The case for high school soccer

By Mike Barr

The U.S. Soccer Developmental Academy league will soon be telling its players to not play high school soccer or any other high school sports. Most parents of these elite players will buy into the decision, much in the same way they believe it costs thousands of dollars to assure their child becomes a strong player and receives that $2,000 partial scholarship. Not surprisingly, the developmental academies will now be forced to charge more for training and travel.

It seems within youth soccer ideas are implemented with little thought, time, trials or research. We have become a soccer country that relies on the innovations of other countries without coming up with ideas of our own that reflect our society and culture.

The claims that high school soccer is detrimental to development seem to resonate from coaches and administrators who are involved with the Academy programs at the national level. In my opinion high school soccer should remain an important part of our youth sports landscape and parents should examine the pros and cons before making such a decision that could impact their child’s future. I will attempt to unravel the facts for parents:

1) Playing with the academy team and with elite players will enhance my son’s soccer skills.

Yes, and could possibly inhibit his growth, if he is now a substitute or locked into a position that limits touches on the ball and erodes at confidence. He could go from the player to play through or target in high school, to relinquishing roles on the field because the strength of other players on his academy team are seen to be stronger.

2) The quality of coaching at the Academy level is stronger than at the high school level.

This may be the case in some instances but there are many high school coaches who are more capable and more qualified than many academy coaches and many high school coaches have a vast amount of experience at club and ODP.

3) Quality of competition is stronger at the academy level.

Again, it may be the case in some matches but many high school games are much more competitive than Academy play, especially when teams are competing for a league, district or state title.

4). He will enjoy Academy play more.

Talk to almost any elite or high level player within the last fifteen years and almost every player will tell you that playing for their high school team was more enjoyable than club or their college playing experience. High School soccer still replicates the neighborhood club teams of years ago and the entire community still identifies with high school soccer as their own. Playing with your close peers and representing your community is something special.

Attendance at high school soccer matches always attracts more fans than any academy matches, because a community cannot get behind a program that has kids from up to 50 miles away associated with a team.

5) Playing high school will impede development.

An elite high school player begins play against players who may be four years older who are faster and stronger. Young players are forced to develop fast and develop a strong first touch. As they move into their junior and senior years they assume a role as leader and carry more responsibility to their team and themselves. Playing within the academy structure very few players assume or are introduced to the role of leader.

6) Playing Academy will provide up to four nights of training and matches on the weekend for 10 months.

Try to imagine the difficulty of maintaining quality grades if every day you are in a car for two hours, in addition to training for two hours. When will a player be able to experience the after school experiences we all enjoyed as high school students?

There will be little or no time to attend social functions, participate in music or theatre, clubs and play other sports. During the college interview many colleges and universities are looking for a well-rounded student. Will playing in the Academy actually hurt my chances to get your child in the school of his choice?

Since we have adopted the academy philosophy of European clubs; possibly U.S. Soccer should replicate these programs and have only developmental academies directed by each MLS Club. All training, travel and expenses would be covered by the club. Each player brought into an MLS academy would realize they have the potential to play professionally.

There still is something special to playing with friends in front of parents and peers and experiencing the thrill and social aspects of high school sports. Quite possibly we could see a resurgence of players staying with their own local clubs and make soccer a reasonably priced sport to play once again.

(Mike Barr is the Director of Coaching of the Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Association. He coached the boys team at Strath Haven High School in 1984-2005, winning five PIAA state titles, six PIAA District One titles and 16 Central League titles.)

60 comments about "The case for high school soccer".
  1. Sean Rose, February 3, 2012 at 8:54 a.m.

    Two sides to every story ... would be nice to hear the other side as well.

  2. Bern Smith, February 3, 2012 at 9:25 a.m.

    You hit the nail on the head when you talked about potential advancement. If you have a player who has a realistic chance at a full ride at a good college or possibly going pro, then yes sacrificing other things for soccer may make sense. But realistically, how many of the kids in these Academy clubs are going on to play Division I soccer or play professionally? Not that many. If they are that talented, they are probably on the radar of the National team coaches. Let them enjoy being kids, these are experiences that once lost can't be relived.

