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American soccer's 13 unique applications
by Ahmet Guvener, September 7th, 2017 9:42PM
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TAGS:  men's national team, u.s. soccer, world cup 2018

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I decided to write this article the moment I finished watching Costa Rica beat the USA, 2-0, so it was written before the Honduras-USA game. The USA might have beaten the Catrachos, tied them or lost to them. The content and the realities of this article will not be changed with one game.

It will require a small miracle for the USMNT not to qualify for Russia. It has been qualifying for the World Cups since 1990 thanks to the recent soccer developments in this country and its unique positioning at Concacaf.

If you consider 1994 World Cup as the genesis of modern soccer in the USA, then other than 2002 -- when it played in the quarterfinal in 2002 -- the USMNT either dropped out of the race at the round of 16 or after the group stage. (Its average World Cup ranking after 1990 is 18.3.)

You might think that the World Cups might not be the only metric to measure global success. The other metric is the FIFA rankings, which includes all MNT games. According to that metric, the USMNT is currently ranked 26th and on average is ranked 20th since the inception of FIFA rankings.

On the other hand, the U.S. youth men's national teams have not done much better. Since the genesis of modern soccer in the USA, only the U-17 team in 1999 played in a World Cup semifinal. Although the USA has proved to the world that Mexico is not the sole soccer power or giant in Concacaf and it has won the Gold Cup in 1991, 2002, 2005, 2007, 2013 and 2017, still its goal should be the domination of soccer on a global scale.

The bottom line is that the USMNT is a second-tier MNT in soccer. Its longtime rival, Mexico, with a current and average ranking of 14th might be considered border-line first-tier MNT. My standard is that in order to be a first-tier MNT in the world, you have to be in the top 10th or 15th rankings. I realize that this is subjective but if you look at the top 10-15 MNTs you might agree with me.

What is more disturbing is that a consistent improvement in the rankings for the USMNT since the “genesis” has not been observed. Whereas if you follow countries that were once second-tier MNTs, like Wales, Belgium and recently Switzerland, you can see a gradual improvement.

I understand that in soccer one has to be patient. It takes at least 10 years of correct development schemes to harvest the results, like one has witnessed in Germany.

This country with its resources -- both human and financial -- deserves to be in the first tier of MNTs. In my article some months ago, I have summarized the four pillars on which soccer stands in this country. We are still waiting for the 5th pillar. I do not think that time by itself will be the cure for our ailment. One should not do the same thing over and over again and expect different results.

In the 1980s, I was in this country and observing the birth of a new era of soccer development. Boys and girls were playing soccer in big numbers like in no other place on earth, albeit without standards, without good coaching, without pro leagues …

When I returned back to USA after 30 years, I realized a lot of things have changed.  There are 4 million registered soccer players now -- only second to Germany -- better coaches, better refereeing, two-tiered professional leagues ...

But I also noticed the idiosyncrasies of our soccer world. We do things in a way that no other FIFA member -- or very few -- does or even thinks about doing. I sat down to think about it and came out with a list of 13 applications which are unique to this country and that list might not be exhaustive.

The purpose of this list is not to discuss the pros and cons of each one of them, but rather list them.

1. No promotion and relegation in the professional leagues. I realize that very few countries like Australia and India also have closed leagues. These countries have similarities to the soccer landscape of the USA.  I know that this is brought to the attention of CAS by Miami FC from the NASL. Unfortunately, my rather limited sports law background and my vast experience with dealing with CAS tells me that CAS will not even consider this case.

2. Single-entity ownership model. The first-tier professional league MLS has a single-entity ownership model.

3. Different pro leagues have different structures. In Division 2, the NASL is owned by the owners whereas USL is owned privately.

4. Very loose standards for Pro leagues by U.S. Soccer. U.S. Soccer defines very loose standards for pro leagues, whereas everywhere else that I know of, the federation defines through national club licensing system -- or for UEFA through their own club licensing system - the rules of each tier of professional soccer in great detail. For example, any EPL team will have to be first licensed by the FA to compete in the EPL. Those documents are more than 100 pages long whereas the U.S. Soccer league standards are only 12 pages long.

5. No training compensation and no solidarity payment for youth clubs. I know that some clubs took this decision to FIFA. We will see what happens in the months to come.

6. Pay-to-play system. The prominent model of youth soccer is based on the pay-to-play model. It is big business. It is also a chicken-and-egg problem when you consider item No. 5. Without training compensation and solidarity payment the youth clubs’ only source of income is the pay-to-play model. U.S. Soccer and MLS say that youth clubs charge players so there is no need to pay compensation fee or solidarity payment to them.

