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Does American soccer really only work for white kids?
by Mike Woitalla, June 7th, 2016 8:09PM
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TAGS:  development academy, youth, youth boys, youth girls, youth soccer

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By Mike Woitalla

Les Carpenter's article for the London-based Guardian on American youth soccer is headlined: ‘It’s only working for the white kids’: American soccer's diversity problem -- and it has gotten enough attention that it’s worth scrutinizing.

A decade ago when I researched the high cost of American youth soccer I aimed to explain one of the reasons why players from the Latino community, whose median income is lower than the average U.S. household income, were absurdly under-represented at the elite levels of American soccer. Especially considering the popularity of soccer in the Latino culture.

I started looking at the figures. What youth clubs charged per year, how much coaches got paid, what uniforms cost. How the best players were rewarded for their talent by being invited to even more expensive programs, including the “identification” events for colleges and the national team program.

If American basketball were run like youth (and college soccer), shutting out lower-income kids, I concluded, the USA wouldn’t be very good at hoops.

But I also saw that regardless of ethnicity, and even if your household didn’t qualify as “lower income,” it was very expensive for children to play soccer in the USA.

A decade later, youth soccer remains too expensive, but there has been a significant amount of progress in addressing the “diversity problem.” Some of which should have been hard to ignore for Carpenter, who last November wrote a Guardian article about the FC Dallas youth program. FC Dallas won the 2015 U.S. Soccer Development Academy U-16 national title with a team whose was roster was more than 50 percent Latino.

In fact, the U.S. Soccer Development Academy has vastly increased the opportunities for lower-income players to climb the ladder and has made elite youth soccer more diverse. While MLS clubs subsidize their academy programs so players don’t have to pay, U.S. Soccer’s financial aid program has paid out nearly $2 million in DA scholarship funds since 2008. U.S. Soccer’s nationwide network of Training Centers to identify players with youth national team potential are cost-free. Latinos comprised a third of the DA’s 66 all-conference selections for 2015-16 season and are well represented on DA clubs in areas with significant Hispanic communities.

Moreover, 13 percent of the Development Academy players are immigrants, born in more than 100 different nations, nearly 40 percent from Latin American countries.

It should be noted that reporters usually don’t write their own headlines, and “It’s only working for the white kids” came from a quote by Doug Andreassen, the chairman of U.S. Soccer’s diversity task force. I do agree, of course, that there is much work to be done to make youth soccer more inclusive. But various youth associations, a myriad non-profit programs, and the clubs, have been for quite a while working to address the pay-to-play problem.

Some of the solutions are unsatisfactory. The wealthier parents subsidizing the poorer kids, which works only until their own kids are on the bench. Clubs’ girls programs subsidizing the boys programs -- because you can win without lower-income girls but not without lower-income boys.

Some of the costs can be cut, such as unnecessary travel encouraged by the tournament industry. But the size of our country means that even when there are legitimate reasons to travel, it will be expensive.

And much of the cost problem isn’t the fault of the soccer community, but of U.S. society. Our fields are not free. I have been interviewed by foreign journalists on American pay-to-play youth soccer and gave an example of how a club had to spend $80,000 to make a public park’s grass playable, and how another had to raise $1 million for an artificial turf field. They were astounded that parents in the USA had to pay for the park where their kids play soccer.

In the USA, pretty much all our children’s activities turn into big business. In March, the Boston Globe reported that private tutoring and test preparation is a $12 billion industry. Last Sunday’s New York Times had an article headlined, “The Families That Can’t Afford Summer,” about how expensive summer camps and childcare has become.

We don’t have in American youth soccer a magic wand that could solve the pay-to-pay problem. And Carpenter’s extensive reporting -- he interviews such grassroots heroes Nick Lusson and Julio Borge, U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati, U.S. Soccer Foundation CEO Ed Foster-Simeon -- helps keep the light shining on an extremely important issue.

But the headline is not an accurate description of American youth soccer today. And Carpenter’s finale -- “Is anybody listening? Does anybody care?” -- will puzzle a large part of the U.S. soccer community that has been working very hard for a long time to improve U.S. youth soccer.



