Mexican clubs cast net over U.S. talent

By Mike Woitalla

Jose Nino's hopes of attending a four-year college hit a roadblock. The $11,000 from Pell and Cal Grants the 18-year-old is eligible for doesn't cover all the college costs.

“My parents have basically no money,” says Nino, who’s worked in a restaurant since age 16.

So he’s here at the Fremont Soccer Complex near San Francisco among 350 teenagers for Alianza de Futbol’s open tryouts, hoping to impress scouts from Mexican pro clubs.

Kevin Partida, 16, lives in Reno. His father saw ads for the Alianza event on Fox Deportes and drove his son four hours to the Bay Area.

“I hope to reach my goal of being a pro to open the gates for my siblings and people from my city who don’t get looked at a lot,” Partida wrote on his Alianza registration form.

Alianza holds these tryouts in 14 U.S. cities. The top players advance to four regional all-star games with Alianza covering travel expenses. From there, 18 players are picked for the National All-Star game against Chivas Guadalajara’s U-18 squad. A game against an MLS squad is also planned.

The Alianza events are combined with youth and adult tournaments and clinics that help attract the sponsors who fund the tryout portion. At the Fremont event, 400 children attend the Sunday morning clinic that features Mexican hero Jorge Campos. (Kids signed up for the clinic at the stores of sponsor Verizon.)

The main attraction for the teens (born 1991-1995) trying out are scouts from Mexican clubs. The Alianza organizers lament the negligible response they’ve gotten from college coaches or U.S. Soccer scouts. There were no signs of college coaches in Fremont, but Hugo Perez, the great U.S. playmaker of the 1980s and early 90s, and now a U.S. Soccer scout, is here.

The selection process goes rapidly. After each 30-minute game, the scouts call out the names of those who progress while the rest return their pinnies.

Making the decisions, in addition to Perez, are scouts from Chivas Guadalajara (Arturo Espinosa), Club Tijuana (Arturo Ramirez), and Enrique Echeverria, the Mexican federation’s scout for its U-17 national team.

Since U.S.-born Mexican-Americans became eligible for Mexican citizenship, Chivas Guadalajara has brought several U.S.-born players into its program, including current first-team starter Miguel Ponce, and Julio Morales, whom it discovered through Alianza and who now plays for Guadalajara’s U-20 team

Club Tijuana earned promotion to the top flight last season thanks much to the feats of Joe Benny Corona, an L.A. native. And when Mexico won the 2011 World Cup, its goalkeeper was Richard Sanchez, born in California and raised in Texas.

“Considering how much Mexican-American talent there is in the USA, it makes perfect sense for us to look here,” says Echeverria. “Whenever we hear a rumor about a Mexican-American talent, whether in Dallas or anywhere in the USA, we come and check him out. We usually hear about them from Mexican clubs who are scouting in the USA.”

If Echeverria sees potential stars in the USA, he recommends them to Mexican clubs.

* * * *

After the last game at the Alianza event in Northern California on Saturday, the names of the final 18 players who will on Sunday play a San Jose Earthquakes youth academy team are being called out as the players sit on the grass.

Jose Nino’s name is not called. He says he will attend a junior college this semester and keep trying to get into a four-year school. He doesn’t play adult league soccer because he has to work on Sundays. He shakes the scouts’ hands, says good-bye, and leaves the field.

Partida plays club ball in Reno for Sagebrush SC. Two years ago, he attended ODP and was selected for the state team but dropped out after it became too expensive.

He stands about 5-foot-6 and impresses all the scouts at the Alianza tryouts. He patrols the midfield in Sunday’s game against the Quakes’ team, darting away from foes and striking crisp, accurate passes.

After the game, the Quakes' coaches invite Partida and four other Alianza players to attend their next three practices sessions to vie for a spot on their U.S. Soccer Development Academy team. But Partida reveals to Quakes coach Marquis White that he can’t make it, because he lives in Reno.

White, sensing the boy’s disappointment in getting an invite he can’t accept, jokes to Partida about moving to San Jose, but the boy shakes his head without managing a smile.

Now Espinosa and Ramirez are gathering groups of players to invite them for extended trials at their clubs. The players will live in the clubs’ academy dorms and be evaluated during two weeks of training.

Partida gets an invite from Chivas Guadalajara, says he looks forward to the trip and tryout, and finally cracks a smile.