7. Different college and high school playing rules than FIFA’s LOTG.

8. No heading allowed for U-11 players.

9. Unaffiliated leagues. Due to the pay-to-play system and relatively high costs of registration, there are a number of unaffiliated leagues. Since no official record is kept, one cannot know the exact number of unaffiliated leagues, but it is a significant number. One of the reasons for being unaffiliated might be the fear of being undocumented for some leagues and players. But the bottom line is the system does not embrace the whole of the country and its population. Some of  Latinos who have a great soccer culture and talent for soccer are excluded from organized soccer. In other countries, there might be unaffiliated leagues though the exclusion is not at this proportion. Also the talented ones get a chance to play organized soccer for free.

10. PRO/MLS relation. There is an organic relation between PRO (Professional Referee Organization) and MLS. Actually the offices of PRO are in the MLS building. This kind of league and referee organization you will not see elsewhere.

11. Salary cap and allocation order. MLS has salary cap and an allocation order for the transfer of players.

12. Fragmented youth soccer organization. Although all of them are affiliated with U.S. Soccer there is more than one youth organization for soccer: USYSA, U.S. Club Soccer, AYSO and a few others.

13. Playoffs. All Pro leagues in the USA use playoffs to determine the winner of the league. Although MLS also gives a Supporter’s Shield, everyone knows that the real champion is the one who receives the MLS Cup. There are a few countries in the world that uses playoff system -- e.g. Belgium, Mexico -- but the great majority uses the league standings to determine the champion of the league.

Some of those 13 unique applications might be very beneficiary to soccer on a global scale: no heading for kids, salary cap/allocation list. UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said that UEFA might consider a salary cap instead of Financial Fair Play rules, so some of those unique applications might eventually be exported.

The others might be the result of Law of the Land and/or the American professional sports’ approach. I have written several articles showing the differences between the classical American professional games -- football, baseball, basketball and ice hockey -- and soccer. There are more differences than similarities. Basing the professional soccer model on the four major American sports so far did not bring in the results for the USMNT. It might be a successful business model -- although I have doubts about it -- but U.S. Soccer should primarily be worried about the developmental side of soccer.

Every country has a Law of the Land, but they find ways to circumvent any obstacles that hinder soccer development. Sometimes they even use the stick of FIFA statues and change the Law of the Land.

I have listed 13 unique applications that are different than the rest of the world. So far these applications did not move us to the first-tier of MNTs. Maybe it is time to reconsider some of those unique applications. With very positive and encouraging developmental approaches like the Development Academies and the mandate for small-sided games, maybe time has come to change the governance structure of U.S. Soccer and its approach to the professional game.

Ahmet Guvener (ahmet@ahmetguvener.com) is the former Secretary General and the Technical Director of the Turkish FA. He was also the Head of Refereeing for the Turkish FA. He served as Panel member for the FIFA Panel of Referee Instructors and UEFA Referee Convention. He now lives and works as a soccer consultant in Austin, Texas.