60 comments
  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: June 8, 2016 at 12:48 a.m.
    This may sound counter-intuitive to the vast majority of the populous who are oblivious about economic matters, but everything has become expensive because our city/state/federal governments are all broke and we keep pretending otherwise. We used to be able to raise taxes to pay down debts, but no one trusts politicians (and rightly so) to not spend it on whatever immediate itch they need to scratch. So our governments cover less and less, and families have to pay more and more.
  1. Wooden Ships
    commented on: June 8, 2016 at 11:34 a.m.
    R2, I agree the govt. needs to be more like families and live within their means. Our elected officials have to be held more accountable and I guess that's through the vote and significant consequences for violating our trust. But, we have more and more people asking for free stuff from the government. There was a poll out last week, for goodness sakes, if memory serves, that young people aged 18 to 24 or 26 preferred socialism over capitalism. We've got bigger problems than soccer unfortunately.
  1. cony konstin
    commented on: June 8, 2016 at 11:05 a.m.
    Bottomline our govt spends more money on our military than 20 of the richest counties in the world combine. Sick Sick Sick. If there was lobbyist who could pay off our corrupted politicians to spend our taxes on developing sports, music and art programs then we would not be discussing that soccer in the U.S. is for white kids but for all the kids. Soccer and our country needs radical change, a new vision, courageous leadership, and a 21st century master plan. But first we must have a cause. Kids first. Kids number one priority. Kids Kids Kids kids... When we start thinking and doing the righteous thing for kids then everything will fall in place. REVOLUTION!!!!!!
  1. Wooden Ships
    commented on: June 8, 2016 at 11:25 a.m.
    Cony, I respect your view but not your notion of Utopianism. Is their waste in the military, of course, as in all buerocratic organizations, we aren't talking private sector-for profit companies where production and performance take on a whole different meaning. While there have been and always will be shortcomings in meeting the needs of everyone, the soccer identification quandary is largely one of style of play and what attributes are considered noteworthy. We have for a long time had technical, creative players that just haven't been chosen. To me, that has been the shortcoming with our national teams. It's hard to quibble with the success of the women, but even for them its been more about athleticism and desire. A "Master Plan"? Whose going to be Master?
  1. Kent James
    commented on: June 8, 2016 at 1:06 p.m.
    Cony, I think we only spend as much as the next 7 countries combined (but 5 of those are our allies, so your point is well taken; it's about priorities). Wooden, a lot of the defense budget goes towards private, for profit defense contractors (leading to self-perpetuating military industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us about). But this validates Mike's citing field costs as one of the reasons soccer is expensive. Even in the US, some clubs can use public fields at little or no cost, while some cannot. I would suggest that using government resources to promote participation in sports is a wise use of tax dollars in the long run.
  1. Chance Hall
    commented on: June 8, 2016 at 11:32 a.m.
    Glad that the "stats" show the changes in youth soccer in the US. However, using "shock" headlines doesn't help anyone. Pls leave the "shock" for the radio stations and DJs that think that's the only way someone will listen. How about something that might actually help? Maybe "Kids First!" You only need to look at the US national girls and boys teams to see how much things have changed. Granted, youth soccer is too expensive. Not sure how to change that. Maybe volunteer hour credit for playing soccer would help? BTW, the only reason this country still enjoys our freedom is because of the military. Don't ever forget that. :)
  1. Wooden Ships
    commented on: June 8, 2016 at 11:36 a.m.
    Roger that Sidney. Thank you.
  1. P R
    commented on: June 8, 2016 at 12:20 p.m.
    Sadly, the entire media and the entire political system are based around "shock", and it's used because it works. People respond much more greatly to statements that evoke emotional responses than they respond to statements that evoke thoughtful responses. In general, people don't seem to want to hear intellectual arguments about subjects that are complicated or controversial, they want to be told who to blame, meaning who to blame other than themselves, along with be told things that support the beliefs they already hold. Shocking, tabloid style exaggerated headlines are what the people want, so that's what is given.
  1. Claus Fischer
    commented on: June 8, 2016 at 12:55 p.m.
    I agree, gentlemen. We enjoy this freetime to engage in our myriad of U.S. hobbies ranging from gardening (for fun, not necessarily for food) to scuba diving to snow skiing to bowling and playing recreational soccer. Or being the parent or grandparent helping shuttle around the younger ones to these various activities and cheer them on. Most societies in the world are still not like this. Remember this (all of us - me included) when one watches the sizes of the teams as they march into a IOC Summer Olympics stadium at the opening ceremonies. India has a massive sized population in the world. Yet where is their youth at these international sports games? It is even worse for Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Nigeria. All now top 10 nations in terms of national populations. The Philippines? (now 12th on the list of most populated nations in the world). So if one wants to talk about young, disenfranchised potential athletes? (I am not sure that the USA is the place for a Brit reporter to be focused or doing his Manchester Guardian study.) So much of the credit for the U.S.'s good standing is squarely due to our forefathers who sacrificed and worked tirelessly. It is also due to relatively safer communities where team practices and league games at all levels can take place in relative calm, without break-ins and thefts to our cars while we watch or vandalism when these sports facilities are not used. Visit Buenos Aires someday to see how it compares. Or Sao Paolo, Rio, or even many parts of Rome. For that matter, a place like Bordeux, France. We are blessed to even have the luxury of time to opine about increasing various ethnic group participations in cities and towns. Much of the world is merely focused on staying alive and afloat for the next week or month. Their horizons don't look much further than that. So a basketball court with actual hoops? Or a public semi turf field for soccer? Didn't South Africa's World Cup 2010 wake up the eyes of many North Americans? So thanks to all the good military and law enforcement past and present who faithfully watch our backs, we can engage in leagues, coaching, cheering and handing out those halftime drinks and sliced oranges. We can do it in relative peace, calm and enjoyment during the weekdays and on Saturdays. (Let's all do our parts to try to keep it that way, eh?) Thank you, Sidney and Wooden Ships.
