. Sadly, I fear that I will never see this happen.

  1. cony konstin
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 1:44 p.m.
    Newman w stemple I can give you some examples that it is happening. Houstonians in Houston Texas, Fugees soccer program in the state of Georgia, a charter school that use soccer as their overall theme of their school program in Chicago. It is happening but just not as quick as we would wish it to. That is why it is important for you and others to share your ideas and input so sooner than later we can have radical change towards American Soccer.

  1. john haley
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 1:55 p.m.
    To the poster on Nowitzki, he is one player. The US can produce 100's of players at his level, Germany cannot. If you took the top 30 Wide Receivers, running backs, and defensive backs from the NFL, they would run circles around a lot of world class soccer talent on speed and athleticism. Convert a Chris Johnson to soccer and he not only would blow by any defender in soccer 4.24 40 yd, he would out leap most 36 inch vertical, and at 5'11 and 200lbs, he would be a problem anywhere around the box. Also, having taken second in the 100 meter in florida (fastest sprinters in the nation) he could cover the field end to end in 10 seconds. This is just one of many. Reggie Bush has a 48 inch vertical (you would be looking at the bottom of his cleats while he heads the ball into the net. Dwight Howard at 6'11 and 270lbs has a 40 inch vertical. That means when he can jump and pick a quarter off the top of the backboard, he would have his waste even with the cross bar of a goal at full vetical. Ever seen any goalie with those hops? His hands are twice the size of Tim Howards. Messi is 5'7 and about 155lbs. Chris would not only throw dirt in his face as he blew by him, he would knock him flat playing hip to hip. Randy Moss or Terrel Owens spend their life out thinking, out playing corner backs that run like lightning. They could handle any defender in the world at speed, and blow by more than half of them. I am working on grants to help me coach in low income areas, there are loads of athletes that end up in basketball, football, track, etc. and have never seen a soccer ball. They cannot afford the thousands of dollars my club and others charge.

  1. Luis Villanueva
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 2:19 p.m.
    Comparing the development of soccer players in US v. Europe - is like comparing the NBA v. the european baskeball leagues. Other teams are noticing the US and preparing for it. JK needs time to put the squad together. He has not have all the players in one game. I will like to see Holden, Bradley, Diskerud, Bedoya, Jones, Daniel Williams and Fabian Johnson with the regulars. Robbie, Juan and Break need to find an European team to keep developing. MLS can only do so much for them.

  1. Gak Foodsource
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 2:33 p.m.
    We were 4 years too late in hiring Klinsmann, as Walt mentioned. We were at least 6 years too late in abandoning the failed IMG/ODP model for development ( I would argue this model is still very much in place...) And as Cony mentions, we need MLS teams to develop players and train talented players. how many years away are we from eliminating single-entity and allowing them to sign all their players instead of drafting some of them? Sure, we can be happy with the positive direction of US soccer. But everyday we wait, we are denying a young kid the chance to succeed. Gulati and the old guard have been late in every important decision for the past 9 years. Simply unacceptable.

  1. Gak Foodsource
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 2:59 p.m.
    Superman, you and I have had this argument before. While I respect your view, I still think your standards are too low.

  1. cony konstin
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 3:06 p.m.
    You are right Super Man we need to be patient but we need not to let up on the banging of the drum for change. In hindsight yes Gak we should be ahead of the game but we live in a big country and soccer is still look upon as a hobby in our Americana culture. There is no doubt that US Soccer needs to get more involved into inner city soccer but it must be a partnership between the MLS, US Soccer, PAL, ISD, local gov't and local businesses. Everything with time. And we will have a soccer revolution that will take our nation to the next level.

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 3:13 p.m.
    Cony, whats the name of the school you speak of in Chicago?