31 comments
  1. Bob Ashpole
    commented on: September 7, 2017 at 11:32 p.m.
    I have been out of touch for a while, but at one time there were far more unaffiliated players than affiliated players. I am sure the unaffiliated players are still significant. Some of your points are related. For instance scholastic soccer is unaffiliated and uses it own laws rather than FIFAs. The comments about professional soccer are all related. One interesting non-unique oddity is that up to a certain age (probably 16 in most localities) players can train more as amateurs then they can as professionals due to child labor laws. College and High School rules also restrict organized training time for older players. I think perhaps the greatest hindrance is our pay to play system with its emphasis on winning matches and traveling. I don't know if it is unique, but typically in the US coaches focus on team tactics and positions at the youngest ages, even at the fundamental stage at the expense of a solid base in fundamentals. While pundits say that we hold our own against other countries at the youth level, I think the lack of emphasis on fundamentals catches up with us at the older ages. That is my 2 cents worth. Good article.
  1. frank schoon
    commented on: September 8, 2017 at 11:18 a.m.
    With all due respect Mr.Guvener, I don't find the 13 points enumerated by you have any real effect upon the improving player quality. We still haven't produced anything in the past 50 years, even with all the improvements thus far as, , a nice technical talent, a tricky winger ,for example, that you would run to the stadium to enjoy watching .I notice that all of the points you made relate to the administrative ,organizational, structural side of the equation and ,understandably so, you tend to mix with that company and therefore see through that lens. WE are already TOP-HEAVY on the ORGANIZATIONAL dept., but lacking in the "NUTS and BOLTS" dept., lets say the janitorial level, where we hone and make good players. Improving fundamental skills ,good coaching ,what has that got to do with these 13 points? It smells like the typical "white collar" board room talk then "blue collar" or "no collar" "field talk" to me. Do you think Johan Cruyff after seeing that game, like you, would come up with these points. No, of course not, for he is going to exactly explain, hands on, what the failings, technically, tactically, and mentally aspects of the players are and what should be done about it in terms of training and coaching .The old criticism of the American soccer youth as being "OVER COACHED" runs parallel to the American Soccer scene as"OVER ORGANIZED". Having learned to play in Holland in the 40-50's in the street soccer era, those kids in the street soccer days, were "UNDER COACHED' and played 'UNDER ORGANIZED" and "UNDER FUNDED"funds, after all half our cities were bombed to bits. Yeah , we didn't have the niceties ,support groups, organization, coaching up the wing wang, but I'll tell you one thing, we could play some ball. I don't find myself those 13 points for that is not what these kids need to improve. The kids in my days had more skill and touch in their big toe than the two combined youths here ,today. Our answer for the lack of good development of our youth is to create another TIER or ORGANIZATION, another coaching license, another bureaucratic position. It is all about ORGANIZATIONAL , POWER AND CONTROL. It has become an cottage industry on the organizational part. Costa Rica doesn't have the human and financial resources but they can take us apart 6-0 in two games. In sum, it is all about how we train and develop our youth. We have tons of licensed coaches, who don't think for themselves but parrot what they are told at the Coaching School. Like robots, you see all them play a flat back system which is not helpful to develop individual defense so missing with youth. You won't see some coach with independence of thinking, teaching his kids to play man to man or with a sweeper, as a first step in their defensive development. No, it is what is trendy, for they don't know any better.Dutch player caliber has gone down but not due to any lack of organization but due to coaching/training...
  1. Bob Ashpole
    commented on: September 8, 2017 at 11:36 a.m.
    At first glance Frank, I thought you were being unfair in your criticism. Then I reread the closing sentence of the article. His suggestion was reorganization at the top of the pyramid. I am a firm believer that to improve play significantly, we need to improve the training and playing opportunities at the youth level, especially at the fundamental stage--the bottom of the pyramid. I don't think you can significantly change players by reorganizing professional leagues, USSF or its national members. I actually think USYSA over the last 15-20 years has done a great job at the national level. The problem is program implementation at the club and team level. The reorganization needed is getting rid of "pay to play" in its current form and getting rid of the league/team competition structure for U12 and below. It is not only unnecessary but detrimental to player development as it focuses on team development.
  1. Bob Ashpole
    commented on: September 8, 2017 at 11:41 a.m.
    Just wanted to add that I still think it is a good article. Maybe we are all correctly identifying areas needing improvement.
  1. frank schoon
    commented on: September 8, 2017 at 11:56 a.m.
    Bob, no slight intended or criticism on Ahmet, I always read his columns and we need people like him to come with his views, for he ,likewise has been around the block. I agree , it is a good article, he usually write good ones. It is probably my dutch way of expressing, for dutch are very direct and blunt by nature not with the intention trying to be on purpose blunt. Remember dutch see things as half empty, like when I look at a game, I look for the mistakes not the nice stuff in order to improve the situation...