  1. P R
    commented on: June 9, 2016 at 8:38 a.m.
    Claus, what in the world are you rambling on about? First off, while it did originate from the Manchester Guardian newspaper, the article was likely not in that newspaper - the company has a US based online site with many US based reporters, with content written for a US audience. And what does the plight of children in other countries have to do with anything in that article? Are you saying that because, on the whole, children in the US have it better than children in many other countries, people simply shouldn't worry about children in the US? I'm not defending the article, but speaking in general, if we're going to look at how children are being served by US Soccer, or how children are doing related to anything this country, the bar shouldn't be 'if they're doing better than children in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nigeria, etc, then everything is just fine' - that's just ludicrous. If you want to criticize points in the article, please do, but what you're talking about is completely unrelated to the subject of article.
  1. Claus Fischer
    commented on: June 8, 2016 at 12:29 p.m.
    Whenever I see such articles I am scratching my head. Here is what bounces in my thinking: Do we just measure success by a child/teen/young adult on an approved (US Soccer's list of alphabet soup leagues/federations - see Soccer America youth article posted on this website two weeks ago) list of teams? Is the definition of "success" so narrow that it requires being on a vaunted roster? I know I can be too wordy. So I shall try to keep this brief. Success for a good 15 or 16 year old might very well be the pickup soccer he engages in twice per week on average during the school year and maybe up to four or five times per week during the summer months. Is he on a traveling team with a cadre of Moms & Dads driving shiny nice SUVs and Minvans? No. (He might very well be enjoying the game far more NOT being part of that organized caravan.) I see lots of youth and teens who play pickup. Now, maybe they are part of leagues somewhere. But I see them playing and sometimes (but not always) playing at relatively to high levels for what I perceive to be their ages. Open fields where the gates are never closed or they simply scale the fences to get in. High school turf, baseball/softball outfields in public parks. The cut grass lawns on parts of university campuses. The venues vary. What does not vary? The ethnicities. When I go out to watch them, I am usually the only one born in North America on the field in their presence - Yes, I talk with them and learn a little bit about them. English is not the lingua franca spoken in these pickup matches. Yes, the skin colors are a myriad of hues. Are they playing the game? Yes, they are. Do they have the neon glow-in-the dark Nike, Adidas, Ascics, and UnderArmor boots on? Yes, they do. Are they wearing Arsenal, Real, Barca, Juve, Chelsea, and PSG shirts? Yes, they are. Are they enjoying themselves? Yes, they are. Are they at least as good as the more pampered SUV-shuttled kids who are in the traveling club teams? Yes, they are. As teens, most of them make their respective high school teams if they try out and show the discipline necessary to please the coaches and keep academically eligible. I am talking about children from Turkey, Albania, many parts of former Yugoslavia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Nigeria, Ghana, Yemen, Thailand, Vietnam, Colombia, Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico. I could keep on going with more nations if you wish. So I am a bit baffled when I hear these summations that tell us only white kids play in the USA (and Canada). That's pure malarkey. Now, if the various national U-programs aren't scarfing them up, well that probably has a lot to do with very lazy-minded scouting. There is no substitute for the time and effort that one must invest to scout/vet a prospective player. These teens then graduate up to the adult leagues where they are running up and down public park pitches with men aged in the lower and mid 30's. Ethnicities present on those Sunday afternoon fields? All of the above.
  1. K Michael
    commented on: June 8, 2016 at 12:40 p.m.
    Talent is found, eventually. The pictures of our various U-national team pools bear this out; a lot of white faces, but plenty of other hues as well. With a different leadership team at the helm of US Soccer, I am positive more sponsorship dollars can be obtained and filtered down to the unaffiliated DA clubs. Make the Solidarity Pay System a fixture in US Club Soccer and the smaller clubs will be far more eager to "share" their talented diamonds-in-the-rough. As soccer grows, so will the money. We ARE moving in the right direction.
  1. K Michael
    commented on: June 8, 2016 at 12:47 p.m.
    ...on a related note, lets please stop with this agrarian mythology that only bare-footed impoverished ragamuffins become great soccer players. They come from all walks of life, all cultures; it is this tapestry that makes footie the compelling sport that it is. There is one highly correlative element in a young talented footballer's potential - an involved parent; most of the great ones had an advocate that pushed them forward, made sure they were "seen" so to speak, and especially sacrificed blood, sweat, tears, and money to get the kid where he needed to be.
  1. Fire Paul Gardner Now
    commented on: June 9, 2016 at 12:41 p.m.
    Excellent comment.
  1. Nate Nelson
    commented on: June 8, 2016 at 12:56 p.m.
    " U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati, U.S. Soccer Foundation CEO Ed Foster-Simeon -- helps keep the light shining on an extremely important issue: both of these men are POLITICIANS. Ever look at how much the US Soccer foundation gives out annually and compare it to Foster-Simeon & staff's annual salaries? GULATI..come on..US Soccer hires a major gift solicitor? isn't that what the US Soccer foundation is supposed to do. The cozy deal with the USSF, MLS and SUM..who really benefits?
  1. Kent James
    commented on: June 8, 2016 at 1:20 p.m.
    This article highlights a lot of the problems (as well as the progress) in youth soccer today. But it is important to remember that youth soccer does not have just one goal (to produce professionals/national team players). I think the best route to producing quality players in quantity, is to encourage as many people as possible to play as long as possible, with an equal opportunity to advance based on merit (not wealth). The best way to do this is to avoid the narrowing of the pool at the young ages (by eliminating high stakes competition that requires travel). U10 and below should be small-sided, rec soccer a few days a week with no travel, using volunteer coaches. But professional coaches should provide guidance to those volunteers and conduct weekly skill clinics for all who are interested. U10-U14 should start the competitive phase, but still limit travel as much as possible. Above U14 things can start to get more intense. And equally important, pick-up games should be a constant (Cony, I'm looking at you and your futsal courts to play a major role here...).