  3. Paul Willis, February 3, 2012 at 9:32 a.m.

    There is definitely two sides to every story and each region in the USA is different. I can only speak from my experience but HS Soccer in England was spread out over several months and far less concentrated. It was competitive, social, fun but not the b all and end all. HS Soccer in this region is based on American Football and literally full time for 2.5 months. While i don't see this changing i think that is one of the biggest problems. Many good HS players go through a pre-season when it is not their pre-season. At least the issue is being discussed.

  4. Bill Anderson, February 3, 2012 at 9:34 a.m.

    From a purely economic standpoint, why would US Soccer want to discard the vast amount of money that local school districts pour into high school soccer programs throughout the nation? This is the point of contact between organized soccer education and the VAST untapped talent pool that Coach Klinsmann maintains he wants to reach. I will try and come up with a DOLLAR AMOUNT that Texas taxpayers pour into high school soccer later today, but now am off to the training grounds with my 75 eager young men. I lost two to academy this spring, but the rest are progressing quite nicely...

  5. Adrian Gonzalez, February 3, 2012 at 9:37 a.m.

    Just some opinions:

    1) Playing with the academy team and with elite players will enhance my son’s soccer skills.

    If your child is fortunate enough to play for an elite team and gets playing time this is true. If they spend more time on the bench at games they need to spend practice time improving themselves to get off the bench. In this case high school may be good for them. The best case is younger high school players who can play JV. They may get their game time in there.

    2) The quality of coaching at the Academy level is stronger than at the high school level.

    Case by case here. The San Jose Earthquakes have started a Pre-Academy in our area for U14 boys. It is run by a former MLS player, you can't beat that. I'm sure the point made here is true.

    3) Quality of competition is stronger at the academy level.

    I agree with comments here. Still can vary.

    4). He will enjoy Academy play more.

    Good points made here but still can vary. I know boys who played their first year of high school this year and hated it. Their teams were bad, not much teaching was done by coaches and trainers and their club teams were more competitive, they won games and coaching and training were better. There won't be any one answer that is right for everyone. Over a four period the camaraderie of a high school team is hard to beat. If you get that at the club or academy level you are fortunate.

    5) Playing high school will impede development.

    It's not often that players three years apart are on the same team. Typically 9th and 10th graders play JV, 11th and 12th play Varsity. Of course there are exceptions but that's because of comparable skill levels. Development will be impeded without proper coaching and training, just like in the clubs and academies.

  6. Adrian Gonzalez, February 3, 2012 at 9:38 a.m.

    6) Playing Academy will provide up to four nights of training and matches on the weekend for 10 months.

    Four nights ? Get real, that's not the norm. Two nights is normal. Two hours in a car ? This is the extreme case. It does happen but is definitely the minority case. The Earthquakes Pre-Academy in our area is just one night a week. I can't speak to others. There's plenty of time for other activity. The Academy program in the US is still young. If I am correct, only the top players participate in them so there are plenty of players that can do all of the other fun high school stuff you reference.

    When it comes down to it, the serious players who want to play at the highest levels will figure out what is best if it is available in their area. High school offers the opportunity to be seen by college recruits. Club play offers that as well with Showcase events. Most Academy players come from Club teams. Professional dreams ? For my kids it's about college first. If they happen to be fortunate enough to make it the professional level before they obtain a college education then good, if that's what they want. Many options are available to them, Academies, Club, High School. We look into it all and see what makes sense.

    Let's not forget to enjoy the game, wherever they play !

  7. Rudy Espindola, February 3, 2012 at 9:39 a.m.

    With all due respect, for the kid that wants to be playing at top level college or pro, HS soccer is a no no, My son refuses to play HS and I do too.
    Good morning everybody !!

  8. Mike McGinley, February 3, 2012 at 9:40 a.m.

    I fully agree with Mike Barr - for 4 years of HS, grades and participation in after school activities are important to a young man growing up and taking both responsibilities to his/her school, community and the family. Regimentation may work in Europe, but when we see all the great athletes coming out of HS for other sports here in the US, why are we trying to copy others? HS sports worked for everyone else, why not the soccer player? Something is backwards here.