  1. metro metro
    commented on: September 11, 2017 at 8:54 a.m.
    wow I agree with Frank. These are administrative issues. Need to focus on ball control. Agree with the focus on small sided games and futsal.
  1. Fire Paul Gardner Now
    commented on: September 8, 2017 at 1:11 p.m.
    Some of these things are unique to American soccer but I don't think most have much to do with player development. I would like to see solidarity payments (if allowable under US law) and a reduction in/elimination of pay for play. I do think that has a significant negative impact. At least the MLS DAs are free (other than maybe DC) but more opportunities like that are needed.
  1. Goalie001 Armstrong
    commented on: September 8, 2017 at 3:24 p.m.
    Here the agreement I got into one of the best coaches in CA. We both played for the Men's USA National Futsal team. Until we can draw in top athletes from the big 5 sports...NFL, NBA, MLB & NHL to play the beautiful game we will never get pass quarters in WC. My friend says our USA players are some of the best athletes in the USA., sorry their not. I'd bet the rest of my income for the rest of my life that if you took too 5 athletes in each sport they'd destroy our top 5 soccer players in any sport that is not their main sport. L.James, Tom Brady, L'Bell, Clayton Kershaw and whoever else you want to pick in those sports and they'd whip our beautiful games too 5. Ping Pong, thumb wrestling and whatever....USA soccer players would lose. Last on this point we don't make our soccer players into Idols like they do in other sports. These kids nowadays want to be idols and been seen with singers, actors and models. The want 2 million followers on twitter. Sorry not gonna happen to USA soccer players. I guarantee half of our soccer players walking down the street would not get recognized, you walk down the street would LeBron James, Clayton Kershaw, Leavy on Bell, Tom Brady, and other top athletes everybody mobs them. Are you at soccer players people just walked right bye Cuz their not known. Sucks becuz soccer is my passion and I think it's the most wonderful game in the world
  1. Goalie001 Armstrong
    commented on: September 8, 2017 at 3:27 p.m.
    Sorry...top kept getting changed to too, horrible spell check on my part
  1. Doug Andreassen
    commented on: September 8, 2017 at 6:16 p.m.
    I love this article. I think it hits on all the right points. After working in US Soccer as a volunteer on the Diversity Task Force, I have seen and lived these items that Ahmet talks about here. As a concussion advocate for over 10+ years, I would take umbrage at the heading comment on item No. 8. In fact, I would favor NO heading until high school age if that. We have a vast underserved population in the USA that wants to belong to US Soccer. What they do not want are the excessive fees charged to be a member of US Soccer through organized soccer clubs. While the pay to play model does not work for these communities, there has to be a happy medium that does. In our work at US Soccer we determined there were 5 to 8 million kids playing un-organized soccer in the USA. None of them will ever get identified as candidates for the US Men or Women's Teams. What we do know is that the USA is unique in the way it operates in the world of sports. What works in Europe/Asia/Africa in soccer will not work in the USA. We must allow inclusion and exclusion of these kids and athletes. We need advocates for this population that can stand up and speak of the injustices handed to them in soccer. Whether that be access to fields, leagues, referees or organizations, something must change. I often asked the questions, why does US Youth Board of Directors not look like America? Much less the boards of other youth organizations? Until we have board members that look like our nation, nothing will change and will continue to whistle in the wind until someone hears us. Jon Solomon summed it up perfectly in his article:https://www.aspeninstitute.org/blog-posts/latinos-soccer-whats-us-model-theyre-not-left-behind/ Read it and then let's add to the list of the 13.
  1. Nick Daverese
    commented on: September 8, 2017 at 6:21 p.m.
    No heading until 11 yrs old. We will win the WC in no time now. That is why all the great soccer powers subscribe to that rule. Wait do any soccer powers do that?
  1. frank schoon
    commented on: September 8, 2017 at 7:16 p.m.
    Nick, only America, LOL
  1. Wooden Ships
    commented on: September 9, 2017 at 5:04 p.m.
    Nick, I've headed thousands of balls, knocked heads and elbows hundreds of times, even a couple of posts on diving headers, and suffered I've damaged or effects ill of aware of none ever of.
  1. Doug Andreassen
    commented on: September 8, 2017 at 7:22 p.m.
    With no heading until 11, at the minimum, the game will become a far more controlled effort. The ball in the air does nothing but become a 50/50 ball, at best, let's keep the ball on the ground and improve the game and the player. At the end of the day, we have to be stewards to these athletes in the area of safety, concussions are a real danger to our young athletes.
  1. Nick Daverese
    commented on: September 8, 2017 at 8:20 p.m.
    Balls in the air become less then 50/50 balls when you don't know how to play them. When you know how tp play them ther percentage of completions goes way up. Now on scoring off headers we were never that good at that. I am sure we will become even worse a few years down the road. You would think we would become more dangerous using other parts of the body, but that won't happen either. Tell kids they can't head the ball they will ask you why not. So we will answer we're afraid you will get brain damage. Then of course after 11 they won't have that fear of heading you put into their brains when they were young. I am also sure they will definitely learn the right way to head a ball from the same people who told them not to it before. You can't even control a high bounce with you head to your own foot now. Because you might hurt what?