  1. K Michael
    commented on: June 8, 2016 at 1:23 p.m.
    My word, the article is a so-typical Guardian bromide of socialist talking points; I mean it had all the usual asides: on healthcare for the poor, on the poor illegal alien whose daughter couldn't play for fear of deportation; on the racial profiling traffic stop. Plus, the outrage that the US had the temerity to win the World Cup with all those white girls!! Oh, the humanity! Yes, we have a pay-to-play problem in this country; yes, places like San Fran are perfect examples of this rich/poor dichotomy; uber-progressive cities like San Fran are designed to exclude anyone who isn't high six-figures, not just the poor on the East Bay. That's what makes them "progressive." Talk about cherry picking - the Guardian never ceases to amaze me in this regard.
  1. Scott Johnson
    commented on: June 8, 2016 at 1:43 p.m.
    So how do things work in, say, Europe? Do youth clubs generally own their own facilities? Are there large numbers of taxpayer-funded, high-quality fields available for free (or low cost) to clubs? A big problem here in Orygun is field access--there aren't enough fields to play on, especially if you're taking about 9v9 or 7v7 fields. Especially in the spring, when many grass fields are still recovering from the winter rains; and there is competition from baseball and lacrosse. But keeping a grass field in good shape is expensive. Maybe classic soccer should be more like rec, which tends to put up with whatever mudholes it can find--there may well be training advantages to kids playing a lot on substandard pitches.
  1. Claus Fischer
    commented on: June 8, 2016 at 1:46 p.m.
    Remember that journalism is not so unbiased. The Guardian? It means the "Manchester Guardian." Hardly a friend of honest reporting or of the USA over now the three decades that I have known this publication. I am sure if we could post current, up-to-date photographs of the various U15 on up squads for both boys and girls across the land, there would be all sorts of skin hues represented and a smorgasbord of last names. (Does Christian Pulisic count as too white? Zardes? Green? Wood? Brooks? Yedlin? GK Bill Hamid? Greg Garza? Fatai Alashi? Juan Agudelo? Kellyn Acosta? I guess defender Matt Miazga is too white. Those with E. Europe or Polish family roots probably don't count?) I agree with K. Michael's comments above. Germany's recent World Cup 2014 winners bear this out. Most of the players in that squad (and those now in the Germany Euro 2016 squad) come from squarely middle class families where parents did what was necessary to give their sons all the open possibilities that their skills allowed. K. Michael is correct. No child advances in life, school or certainly in sport without loving, caring older siblings, adults, a parent or both (hopefully), uncles, aunts, grandparents, and the unseen, underappreciated coaches/teachers long before that child ever sees his or her 16th or 17th birthdays. There's a lot of sacrifice and love in there over the months and years. Also this: There are just as many kids who turn their backs on all of this. We all know the ones who could have achieved on the sports fields, in the classrooms, and in vocational-tech programs - but chose not to. It can be drugs. Laziness. Lack of discipline. Videogaming or alcohol addictions. Troubles with the law. Gang involvement. Getting a driving license at 16 and then losing it just about as fast. Usually it is a combination of some of the above. Does a Manchester Guardian reporter examine these factors as well before reaching his headline conclusions?
  1. ROBERT BOND
    commented on: June 8, 2016 at 2:06 p.m.
    academically unqualified soccer players don't get pampered in college the way football & basketball players do.......
  1. Scott Johnson
    commented on: June 8, 2016 at 2:16 p.m.
    The "pampering", while offensive to the concept of a student-athlete, is in some sense necessary and unfortunate: Why, after all, do you need a college education to throw a football or shoot a basketball? In baseball, soccer, hockey; the best routes to the pros don't involve pretending to be a student for a year or two--so poor academics isn't a barrier to entry into these sports.
  1. ROBERT BOND
    commented on: June 8, 2016 at 2:49 p.m.
    would help academically challenged Hispanics if there was enough $$$ in soccer, like CFB/CBK that colleges would pimp for e$pn for the soccer players too.....
  1. BD Kern
    commented on: June 8, 2016 at 2:23 p.m.
    Unless soccer becomes a "school" sport, it will never be "free". All other major American sports have allowed any kid to try out and play, no matter what their economic status, facilitated through schools. In America, you get your first chance to play soccer at a younger age than many other sports ('cause any kid can kick a ball but they can't all throw yet), but you're "paying to play" at your local soccer association, through the local rec center, or the YMCA, albeit a fairly reasonable amount. That doesn't feed into the local Jr. High or High School, and if they do, the coaches are typically poorly qualified. The best football, basketball, and baseball coaches ARE found in the high schools and some move on to college from there. Not so with college soccer coaches (yet). The kids who find out they love soccer only find better play in the select leagues and the price just continues to go up. Anecdotally, the HS coaches lament losing kids to the select baseball and basketball teams now, but that's where they often get the best competition and exposure if they are trying to go on to college. I don't see those same coaches (or ADs) rushing to hire "qualified" soccer coaches for their schools; and they won't until it becomes a money-maker. My son is in the Development Academy and it has led to a college offer that might actually off-set all the past cost of select soccer, but it is NOT free in the DA for all the teams, even now. The biggest ones, particularly the MLS teams, have resources the smaller ones don't. The reason FC Dallas, and other MLS teams have more diversity is they have the resources to seek out those kids that didn't come up through the expensive club system. Ironically, FCD typically has kids from out of region (or even country), so they are NOT growing much local talent. They are looking for the next professional. Most of the non-MLS DA teams are trying to get kids college scholarships and for the most part, it's working - thankfully for us... The next question is how well is "competition" between USSF's DA and girl's DA and US Club Soccer's ECNL/EPNL going to help develop the game in America. I'm glad we'll be out before all that heats up too much. It doesn't seem to fix the problem the article is addressing.