  9. David Debreceni, February 3, 2012 at 9:53 a.m.

    I think you have made some generalizations about academies and high schools as a whole that don’t apply everywhere. I know where I live in NJ there are select soccer clubs, I would hesitate to call them academies, that require all of their coaches to have been licensed to at least a National D level, while our high school coaches have had no licensing at all. Does the license make the coach, absolutely not, however since most high school coaches seem to be teachers in my area; one would think they above all would value education about the game. I know I would not someone without any education teaching my son mathematics.
    I believe high school sports have their place; both my sons play for a select soccer club as well as playing for their high school. I know that they would not trade playing for their school and the pride they exhibit for anything. That said, the level of play at the high school level is dramatically less than it is at the select club simply because of town limitations. Players at a select club are typically the better players in the surrounding area. Also players who play for the select clubs typically go to higher level, college showcase tournaments. And while $2,000 a year as a partial scholarship may not seem like a lot, every little bit counts.
    I am not sure what costs you are referring to as being high, I know there are some clubs out there that charge an astronomical amount per season. We pay roughly $2,500 to play per year, this includes all the tournaments and training. Training is the key here. At the select club level I find the coaches willing to develop the basic skills of a player starting at a young age. I know personally it is very disheartening when as a coach I pull a new player in at an older age, who shows great promise, only to find out no coach ever took the time to teach them how to pass a ball correctly. Education of coaches at all levels is what is needed, maybe then the academies would not be so strict in not allowing players to play HS soccer.
    Last, and sorry for the long reply, as I think you hinted at, select soccer is not for everyone. There are varying levels of players, each has a place to play. I think it is irresponsible and unethical for a select club to take players or a team purely for the money, and unfortunately that happens all too often. Roster sizes of 17 or 18 kids, players that as you said sit the bench for multiple years while not developing. These are things that the select clubs need to change. Again not every kid can play at a high level. I think the select clubs should be looking at the players ability to learn and develop to determine if they stay, not the money. So in my opinion there are things that need to change a little on both sides of the fence to fix this. Just my opinion.

  10. . Lev, February 3, 2012 at 9:59 a.m.

    Playing both works for basketball and football. Apparently this does not apply to soccer. Looks like a larger infrastructural issue, that - unfortunately - has reached a point of no return.

  11. Rob Hasse, February 3, 2012 at 10:18 a.m.

    First, we atre talking about the USDA and nothing else. Some clubs have "academy" teams, but they are not sanctioned by US Soccer. Please, let's keep that distinction in mind when discussing this.

    @ Mike....Backwards? We have 300 million people in this country and we can't even compete with Uraguay or Holland.

    @ Lev.....Football is just about the only HS sport where kids are recruited for college. ALL of the other sports recruit from non HS sanctioned teams/events.

  12. Brian Something, February 3, 2012 at 10:25 a.m.

    There are school coaches who know what they’re doing? Surely that can’t be possible! The whole “conventional wisdom” underpinning youth club soccer in this country is the snobbery that all school coaches are boobs who don’t know what they’re doing.

  13. Jack Niner, February 3, 2012 at 11:41 a.m.

    Mr Barr, thank you!!! I would argue pts 4, 5 & 6 are HUGE. The DA's are attractive for two main reason's: 1) Many parents believe success can be bought, and the Acad prey on this belief 2) Many college coaches are lazy and do not want to take the time to develop a network of HS to recruit like basketball or football.

  14. Mike McGinley, February 3, 2012 at 11:47 a.m.

    Rob - I see your point. Being from a state where soccer is very well developed, and from a large city where soccer is highly acclaimed, I am a bit biased, since I see HS coaches who also run primier teams off-season. It has to be very tough in rural areas to get good, qualified coaches in both club and HS. There is no black & white answer here.

  15. Richard Leddon, February 3, 2012 at 12:01 p.m.

    One thing to note about the traditional HS sports model's success is that it is successful for sports that are not facing international competition. Football, Baseball, Basketball (not much longer) are primarily US sports. Sports like Soccer and Tennis are driven by the European training model because that model develops high quality players that can compete at the international level. If a Soccer player wants to play at the highest levels, they much adopt the best training model.

  16. Richard Leddon, February 3, 2012 at 12:03 p.m.

    If HS coaches could train kids year round and develop all the aspects of their game, then that might be a viable option for the most committed soccer players.