  1. Bob Ashpole
    commented on: September 9, 2017 at 3:07 a.m.
    Whenever I see someone saying the secret to great soccer is to always keep the ball on the ground, I laugh. I laugh a lot these days. What if I said "the secret of great soccer is to always keep the ball in the air?" What is wrong about that statement? (Hint: "always".)
  1. frank schoon
    commented on: September 9, 2017 at 8:55 a.m.
    Bob, and Nick, I'm going to recommend you two guys and Wooden Ships as alternate for next "DIVERSITY TASK FORCE" on ball heading. We need another TIER on the "organization side of soccer...
  1. frank schoon
    commented on: September 9, 2017 at 9:39 a.m.
    Bob and Nick, you guys will also be recommended for a new committee that heads up as the "Social Justice Warriors Task Force" to inspect and make certain that everyone get equal training......
  1. Bob Ashpole
    commented on: September 9, 2017 at 11:37 a.m.
    LOL. Seriously though, at the fundamental stage I think all kids should get the same training. Segregating by skill level should come after this. This first step is necessary to identify talent.
  1. frank schoon
    commented on: September 9, 2017 at 12:01 p.m.
    Bob , this is why when I had 3 youth teams of 9years old train together. Although each team were set up according ability, I made them train together in order to allow the lesser ones to improve...it was more like the street soccer set up although with the same age. I realized at in due time the difference between them as a whole will level ,although would remain better talent wise..Some of the parent didn't like me doing this...realize were dealing with 9 year olds, like they are already fantastic players. I was for developing players, these parents were being the best...of course this clashed between the parents and I.
  1. frank schoon
    commented on: September 9, 2017 at 12:05 p.m.
    Bob, I meant the parents were more interested in having the best team and why should this 9 year old from the lesser team, not much though, play with my son...This is the kind of mentality you often have parents for it is al about me,me,me, my son....
  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: September 8, 2017 at 7:26 p.m.
    Aside from different rules for college soccer, I would also add that college soccer (especially on the women's side) isn't really relevant in the rest of the world but still plays an important (but diminishing) role in the universe that is soccer in the USA. Good article.
  1. Nick Daverese
    commented on: September 9, 2017 at 8:02 a.m.
    Bob absolutely agree. We have to be able to play in a lot of different ways not one way and not even two ways. So it's not do some always it being able to do things in all ways. I hope this not go over anybodies heads.
  1. Wooden Ships
    commented on: September 9, 2017 at 5:25 p.m.
    Frank, I'm not serving on a diversity committee or a social justice committee, even if I could do a conference call from my catamaran. Not that I'm not flattered but I've become a little fatalistic with regard to our countries intellect on many subjects. I haven't given up, just preferring to live out what I have left not knocking my head against wood. Although I have broken some of those with my head. Those types of activities could lead to concussions. Goalie009, congrats on your futsal achievements with our national team, but your best athletes assertion is incongruent to our national soccer woes. Bizarre comes to mind. Fire and Ahmet, agree with training/compensation. Pay to play has hurt in our development, should go back to volunteers, its a racket and has been for awhile. Banning heading is another example of over reaching of the helicopter generation. I'd like to extend the nominating to committee's exercise (thanks Frank) to Ric and Ginger. But, I know Ric's been involved his whole life with the diversity issues and Ginger with numerous roles. Ginger, if you're reading this please let us know if you're in a safe place or getting there.
  1. Jay Wall
    commented on: September 9, 2017 at 6 p.m.
    Dear Mr Guvener, as former Secretary General and Technical Director of Turkish FA, you propose creating a list of 13 issues is relevant to the United States becoming a tier 1 soccer playing nation. If German had followed the example you propose when they played so poorly in 2000, they wouldn't have overcome their issues with player pool development and have resolved it so well that they developed a player development machine. 2nd Tier proposals will always yield second tier results. >> First, instead or pretending to learn from our on-going failures take a look at what Germany did to recover fram a disaster. See http://www.the42.ie/germany-structure-world-cup-academy-1572618-Jul2014/ and https://www.theguardian.com/football/2013/may/23/germany-bust-boom-talent for background. >> Second, don't waste effort trying to change the way things are currently being done. Instead as Steve Jobs said "If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don't have to be pushed. The vision pulls you." So we need to define a vision for soccer in the United States that is exciting, that everyone cares about and which pulls everyone in. A simple vision like all children being introduced to soccer by playing small sided games in small areas. A simple game like Futsal, to replace street soccer, which features keeper distributions by hand and has developed many of the most creative players in the world would be one suggestion. It's an official FIFA game, all youth players in Brasil