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 3:26 p.m.
    John, soccer is not like other sports. You need to have skill with your feet first and then speed and strength can complement your game. Basketball is the other way around in most cases. Look at Shaq who can't shoot a free throw. You need amazing skill with your feet to fake or shoot at full speed. The athletes you speak of are black athletes and they already exist. They come from Africa. Drogba is one. While they athletically gifted they do not always dominate in soccer. The most skilled do. That is why non of the athletes tu speak would do anything vs Messi. Soccer is played on the ground. Height is great but not necessary to be great in soccer. English have the biggest and fastest teams but Barcelona beats all because they are the most skilled and also not too tall. Can you give me 5 names in USA that are as skilled as Nowitzki with his height?? Please don't say Howard. Nowitzki is 7ft and can shoot from anywhere. I agree that the better players will come from the poor neighborhoods. What you fail to mention though is that they already do. They're called Barrios ese.

  1. cony konstin
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 3:28 p.m.
    Luis Arreola-- I believe it is called United Neighborhood Organization. It is a charter school in Chicago. Their theme is soccer.

  1. Walt Pericciuoli
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 3:55 p.m.
    Super Man and cony, you are correct. The USA did not qualify for a WC from 1950 to 1990. Now 21 years later, are we, going forward or backward? What I am saying is that despite the explosion of interest, money, training programs etc, we still must sweat out qualifying from CONCACAF region at every age level. During that same time, other countries around the world have completely rebuilt whole National teams and have developed countless world class players.We still are not getting it right.I can be patient if I think we are heading in the right direction.I thought we were, up until the WC of 2006. We have been going backward since then in my opinion. I hope JK can right the ship, but he has a large task on his hands.

  1. cony konstin
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 4:05 p.m.
    Walt Jk is not going to be able to do this by himself that is why he has put together a staff that will help him just like Bradley had his staff to assist him. The bigger picture will have be taken care of by many groups and especially US Soccer and the MLS. There is no doubt that a MASTER PLAN must be created but it must be create by many influences. Without an open agenda soccer will stay stale. That is why Socccer America so important. Because it gives us a place to have a voice that can be heard. The most powerfull people in soccer read Soccer America. They heard many of us how we wanted a changing of the guard. All of you out there keep your little fingers and minds working.

  1. Walt Pericciuoli
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 4:06 p.m.
    Luis, I agree. soccer is not a sport to be compared to basketball or football. Baseball is the closest American sport to compare. In baseball it's about individual skill not size or speed.(interesting that so may Latinos play baseball isn't it)I think in the USA we need to look everywhere for players.

  1. Walt Pericciuoli
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 4:11 p.m.
    Cony, I'm willing to put my 2 cents worth in.

  1. mark rl
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 5:01 p.m.
    Easily the worst article I have ever read. I can only imagine that the author is some out-of-shape wanna-be European, talking s..t from the safety of his keyboard. He obviously doesn't even have the balls to use a real name; like we are supposed to believe anyone has a name as ridiculous as "Quisquater". What a joke. If I ever see this author on the street, i'll smack him.

  1. mark rl
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 5:13 p.m.
    All jokes aside, this article is dead-on. The talent development system in the US can't compare to that in Belgium for one simple reason: we don't have a talent development system. Sure, we have a few programs for a very small number of players, but nothing on a large-scale that attempts to identify promising athletes at a young age and give them the type of technical training from a young age that is required to ever be a world-class soccer player. The comparison between Hazard and Altidore is the most striking; as physical specimens and, there is no compairson, Altidore is a far superior athlete. However, watching Altidore play, even from a young age, it was clearly obvious he didn't have the techincal skills needed at the top level and it is far too late, even at 18 or 19 to obtain them....good article

  1. cony konstin
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 5:53 p.m.
    I highly recommend this book. The Talent Code. Especially when the author speaks about hotbeds of talent. Super Man you are right that there is a need for things to happen organically but I believe we need a road map, foundation, bedrock, some type of vision or guide to help us towards the right direction and to have us grow organically as well.

  1. Hilmy Rajab
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 5:54 p.m.
    The USSF needs a President that has played football at high level or at least was involved in development from bottom to up. Gulati isn't cutting it and his expertise is more towards the financial side of it rather than technical. It's a shame that the fate of US football is in the hands of a person who is inept. He has wasted plenty of time, talent and it's time for him to GO!

  1. Raffy Afarian
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 6:16 p.m.
    I'll say it again, Cruyff got it done in Spain and I'm sure he can get it done here since he's even more experienced now. His system of Total Football works and we should at least take a look at it. Like Churchill said, "However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results." There should be no pride of authorship here. We don't have to come up with our own system just for the sake of it being our own system. We've tried that with limited success. Now it's time to look and see what has worked and adopt it and put a USA twist on it to make it our own.