(Mike Woitalla, the executive editor of Soccer America, coaches youth soccer for East Bay United in Oakland, Calif. His youth soccer articles are archived at

18 comments about "Mexican clubs cast net over U.S. talent".
  1. Power Dive, August 24, 2011 at 8:40 p.m.

    Enrique Echeverria, the Mexican federation’s scout for its U-17 national team THAT WON THE WORLD CUP says “Considering how much Mexican-American talent there is in the USA, it makes perfect sense for us to look here,” The Alianza organizers lament the negligible response they’ve gotten from college coaches or U.S. Soccer scouts. I know there's a conclusion to be drawn here, but I'm not quite sure what...(I'm a little slow like Gulati)

  2. Luis Arreola, August 25, 2011 at 8:49 a.m.

    Great article. There are Mexican Clubs that offer more money on better overall talented teams and Us scouts do not wish to attend? Is it because there is no money interest for them since these tournaments are dirt cheap. I attended one and it was well organized. What's to learn from this? 1. The best playing league in the American Continent is taking notice in the Hispanic talent that USA insists on ignoring. 2. There should be more of these tournaments that really do matter as far as exposure for players.3. There should be more of these Hispanic players on the national teams for USA, they are good enough to play for top clubs in Mexico. Where is USA U17 coach in all this? Should he not be scouting ahead of Mexico's? Why would college coaches boycott this event? This all further proves my point of bias towards the Hispanic player in USA.

  3. l brown, August 25, 2011 at 9:51 a.m.

    "Two years ago, he attended ODP and was selected for the state team but dropped out after it became too expensive." I think this is the most revealing statement in the article. A kid that has the talent and skill gets eliminated from the pool. We will never compete on a global scale until this issue is addressed.

  4. Mario Cesarone, August 25, 2011 at 9:58 a.m.

    Great article, thank you SA! Good to see that at least US Soccer is noticing with Tab Ramos in attendance. Had been wondering how so many young USA born players were showing up in the Mexican league. Gulati/Garber, what would it cost to set up these sort of tryouts during the summer at collage campuses whose dorms are empty ...? Lets get with the program.

  5. R2 Dad, August 25, 2011 at 10:05 a.m.

    I've suspected as much but hadn't read this until now. Thanks for highlighting several holes in our US recruiting process. Whether anything is done about it is a whole other question. As far as college coaches showing up for events like this, are there NCAA limits as to how many recruiting visits they are allowed? There are tons of talented hispanic kids in the Bay Area but judging from anecdotal evidence those same kids may not have the time/money/grades/inclination to go to college.

  6. Scott Michener, August 25, 2011 at 10:45 a.m.

    Good Morning,

    My name is Scott and I am a physician and youth coach in Lawton, Oklahoma. I couldn't help but to get hung up on the first part of your recent post. We have a young American teenager who cannot attend college and perhaps fulfill a dream for he and his family. I wondered if you knew how many foriegn players receive scholarships from NAIA schools? The NCAA has limits on the number of foriegn players allowed to play, but there is no limit in the NAIA. University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma is 40 miles north of me. You know how many American kids are on his roster? One, a keeper. Otherwise, his entire roster is made up of foriegn based players. Last year, he had an All-American. He was 29 and from Serbia.

    How much state and federal money do these schools get? How can we put pressure on the NAIA to follow the NCAA and support our American youth?

  7. John Mandelker, August 25, 2011 at 11:22 a.m.

    All through my girls club and ODP experience I thought that as expensive as the programs were, I was willing to pay a little more so as to create a couple of scholarship slots on the club. The US program will never reach the highest levels so long as it is a sport limited to the upper middle class.

  8. R2 Dad, August 25, 2011 at 12:07 p.m.

    Everyone understands the size of our country is an impediment to enacting universal change. Scott points out issues with the NAIA, but I hope that in the long run US Soccer can leverage 2 issues to our benefit: 1) our educational system is still the envy of the world. Getting foreign players here using US education as the carrot is a desirable thing. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any US Soccer influence in this regard. 2) Ditto for immigration. Lots of professional (though lower tier) players would like to live here with their families. Facilitating immigration and integrating families into the fabric of our society is crucial to harnessing this power to benefit our society and national teams.

  9. cony konstin, August 25, 2011 at 12:41 p.m.