  1. Ric Fonseca
    commented on: June 9, 2016 at 2:50 p.m.
    BD, I am puzzled by your statement that kids can play soccer at their schools. First, yes they do and can, however, it is even more sophomorish to take this stand. Historically, schools used to avoind giving kids a soccer ball or even the AD's and football coaches would cringe at the thought of letting a bunch of kids use their fields. For example, soccer is usually played in some LA county schools - those not affiliated to the LA Unified SD - play AFTER the football season is over, in other words after Thanksgiving and through the winter months, a policy that what are called CIF (Calif Interscholastic Federation, SoCal) firmly adhered to so that the "vaunted" scholl football teams have unfettered use of the field, I know because my son's former high school only have one field, while their baseball program recently received a million dollar donation to enhance their baseball field and program. And about sports being "free", just recently the LAUSD passed directed all schools to provide uniforms and equipment to the scholastic sports teams - as in the past the kids had to shell out lots of bucks so they could buy the uniforms and even provide funds for transportation. And what is this with some HS soccer coaches laments when they lose soccer kids to football and baseball? I could go on and on, as these comments have a wont to do, and know what, this topic will NEVER go away, so for the time being how about if we just say, PLAY ON!!!
  1. John Hofmann
    commented on: June 8, 2016 at 3:20 p.m.
    I'm fascinated by all these comments. Mike W. cites examples of $80,000 needed to upgrade a field, and $1M needed to provide 'turf'. And yet, over the years in columns and responses to columns about the reasons for U.S. failure to gain top-level soccer status, so much is made of the fact that in other countries across the world kids are playing on dirt, with 'rag balls' tied together with string, etc., etc., which takes no money because there isn't any. I guess that reflects the fact that soccer is truly loved and ingrained in the very existence of kids elsewhere, and not in most of the U.S.?
  1. Scott Johnson
    commented on: June 8, 2016 at 3:52 p.m.
    Well, when you get organized, competitive games, and club fees in the thousands--people start to whine, a lot, if conditions are substandard. (And even with the budgets of pay-to-play, conditions frequently are substandard, and parents do whine). "It's unfair!", they will say--even though the teams change sides at halftime, so any bias in the pitch gets evened out. Another source of whining is the referees--parents seem to think that Howard Webb ought to show up and work their child's youth match, and do so for free, out of the love of the game. With rec, at least, expectations are lower--everyone knows the coaches and refs are volunteers, and that the games are going to be played on middle-school mudholes, cause that's what the club/league can afford for $100/head.
  1. Scott Johnson
    commented on: June 8, 2016 at 3:56 p.m.
    But yes. And a lot is street soccer (or its equivalent)--informal pick-up games played wherever there is a mostly flat surface and something that passes for a net. OTOH, if you look at hoops, most backboards are hung over driveways and streets and concrete playgrounds, not over hardwood floors in air-conditioned gymnasiums. The playing conditions at a playground are vastly different than one finds in any competitive basketball game, yet nobody seems to mind...
  1. David Mont
    commented on: June 8, 2016 at 3:52 p.m.
    Sorry, but this is all bs. The real reasons are: 1) soccer is not a very popular sport in this country, and 2) black kids, particularly, are not interested in it.
  1. K Michael
    commented on: June 8, 2016 at 4:15 p.m.
    David, Wow, I hope you are not at all serious, because if so, your statement is ignorant on multiple levels: 1. Soccer is not THE most popular sport, but it is a popular sport. I won't waste your time on the data, but trust me (and others who frequently comment on this site), the data is easily found. 2. While certainly there remains much to do to promote footie in black communities, I reckon your comment is along the tired, naïve refrain that "if our best athletes played soccer, blah, blah, blah...", so now I, and others, will forward the crazy notion that the best footballer on the planet is a light-skinned fellow standing 5'6 or so...and we now must point out that soccer requires a unique skill set that must be honed from a very early age...oh, how tiring..and we also must ask how many African nations have won major international competitions? Oh, David, you really stepped in this one.
  1. Ric Fonseca
    commented on: June 8, 2016 at 10:49 p.m.
    David, having stepped in this one, be sure to clean your shoes before going back in the house!
  1. So Ker
    commented on: June 23, 2016 at 7:36 p.m.
    All African Nations Cup was won by Africans :( All kidding aside. The racial issue is one small part. There are way too many other issues that will keep US soccer as boring and untalented as it is = pay to play.
  1. BD Kern
    commented on: June 8, 2016 at 5:11 p.m.
    David M. isn't completely wrong; in that soccer isn't that popular yet with those who can afford expensive tickets to see high-priced professional games. However, now that there is a generation of young parents who have played competitive soccer, we now have some rec coaches who actually know what they are doing (unlike me, who played at a low level and coached the same way) and we are starting to see refs, even young ones, who can actually read "intent" in the play(er) and make better calls. Those are the people who love the game and as they get older and want to continue participating in and seeing soccer games, that's when it becomes a money-maker and gains recognition. The crowds at MLS games and international friendlies continues to increase. To his second point, many "under-advantaged" kids still love the games that are easily accessible through their schools (as I mentioned in my previous posting) and that their friends prefer. However, I know some "black kids" who are superb soccer players, although they fit into the "financially advantaged" category, so they are in the club system and get good training. We're still a few years away before it is mainstream and accessible to all. However, on a negative note; if the fear of concussion and it's side effects continue to grow, American football may be in jeopardy. When former NFL players say "My kid isn't playing football", they will gravitate to other sports; soccer being one of them. However, pride in our uniquely American sports isn't going to die easily, so they will continue to compete for the athletes.
  1. Bob Ashpole
    commented on: June 8, 2016 at 6:17 p.m.