  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 8:23 p.m.
    Soccernomics believes that Belgium is over-achieving, and the US is under-achieving, based on wealth, population and spare time. Eventually we will perform better, but perhaps in spite of ourselves. Mark, we do have a talent development system, but it is based on getting our underskilled/studious middle class into college, not turning out pros. I think there are oceans of talented hispanics, aged 12-18, in the US that could play professionally but are just now getting looked at. It would be ironic if 2nd generation hispanics find more opportunity in Mexico than here, but suspect that will be the case until the MLS has twice as many teams all paying double what they pay now. Same goes for refereeing. If US Soccer is really vested in developing top referees, there would be a more clear path and better wages, to ensure that there isn't another WC without American refs and that MLS referees are some of the world's best.

  1. Brian Racer
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 8:33 p.m.
    Luis, I love your perspective on this feedback. I like the "no excuses" approach, but there are some other things to think about. First, I'm not sure how all the next wave of talent is going to come out of the urban areas. Soccer takes a fair amount of green space which is increasingly gobbled up for tax revenue purposes in the cities. This is why there is a minimal amount of great urban talent making it in Major League Baseball. Second, we are doing a terrible job as a nation in creating athletes period. Phys ed classes are getting cut for budget concerns. And as others said, it's parents giving handheld video games instead of balls and mini-goals and locking the kids outside to play the way my mom did. (Not that I wanted inside. There was no AC or big screen.) It used to be that a physically fit nation was looked at as crucial to national defense. We are lacking leadership on all levels of society. Take heart, as the athletic director for a rec. soccer program in Baltimore, we took the step to begin implementing Reyna's curriculum. I'll let you know how we're doing in 10 years. It will take that long.

  1. Paul Bryant
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 8:54 p.m.
    Luis A. your are comparing apples to oranges when you state that Brazil is catching up to the US in basketball, so why isn't US soccer catching up to the rest of the world? International basketball rules differ greatly from that of the US. I would like to see the Brazil National team play the Dallas Mavericks in an NBA game under NBA rules. Can you say "blow-out." But I digress. Our kids don't play enough soccer, organized or not. Also, if you are decent player, you have to go far and wide to find good competition. I'll repeat this until I'm blue in the face, high school soccer is where soccer dreams go to die. College soccer retards soccer ambitions with their debilitating off-season rules.

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 9:26 p.m.
    Paul, I agree with you on H.S. and College soccer. Academies are what they are because they offer "better opportunities " which is alie. So you have all the top tallent stacked in a few clubsmostly as role players and followers instead of spread out on many teams as neighborhood stars and leaders at U8-U14. Failed System. I did not only mention Brazil. You also have Argentina, Germany, Spain, Etc. You also have very semana countries that are extremely competitive at several sports but are known more for soccer like Croatia who has a very basketball team, Italy and little mini Panama. All of these soccer great countries are getting more and more players in the NBA and catching up in world play. So if they can catch up at this space and are that many countries why can't USA catch up in soccer. I fail to see why it's apples and oranges. Basketball rules are not that different. I played both rules. H.S. and college have different rules than NBA as well. ???

  1. James Froehlich
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 10:49 p.m.
    R2 Dad --- totally agree. Everyone complains about our young players not playing on their own, but the one group of kids whose culture and environment encourages unorganized play is systematically excluded from there selection process -- Hispanics. More American parents need to spend time passing the ball back and forth with their kids, just like they play catch. Way too much emphasis on building full size nets in the back yard!