    In 1995 the Houstonians FC was created.It is a competitive inner city program that was created to help kids who could not afford to pay to play soccer. 100's of these kids have gone onto college and have gotten their degrees. This is a no brainer. You build it and they will come. The US Soccer Federation needs radical change. They need to go into the inner cities of America and start to develop programs that will impact young peoples lives. The US Soccer Federation should spend less time in trying to win a world cup and more time in creating a better world for kids through soccer. I have been coaching in the US and internationally for 36 years. There has always been good players in the US. But the SYSTEM needs a radical rehaul. I propose that Soccer America, US Soccer Federation, MLS, NASL, college soccer, and everyone else in the alphabet, get together immediatley to brainstorm on creating a new SYSTEM that will help to improve all facets and enviroments of the game. Sunil is a brilliant person but he can not do this alone and he needs to know that we all want change and that we will support him 100%.

  10. Andres Yturralde, August 25, 2011 at 12:46 p.m.

    Interesting read. Thank you, Mike.

  11. Luis Arreola, August 25, 2011 at 2:01 p.m.

    R2, well said. NCAA basketball is more of a business than it is about educating the athlete. They could care less of the star players GPA when offering the scholarships and after. These scholarships are in better use of the athlete that truly appreciates the opportunity of an education regardless of where their from. How much does ODP coaches really need to make to be happy? $2500 a year per kid times 20 per coach for a few practices and games throughout the year. Really??

  12. cony konstin, August 25, 2011 at 4:08 p.m.

    We can sit back an attack the establishment for 1000 years with educated verbage and insults but unless someone like Soccer America steps up and at least be a spring board to help create a coalition for positive change for US Soccer. We are in for a long wait. Again I plea with Soccer America to step up and bring people to the table of progressive and radical change.

  13. Luis Arreola, August 25, 2011 at 10:39 p.m.

    Cony and Ric , here is the solution. Lets encourage all the Hispanic talent to go to Mexico teams first and also encourage them to stay away from the academies and ODP that really are not looking for the player's best interest. If enough of them get good contracts and nobody in the USA is profiting from these players that will certainly get the ball rolling on you're revolutions Cony. Ric, you're comments are pure logic that optimistic people do not want to listen to.

  14. Rudy Espindola, August 25, 2011 at 11:42 p.m.

    Hi all, for what I read it looks very complicated for a kid to make it in soccer here in the US, sending kids out of the country to play abroad doesn't sound like a bad idea but sadly, this is not an option for everybody. it is an akward feeling having my son playing out of the country and being taken care of by my parents (while I am here in the US) since the future doesn't look too bright here in beautiful America. I hope that things change soon, since I would like to see my son playing here at home.

  15. jose nino, August 26, 2011 at 5:34 a.m.

    Thank you for coming out and having that chat with me and some of the other contenders.
    I am glad that there is some interest in those who hardly get looked at.
    I was scouted by many schools(brown being one of many) but because of some miscommunications I ended up at a JC for two years. I am glad I was able to play with teams like force, and sc sporting for a good portion of my soccer career.
    In addition, I kind of wished that it was not only scouts from clubs in Mexico, and the US but universities and CSU's- that being said for many of us its more important to go to school and proceed with a career in where there will be an exchange ($$).


  16. Pat Gracia, August 27, 2011 at 2:36 a.m.

    In reference to the Mexican American coach above, even they go where it's "pay to play" for pay instead of helping local communities, at least on a part-time basis, and helping to find the elusive Latino talent. Thanks for the great articles SA.

  17. Luis Arreola, August 27, 2011 at 7:21 a.m.

    Pat, you're right but money is the engine that moves everything in soccer. What these coaches do is 1000 times better though for the player than what the USA club system offers and does. The coaches here get paid as well but to win for the club name and could care less about the player. His job relies on results from his team. That holds back the player as he will mostly play his age to secure wins and not up where he can be challenged to increase his skills. What Alianza does is motivated tnew players to dream.

  18. Rudy Espindola, August 27, 2011 at 11:23 a.m.

    Ric, thank you for your comment, today my son will be playing Atlante fuerzas basicas team
    It will be the first game I’ll miss in ten years, my heart is broken.
    Sorry to hear that your son’s soccer career didn’t go beyond college, same happened to my super talented oldest son.

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