    The problem I see is that youth soccer doesn't have to be expensive. Player development doesn't require expensive synthetic turf fields, uniforms, long distance travel, tournaments or foreign coaches. At the youth level, organized league/team competitions are unnecessary for player development as well. All that is needed is some open space, a ball for each player, a competent trainer and some improvised training aids. Pinnies, cones, and goals are helpful. "Elite" travel teams at the youth level is a waste of time and money. Many, many smart people agree that too much adult-influenced organization at the youth level is counterproductive.
  1. K Michael
    commented on: June 8, 2016 at 6:54 p.m.
    BD, no disrespect, but your premise is that soccer in the USA is for unathletic kids, whose first choice of sport is always American football, or basketball. This is a false premise. Our country is large enough to have youth reservoirs of talent and athleticism in all the major sports. Moreover, each sport emphasizes different physical traits and athleticism. You will simply not find, here or anywhere else, the 250 lb. 6'4" linebacker physique thriving on a footie pitch; just as Giovinco isn't going to play high level basketball anytime soon.
  1. BD Kern
    commented on: June 8, 2016 at 9:15 p.m.
    K Michael, actually my premise is that many kids will try out soccer in their early years because it costs no more than other rec sports, but when the only route to playing soccer at a higher level is through club sports, many of them that have potential choose something that doesn't cost as much (or is free), because it's available at school. I also think that some parents still have a bias against soccer because it's not "our" sport. I'm not speculating; I've heard it said. Back to your point, un-athletic kids try many sports, usually at the behest of their parents, and they sometimes find something they like and become good at it. However, I agree that some body types fit certain sports better than others.
  1. Lona K
    commented on: June 9, 2016 at 6:28 a.m.
    The problem we have in the US is that our players are coached by some adult from his first experience with soccer. We need for our children to learn the game at an early age by playing in pick up games. I wish there were more parks where you see kids playing a pick up game of soccer with players with varying ages. Younger players learn from their older friends and siblings. Today, within many families brothers or sisters do not go out in their yard or head to the park and play a game of soccer without adult supervision. I don't think American youth can play a game of soccer without a coach. First the would not know how to form teams. That is why we do not have creative attacking players because with constant adult coaching we create and train robots. Head to a soccer weekend at a park and all you'll hear are instructions to the players by the coaches and parents.
  1. Wooden Ships
    commented on: June 9, 2016 at 9:53 a.m.
    Absolutely Lona. I contend that the most effective learning takes place amongst the peer groups. Soccer and sport for sure and they also spend more time doing so because there aren't bossy adults telling them what to do, in essentially what is a game. This countries public education fails to recognize, also, the power of peer learning, especially with regard to math in the classroom.
  1. K Michael
    commented on: June 9, 2016 at 9:44 a.m.
    Lona, I do agree that we have a "free-play" deficit in soccer in this country. Some places are worse than others; the irony that I see is that the areas saturated with well-organized club/rec soccer are the very ones lacking the futsal courts, soccer pitches in parks and otherwise open to the public. I do see movement in the right direction in my area as well as others - our metro area is installing the third of a planned 10+ futsal courts in our various city parks. I rarely drive down a street without seeing a few pop-up goals in front or backyards, many of which featuring a kids-only pickup game that is adultless! We who have followed the game for so long and who are finally seeing signs of the "mainstreaming" of our beautiful game are just getting impatient (I know I am) and want these growing pains to be over with :)
  1. Richard Brown
    commented on: June 9, 2016 at 10:55 a.m.
    A lot of interesting posts here. I have been playing and coaching our game here in NYC since the 1960's. The game has definately changed here over the years. When I first started playing. Club soccer was an ethnic game. Not many players born in the US played soccer. The reason why there were not even more ethnic players was because immigrants comming into the country tried to fit in here. They wanted to learn English they embraced American sports like baseball. They even Americanized their names. My father's name was Braun he changed it to Brown. Italians did the same thing. If we did not have cold winters we would have put out thousands of great players. The clubs that did start here were sponsored places of businesses like bars and restaurants owned by ethnic owners. These were adult teams who had 1 field or played in European type stadiums like the great met oval. Later some clubs sponsored youth teams. We put them in the Cosmopolitian Junior soccer league the oldest youth league in the U.S. Started that in the 1930s. The clubs that had youth teams used some of their adult teams players to coach. Must of those players coached for free. Because they loved the game. Some felt it was an honor to coach for the club. No matter what the age they coached they played 11 on a side on the adult field. They did train small sided because their is always small sided play near the ball. Until someone can make the break out pass. No coach made money coaching so we all had to work at our regular jobs. Best thing I have ever done in my life has been helping young players with their game. Like my first coach helped me with my game. He was a father figure to me. Most kids back then played for free. Now the clubs here are different. Coaches would never coach for free even if they had money. They don't see coaching kids for a club as an honor. I liked to pass on my love of game to my players besides the skills needed to play. If coaches did that kids would always want to play no matter what level. They would also want to coach at all levels and not just because their own kids are playing on the team.
  1. Bob Ashpole
    commented on: June 9, 2016 at 7:12 p.m.
    Well said, Mr. Brown. My belief is that the difference today is that US clubs have lost their sense of community. As nation we have lost our sense of community too. Who their immediate neighbors are doesn't matter as much to people any more because of the increased geographic mobility, masses of available information and cheap world wide communications. This loss of community is not inevitable, because I see clubs in Europe still retaining strong community ties.
  1. Nathan Billy
    commented on: June 9, 2016 at 11:21 a.m.