  1. Guy Berg
    commented on: September 8, 2011 at 11:01 p.m.
    It is true that many of the best athletes go to the other sports. However,there are still many very good athletes in soccer and I believe that there is no question that the youth development program in the U.S. is the primary problem. First I have never seen a more poorly coached sport. There is very little quality instruction by position. I have almost never seen youth coaches teach kids about specific technics at different position and for different situations. It is as if they expect kids to automatically soccer-wise and understand the various positions without position specific coaching. Maybe they need american football coaches to teach them how to "teach" kids. Second, the concept of super teams is destroying the sport. At a young age kids are locked into specific positions and the best players are pooled into super teams often times leaving clubs with too few players to field a competitive team. This hurts the development late bloomers and basically puts kids on the either a super team or an early exit out of soccer by the time they are in seventh grade. Then there are too many clubs competing for too few coaches. Finally, there seems to be an assumption that good players make good coaches. Teaching a sport is an art and it requires a lot of individual attention. A good player does not make a good coach a lot of the time. Add on to all the above that only wealthy families can afford to send their kids to ODP and all the development camps and finally the tryout assessment process has no consistency and does an extremely poor job of identifying and assessing good defenders. A fast striker that gets beat out gets put on defense often times. No wonder the U S teams often struggle on defense.

  1. Al Gebra
    commented on: September 9, 2011 at 6:08 p.m.
    Amos Amman: Re your comment that "In the US, all the talent goes to Football, Baseball & Basketball." is so much baloney. The talent, mental approach and physical makeup of basketball and football players is so different than that of a soccer player. Re baseball, have you seen how baseball players are now fatter than cops (donuts in the dugout??). The athletic requirements and output of a baseball player is not what your typical soccer player is seeking. Both my sons excelled in all the sports to include tennis (the closest comparison to soccer in terms of athletic and mental endeavor). BTW, when my family and I lived in Mexico, it was interesting to note how many Mexicans played pick-up basketball and baseball games, just like here. Many were also into tennis, cycling, golf, fronton, you name it. Amos, you need to get your head out of the sand and quit making hasty generalizations as people like, say, Rush Limbaugh always does ("America doesn't like this or that blah blah blah..." that is, his America)

  1. Andrew Shane
    commented on: September 9, 2011 at 6:11 p.m.
    The European countries raise their kids on football, or soccer. Here, kids are playing American football, baseball, basketball, soccer, lacrosse, etc. and eventually if they are good enough, choose one or two to excel at. High school's across the country and their districts, put money into the sports that create revenue; football, basketball, and baseball. Soccer is unfortunately seen by many as played by two groups, white and privileged, or latino and poor. The latter group gets no attention and no funding, and the other gets put on the back burner to other major sports. In Belgium they are surrounded by european football from a young age, and people devote time and energy to the club teams that their families have supported for ages. Belgium has other individual sports such as cycling or tennis, but soccer is life for most young, athletic males. If Belgium had the other major sports that we have would they be able to focus all the funding and effort towards the programs they have in place? Also, a major fan of Lukaku here. I hope he shines, which he will.

  1. Al Gebra
    commented on: September 9, 2011 at 6:21 p.m.
    John Haley: My comments to Amos also apply to your ridiculous comments on the non-soccer athletes in the US versus guys like Messi. I sure hope you don't get that grant to coach in low-income areas...or any income area...God save our kids

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: September 9, 2011 at 10:32 p.m.
    Messi would have never developed in the USA had he grown up here. He is short and had a growth defect. Who would have invested in him? Not your typical USA Athlete just ask some of the people here who think the Lebrons and Vicks would be the top soccer players in the world had they picked soccer. Unfortunately there are too many people that are this soccer ignorant .

  1. Ron kruse
    commented on: September 10, 2011 at 3:35 a.m.
    All I know is that comp soccer is super expensive especially in Alaska! And I always hear about super good players that get left behind because they could not afford to play! Kids just need to have fun and play soccer and people need to stop worrying about who is going to be the next "Messi" from were ever. How much does it cost to play a year of comp, or i guess they call it club, soccer in other countries? Do parents pay? Just curious.

  1. Rudy Cargnel
    commented on: October 21, 2011 at 12:54 a.m.
    I believe we have the talent now ! I really believe a contributing factor is the politics involved in the sport. I have seen it too often playing soccer in southern california. Call it what you want but many talented players just don't make it because they don't know the right people or don't have daddy/mommy putting pressure on the coaching staff etc. etc. etc. Now I hear how expensive it's getting to play compared to the 80's/90's. Very Corrupt System == Bad Results !. Half the players on the national squad don't belong there. :-)


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