  17. Jack Niner, February 3, 2012 at 12:12 p.m.

    Baseball and basketball are NOT international sports!? Tell that to all the Americans around the globe playing pro bball (Kobe Bryant raised in Italy)or the Central- South American and Japanese players in MLB.

    The DA or no play won't work for USA soccer.

  18. Randy Burdick, February 3, 2012 at 12:13 p.m.

    Bern hit it on the head... If a player is Div. 1 or Nat. level caliber, taking 2 1/2 months "off" to represent his neighbor hood high school team will not impact his development drastically. In many cases this break from the high intensity of Premier/Academy level competition is good for the players in the long term.

  19. Rob Hasse, February 3, 2012 at 12:16 p.m.

    @ Mr. Niner.....Both of your points are laughbale.

  20. Jack Niner, February 3, 2012 at 12:24 p.m.

    MHasse, you haven't been around much.

  21. Jens Jensen, February 3, 2012 at 12:26 p.m.

    I am a HS coach. I love HS soccer.

    As soccer continues to grow in popularity on a national scale, I can only see that US Soccer is fighting a losing battle. The sport is going to get closer to football, basketball, and baseball because that is what we understand as a country. HS soccer will become more and more important, not less.

    Making an enemy out of HS is a mistake - Why burn the bridge? As has been mentioned, a HUGE amount of money is invested in school sports. Take advantage. Build partnerships with your local HS coach - why tear down the program as a recruiting tool?

  22. David Huff, February 3, 2012 at 12:51 p.m.

    @Ric, thanks for the LA Times article referral and your insight borne of accumulated wisdom over time. What concerns me about the DA, ECNL and now the new so-called SoCal Development League approaches is that they are run by the big money clubs that really have no interest in developing their own players. They get their talent by raiding other clubs of players that were developed at the other club. Where is the development in "development" really taking place? Most of these big clubs only seem to care about burnishing their short-term bottom line in terms of rankings, championships, division level (Premier, Gold, Tier 1 etc.) which are dependent solely on winning games not on player development like you will see at some of the more progressive academies in Europe such as at Barca's La Masia or at Bayern Munich. This country is sorely lacking in an effective approach to its development of U-8 through U-15 players.

  23. Bill Anderson, February 3, 2012 at 1:49 p.m.

    Rough Estimate of money spent in the State of Texas by local school districts on High School Soccer is $56 MILLION. This money provides salary and instruction for roughly 35,000 soccer players (girls and boys). This money is spent on the primary age groups where youth soccer registration dies (the high school age group). This money reaches a substantial group of players that fall out of the club PAY to PLAY system. This is the EXACT GROUP of young players that Jurgen Klinsmann claimed to be the "future" of American soccer. Why is US SOCCER working so hard to destroy this?

  24. Rob Hasse, February 3, 2012 at 1:50 p.m.

    Niner: Just use some common sense and then re-read your comment.

    Lazy? C'mon man.

  25. Brent Paulson, February 3, 2012 at 1:50 p.m.

    There are two sides to each story. Kids play high school for different reasons, and should be embraced by the clubs, it allows for a sense of community or HS Pride, IMO- they do not play to get better! I coach both club and high school. If a player came to me today and said they were committing to the DA- I would say GREAT! I would bring another player up. I am not that selfish or blinded. The DA may offer more to help that player than I can. How come not as much anger over Residency Camp?

  26. Daniel Wesner, February 3, 2012 at 2:22 p.m.

    Given the opportunity, my boys would chose to play HS soccer over academy. The camaraderie and community spirit have been a big part of their overall HS experience.

    My biggest problems with HS soccer are the rule differences and referees. Some of the rule differences in Ohio are just silly. Worse still is that the JV teams only get two referees. I understand this is a cost issue, but it negatively affects play and represents a major dropoff from the club/academy game experience.

  27. Greg Parham, February 3, 2012 at 3:32 p.m.

    It's about quality. When possible we send our kids to the best high schools to get the best education. If the teaching credentials and programs are low, we look elsewhere. The best teachers yield the best results. No difference with coaching. The DAs and HS programs need to work together. The first step is to get the HS programs up to the standard shared by the DA programs, which are full of highly experienced and licensed coaches. It's time for the HS programs to insist on quality coaching, and it's time for the Directors of the DA programs to assist with the effort and help the HS programs raise their standards.