    I Normally don’t post but they thing that bothers me about the US Soccer community is that there seem to be a large chip on on a lot peoples shoulder that soccer is not as popular as the other major sports in the US. The tactics that people want to use grow and improve soccer is not for the benefit of the kids but for their own personal desire for the sport they love and respect to be seen as equal or more popular than the other major sports. There is a belief that though a lot of bureaucratic policies that this can be accomplished. Also adding more fields is not a solution. I live in area with many parks with empty fields with rusting goals that no one uses. You can add as many fields as you want but if no one use them then what the point. The soccer community should focus and what it has in its current players (rec to club) and do a better job of supporting the players that show and have the desire to be great players. And not necessarily support the ones that where the parents have the desire for their kid to be great while their kids desire is somewhere else. More likely than not the kids with the passion have parents who end their kids development due to the cost barriers that soccer has. This is both true for both parents that can and can’t afford the elite club costs.
  1. Bob Ashpole
    commented on: June 9, 2016 at 7:19 p.m.
    You can tell with amazing accuracy whether a poster is a participant or a spectator by whether or not they consider soccer to be the most popular sport in the US. Spectators are talking about the entertainment industry of professional sports. Participants are talking about playing.
  1. Nathan Billy
    commented on: June 10, 2016 at 9:45 a.m.
    I have Coached for Over 10 years and continue to play into my 40's. So your assessment is incorrect. The point was a lot of time is spent trying to bring in new players or get potential top athletes that choose other sports to play soccer instead. Their is already is an enormous pool of kids playing. More should be done to improve talent identification so that the most competitive kids move up to the top regardless of there parents ability to get them there with cash. If parents wants to spend a lot of money to so that there kids can compete with the naturally talented players that's fine but in the end the better player should move up not the one who can pay more. I think the biggest road block to this problems is the fact that MLS and US Soccer continue to block the ability of the clubs to get compensation for training of players that go on to be professionals. Their is no incentive to take risks on training players that cant help pay the clubs bills.
  1. Scott Johnson
    commented on: June 10, 2016 at 2:20 p.m.
    Bob, you make a good point--but a whole lot of the hand-wringing in this column is precisely because the US fares poorly at the "entertainment industry" of professional soccer (and I'm including international soccer in this as well--as both involve highly-skilled player playing before paying customers and/or TV viewers). The complaint is here that the US fails to produce world-class talent, which is only relevant to the "entertainment industry". The US does fine at teaching the game to the 99.99+% of players who will never play for money or a scholarship or for the national team--both serious players, and casual ones. But if you want to produce world-class talent in a sport, it helps to have that sport be part of the culture. In some parts of the US, it is; in others, it is not.
  1. Scott Johnson
    commented on: June 10, 2016 at 2:22 p.m.
    With regard to rusting goals--in some parts of the country, that may be true. In others, fields (particularly those suitable for competitive matches) are scarce. Just because your neighborhood park has an unused goal, doesn't mean that's true everywhere.
  1. Bob Ashpole
    commented on: June 10, 2016 at 6:52 p.m.
    Nathan, my comment was a generalization, but you took it personal. I gathered you were a participant from your post.
  1. Daniel Clifton
    commented on: June 9, 2016 at 1:03 p.m.
    This has been one of the best soccer articles I have read in a long time and the comments have been outstanding. I live in Charlotte, in a part of town that is very diverse. Youth soccer is pretty big here and has been for at least two decades. I am not around youth soccer anymore in the area so I can't authoritatively speak on the inclusion of Hispanic and other ethnic groups in competitive soccer. There used to be almost no representation. In my neighborhood I now and then see some kids playing soccer in their front yards. What I see a lot of is kids playing pick up basketball in their driveways with roll em out baskets. Right across the street from me is an Hispanic family. Quite often there are youngsters out in their front yard playing. With the great success of the Panthers this last season guess what sport they are playing - american football. All of you guys who are calling for more play by kids and adults in their front yards and local parks, I heartily agree. To me that is the best way to learn. I want to see parents out of the way and kids playing the sport by themselves, learning the beauty and creativity of the game on their own without adult supervision. We need more of that kind of activity everywhere and it doesn't cost much if anything. How can US soccer promote that kind of development?
  1. Robert Robertson
    commented on: June 9, 2016 at 1:51 p.m.
    The author only analyzes young males and does not take in young females where pay to play is even more rampant. MLS does not subsidize any female teams that I know of. ODP does not really subsidize female players unless they are already good enough to make Regional or National teams, etc. Tournaments do not subsidize teams from low income neighborhoods or towns. Some clubs do offer scholarships but of course that does not reach the demand, etc.
  1. cisco martinez
    commented on: June 10, 2016 at 12:34 a.m.
    Money and European type style coaches primarily from England will pick players that are fast, physical, and relate more to the English game than technical, tactical ability, and speed of play. I experience this first hand in the ODP level, club level, PDL, and collegiate level. I experienced this as a player and a assistant coach at a top division I school. My parents had to ask for donations to get me to ODP at the Regional level, luckily for me I was seen by coaches, nowadays it is pay to play.
  1. Richard Brown
    commented on: June 10, 2016 at 11:53 a.m.