and a growing number of countries play it and the results form Pele to Christiano are proven. It's 600% faster and offers many more touches than full field soccer, is so fast players have to make their own decisions because by the time coaches and parents start to yell, the play is over, and players are always involved in the play because the ball is always close to them. It's a player's game. >> As John Wooden, UCLA Coach, Winner of 10 NCAA D1 Championships observed "Teaching players during practices, was what coaching was all about to me". So let's start with the foundation, a fun game that players enjoy and coaches coaching in practices. >> Teaching soccer is a 10 year, 2 seasons a year progression of constantly evolving content to develop highly successful, decisive and confident players. So the next step is defining the content, developmental assessments for each player so they are introduced to content they can understand and master and a comprehensive training system like the one the DBF implemented in Germany for German youth players. >> The pro leagues, pro players, etc can't be changed and improved without a solid foundation on which to build.
  1. Nick Daverese
    commented on: September 10, 2017 at 12:57 a.m.
    I was not surprised when we first banned heading to for kids under 11. Then I thought we'll Lawyers from bad law schools have to make money too :) but when I heard you can't even control a high bounce with your head to your own foot I was shocked by that. I wondered who agreeded with that can't be a real soccer person. Because no soccer person I know would ever say that was ok.
  1. frank schoon
    commented on: September 11, 2017 at 9:56 a.m.
    AMEN, Nick. You have to wonder who these people are for obviously these types are great in the board room but couldn't take on a lamppost 1v1. They would have a problem trapping a bag of cement....
  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: September 11, 2017 at 4:28 p.m.
    Nick, think of it as an opportunity to trap the ball with the chest or foot (which few players know how to do properly) for young players. Look at the pyramid of players, with so many dropping out by age 12. The ones that are left are older, with stronger skeleton and muscles to manage a headed ball. Plus, players that have been playing for 2-4 years have a better sense of surrounding players, their positioning, proximity to the ball and their head. I don't think we are crippling future players by avoiding headed balls until age 12/13, especially since so many of these kids are rec players who might not even be playing in a couple of years anyway. As a fan of youth soccer I'm not unhappy if a kid doesn't know to head the ball, but rather unhappy if the kid avoids the trap only to head the ball. This is indicative of poor technique and/or lack of confidence on the ball, and I see that much more often.
  1. Nick Daverese
    commented on: September 10, 2017 at 7:45 p.m.
    On being afraid get this I ordered from a deli I like. My grand daughter can't have milk products and they don't cook with milk. So she can eat anything on the menu. I make an order 155 dollars the delivery man comes I give him 200. Evidently, it is a big tip for a delivery guy. So he wants to thank me I thought he was going to shank my hand. Instead he puts out his fist. I guess I was supposed to hit his fist with my fist. I never had anyone do that with me before. So I told him I don't do that. Have any older guy on here ever do that before? I was insulted that he did not want to shake my hand. I think I will ask for another delivery guy in the future.
  1. Kent James
    commented on: September 11, 2017 at 2:26 p.m.
    Nick, a little off-topic, but what you're describing is a fist-bump (most goalkeepers will do it instead of shaking hands with the ref, e.g.). It's become common in the last 10 years (probably more hygienic than shaking hands or a high five anyway); gained national attention when the Obamas did it at some event (and their critics called it a "terrorist fist bump"). Yes, you gave an impressive tip, but I'd keep the delivery guy, I'm sure you'll get excellent service, tipping like that.
  1. Kent James
    commented on: September 11, 2017 at 2:35 p.m.
    Not sure why everyone jumps on the banning of heading before age 11 as something that will prevent us from being a WC contender. It's primarily a safety issue, since younger brains are more susceptible to damage. Very few young kids are good headers, and they don't need to be. I didn't start playing until 8th grade (at the beginning of the soccer wave in the 1970s), I was taught how to head the ball properly (the Pele video; "eyes open, mouth closed", power from the abdomen) and picked it up pretty quickly (though I do still remember heading a waterlogged leather ball that had been punted, and seeing stars). It is different than the more subtle skills (like dribbling) that take much longer to learn (and really need to be learned at a young age; I have the technical ability to dribble, but not the mentality (or comfort level) so I don't). While talk of eliminating heading from the game I think is absolutely the wrong move (it literally adds a new dimension to the game), restricting it to older players is a sensible preventative measure and probably would improve the level of play at the younger ages (by reducing the number of bouncing balls, which are rarely dealt with properly).

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Bayern Munich unrest after Lewandowski, Ribery and Mueller complain     
Those getting tired of Bayern Munich's Bundesliga dominance -- it has won the last five titles ...
Fancy Bears, Russia and the World Cup cybersecurity threat    
Cybersecurity has been an issue in our lives since the Internet took off in the mid-1990s. ...
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