  28. Jason Calhoun, February 3, 2012 at 4:30 p.m.

    Wanted to throw in my 2 cents. The comments from Msrs. Hasse & Leddon notwithstanding, this is a very good discussion and a very timely one. Because of the geographic dispersal of the US populace (think urban vs. rural here), which is far more pronounced than most any other first world nation on the planet, our athletic development structure will necessarilly be different than that of Europe, Asia, or South America. Contrary to points made previously, colleges recruit for basketball, football and baseball very heavily based on High School performance. Yes, each one of these sports are American in origin, but each has a decidely competitive international component (e.g. - in American football, the international IFAF team beat the US U19 team in the latest International Bowl). The problem is, that US Soccer is trying to copy what works elsewhere, and make that square peg fit into the round hole that is American youth sports. Our High School program is equivalent to the Favela pick-up games in Rio, or the city-wide neighborhood-based games in England and elsewhere. If the mavens of soccer development want to truly develop soccer in the US, they need to focus their efforts on encouraging High Schools and Colleges to adopt FIFA rules (possibly with minor changes to the substitution rules). Another viable option is to follow the lead of BYU, and pull the game of soccer completely out of the NCAA, with each college fielding teams in either the PDL or USL. As for High School vs. Academy, I say "yes." It can't be a one-size-fits-all proposition. For example, my son plays on a high school team coached by a 30-year NCAA Division I coach. I don't want to see him have to give that up because the "quality of coaching in HS is not there" Rubbish. There are some places where that is not the case, and the kids should be free to skip if the choose...not if US Soccer chooses. In short, there is no easy answer to this problem, but as the father of an Academy player myself, I want him to be able to play both High School and Academy, as I see development opportunities in both venues.

  29. Arianna Flores, February 3, 2012 at 6:42 p.m.

    Spoken like a high school coach

  30. Jack Niner, February 3, 2012 at 8:01 p.m.

    Well said Mr Calhoun - Making the tent bigger, not smaller, is how to improve the game and benefit the kids the most. That is, if the game and kids are the main pt - Not soccer bums posing as elite coaches at acad. and colleges.

  31. Randolph Rompola, February 3, 2012 at 11:13 p.m.

    It would seem soccer (and its players) would benefit the most by a coaching "system" that could deliver its product in a variety of ways be it high school or the academies. I really doubt that it needs to be an either or circumstance.

  32. Jason Calhoun, February 4, 2012 at 4:17 a.m.

    @Arianna Flores: you're wrong, of course. I am not a soccer coach at all. Had you read my post at all, you would have surely gleaned that I am merely a concerned father that wants the best for my son and sees value in both systems, and recognizes that my son is fortunate to have incredible coaching year-round, regardless of which season he is playing in. Thanks for the critique, though...I'll try to be more clear in future posts.

  33. Eric Stratman, February 4, 2012 at 6:46 a.m.

    I have devoted my profession to creating and running High School soccer events. I did this because I felt this was a great way to promote positive representation of school and community. This whole academy situation has bothered me, and in all honesty, the high school soccer program I work with will likely benefit from it. That being said, two of the events I run have been directly affected by the High School Academy decision. Last fall at the Gateway City Soccer Classic in St. Louis, I watched Sacramento Jesuit and Granite Bay, both from California, play games without some of their elite players after CDA made their players choose during the middle of the High School season between academy or high school. Some kids chose academy and some stayed with high school. The point I have is why? It was late September when the ultimatum was made, why not just wait until the end of the season.
    Another event I started this past fall was the High School all-american game. It was designed to showcase the BEST fall playing high school players. However, the USSF decided that they would not endorse the game. Here is what they said about this game

    We discussed this event as a group at U.S. Soccer and from a technical perspective, we simply cannot approve this event for Academy players.