    Cisco a lot of ethnic clubs here in NYC have been taken over by English coaches who can't make a living in the UK. Like Spirting Club Gloa a Norweign club who I first played for and coached for when I first moved to Brooklyn from Italian Harlem. Gjoa is well over 100 yrs old. A group of coaches from England took it over. I go see those kids play your right they did try to play the English way. They did charge the family to play. They said they were with Bury in England. I knew the head of the school of excellence in Bury he did not even know these guys. We hear and English accent and they say they played professional in another country parents believe it. I think each countries style of play has good and bad in it. I believe their is no American style to speak of. The US game in the past has done somethings well and other things not well. So we fire our coaches and replace them with other coaches. Then what do they do they scrape everything the other coaches did before them even an area in which they did well. Dumb keep what's good if anything then build on that and add to the game they already had then you can play a better game then you had before. I think that should be the American style. A mix of the best of other styles of play. Our movement without the ball is very elementary. We have a triangulations. And or we use a diamond shape all easy to stop. We see what country wins the WC. We want to copy that style of play. People want us to play high percentage. Better to try things you will not be as high percentage, but we will be more inventive and score more goals that will win games. On defense there is nothing wrong with being organized on defense. But why not look to counter off it. For a counter to work you need speed, space, skill and a lot of practice to make it work. Get more counter chances from intercepting a pass. So why not have our backs play more like a man defense then a zone defense. If you can't start the counter by the third pass then go with a possession game. You can even play a high percentage possession game in a long ball attack. If you have good off ball to clear at space to attack.
  1. Richard Brown
    commented on: June 10, 2016 at 12:11 p.m.
    Who pays for poor Mexicans with talent to play in Mexico the government? Yes or no If they do that is very common so it's not the club it's the government. You might be surprised to know there is a Turkish club here in the US that has their own club house in Brooklyn. You know who pays the club house rental? I was very surprised to learn it was the Turkish government that pays their rent.
  1. Richard Brown
    commented on: June 10, 2016 at 12:26 p.m.
    There are ethnic leagues all over the place here in the US that are never scouted. Lot of raw talent in these leagues that are never seen by the bigger club teams. No one is looking at these guys. So I agree with you in that regard. I loved to coach so I did coach in some of the black leagues here in Brooklyn and in Black Harlem. To be scouted the scouts have to have money behind them. First if you do find younger players with talent. How are they going to get to where they can train? They don't travel and a lot of then can't speak English. What I hate now is we don't encourage immigrants living here to learn English. First they can't make decent money here legally without learning English. Even if they have a trade. They are used by people who do speak English as helpers not as tradesmen. So if I want some guys to train with us we have to physically pick them up. Then take them to the field and back again until they learn how to get there. Advertising in ethnic papers does not work I have tried it. Best way was go to the leagues and coach them until they know you.
  1. Ric Fonseca
    commented on: June 11, 2016 at 3:03 p.m.
    Mr. Brown, Ok I get it that you're in NYC/Brooklyn While I agree with you wholeheartedly about there being "ehtnic leagues all over the place...that are never scouted ...(sic)" the same goes here in SoCal, and the rest of the country, the rest of your argument is a sad one and grossly misinformed, and very narrowminded.
  1. Chester Grant
    commented on: June 11, 2016 at 7:26 a.m.
    "foreign journalists were astounded that parents in the USA had to pay for the park where their kids play soccer". However government supports rich sports so that for just two millionaire non-soccer owners: "The Yankees have received a total of $1.2 billion in tax-exempt bonds and $136 million in taxable bonds; the Mets got $697 million in tax-free bonds."
  1. Bob Ashpole
    commented on: June 11, 2016 at 11:53 a.m.
    Those "astounded" journalists ought to research who funded their local clubs facilities.
  1. Ric Fonseca
    commented on: June 11, 2016 at 2:58 p.m.
    ...and all these comments were "simply" generated by an English newspaper whose author knows jack sheets about our sport in this country. But know what is even more "astounding" about the article? It is simple correct; true there are some finer points it didn't cover, and the "Guardian" does have a wild hair up its nose about the USA, hence its penchant for its animous. As I said to someone else, this is a perennial situation, an extremely and profound state of affairs with soccer's multitudinous alphabet soup of soccer organizations. Was there any objectivity in the article? Some will argue that it lacks objectivity, yet many commentators are reacting in knee jerk fashion, some have gone into finer detail, yet as I've read them, maybe one or two have even bothered to look at the historical background as to it got to where it is because mis queridos amigos, there is a helluva lot yet to be said, and I betcha that when it is said, there will be the usual detractors, which is fine. But you know what galls the sheets out of me, is comments like those of Richard Brown above. How sad.
  1. stewart hayes
    commented on: June 11, 2016 at 6:02 p.m.
    Perhaps immigrants as a rule are just smarter. They come largely to improve their lives and know that playing soccer is done for fun and exercise not as a career move.
  1. Richard Brown
    commented on: June 15, 2016 at 12:27 p.m.
    Ric what is narrow minded about what I said?
  1. Richard Brown
    commented on: June 15, 2016 at 1:25 p.m.
    I guess your talking about why should Mexicans or any other immigrants learn English.p Well if you want people who do speak English to take advantage of you then don't learn it. Can't take the city bus anywhere by yourself need help to take you then don't learn it. You know plumbing but you want to fix someone's faucet who is not handy but only speaks English. You need to work for someone who does speak English. If he is a Latino he will beat you out of money just like a white guy who speaks English. So you see Mr Fonseca that is what I am talking about. My sons new wife's mother is Russian who can't speak English. His wife can but is too stupid to teach her mother English. If her kids don't drive her to where she has to go she stays home like an idiot.
  1. Richard Brown
    commented on: June 15, 2016 at 1:35 p.m.
    On ethnic kids not leaving their neighboor hood ever. Am I lying about that. As a kid I never I never left more then three blocks from where I lived in east Harlem. I would say everyone was poor where I grew up. Everyone rent no one own a home no one owned a car. We liven in tenements you could call it a ghetto. So I think I know what poor is all about. Probably more then you. Ran away from home at ten to get away from my abusive father. I came back home 5 yrs later after someone murdered him and his brother. He made sure Ma could not do anything for herself to keep her dependent upon him. He would burn her with cigs if he got mad at her.

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