    · Our rules clearly state that outside competition is not allowed during the Academy season. This event is considered outside competition for several reasons:

    o This is a competition that does not fall in the normal fall high school season and therefore, not considered a part of the allowable high school window
    o The competition does not conform to the Academy technical standards
    o We have not allowed up to this point ‘all-star’ or similar style events during the Academy season

    The players that have been invited may attend on their own free will. Should they choose to attend, they will serve a minimum two game suspension for the two fixtures that follow this event.

    What a position to put these kids in. Are we really doing what is best for KIDS? We had some academy kids attend our event and here is what their parents had to say

  34. Eric Stratman, February 4, 2012 at 6:46 a.m.

    "Just wanted to thank you, and all your efforts to pull this off. Dakota has not stopped talking about how great of a time he had and how awesome you treated him. This will be something he will remember for the rest of his life. Definately worth the 2 game suspension."

    I am sending you this e-mail just to thank you for the phenomenal experience you have provided my son as a result of the Boys Soccer All American Game that you organized in December. It is ironic that he was fortunate to get on the roster, then he was very much in two minds about playing as a result of the nonsensical threat of suspension by the soccer academies. He chooses to go and has one of the best soccer weekends of his life! The whole experience he still raves about including how well organized it was, how good the standard of soccer was, and how nice it was to get an opportunity to see soccer at the next level at the NCAA College Cup. In addition, with regard to the gear he received, I am only slightly exaggerating in saying that the only time he takes off the warm-up top with high School All American Game logo on the back is to wash it!

    With regard to what he will do next year, it is all up in the air, but again all I can say is that his going to the All American game has brought his exposure to a whole new level and by golly he is a happy camper that he went. As a result of the weekend, he has a number of excellent, top level opportunities that he is kicking around - excuse the pun - and an awful lot of those opportunities would NEVER had surfaced without him attending the game you organized.

    Finally, after seeing how playing in the weekend has benefitted Shane, all I can say is that any high school soccer player who gets the opportunity to play in the Boys high School All American Game should jump at the opportunity and would be out of their mind to turn it down suspension or no suspension. (as a side note here, this young man signed his letter of intent this week to an ACC Power. His dad e-mailed me saying this, "As I said in the previous e-mail, without him attending your game there would be no XXXXXXXX so thanks again."

    Sure this is only one instance out of thousands of academy kids, but in our profession, if you only make the difference in one kid, it is worth it.

  35. Jay Sapirman, February 4, 2012 at 9:52 a.m.

    (Before I comment I must say that I do not have a son in the Academy system, nor do I have a son that plays soccer - I do have 2 daughters, however that play.) Give me a break. This is not a case for soccer in High School - it is a trashing of the Academy system. The Academies have hurt the ODP system, which is a very important part of the EPTSA - which is where Mr Barr is director of coaching. If High school soccer is so wonderful, then I ask, how many of the kids in ODP in Pennsylvania were recruited from the High School soccer teams? While there are some good coaches, the vast majority are not fully liscensed (or not at all), have little or no coaching experience, do nothing for the advancement of thier players after High School, do not give any more training than 2-3 mile runs and sprints everyday. HS Soccer is great for the experience of playing with your friends, but please let us not give it more credit than it deserves for being a great outlet for our soccer youth to develope!!!!

  36. James Froehlich, February 4, 2012 at 11:44 a.m.

    Having watched high school soccer teams for many years, I have no illusions about their effectiveness in developing high level soccer players. Some coaches are good others are abominable. HOWEVER, I find it laughable that the US Soccer Development Academy has the audacity to attempt to rule on anyone else's capability to develop high level players. Gentlemen, take a look at the status of the US player pool and then hide your heads in shame!!

  37. Eric Stratman, February 4, 2012 at 1:35 p.m.

    So what you are saying Jay is that unless you have a coaching license, you are not qualified? Any fool can pay their money and get a license. The key word is money. Guess who get's rich in that whole process. The closest Academy program to me paid their top 10 people in the program over $1,000,000.00 last year. You tell me who is in it for who. A high school coach makes about $3500 a year for their job. You aren't comparing apples to apples here.

    Terry Michler, The High school coach who has the all time most win doesn't hold 1 USSF, USYS, or NSCAA coaching license. Instead, he is a student of the game.

    If Academy soccer is the wave of the future, I guess it is safe to say that we will NEVER see a kid from Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maine, Delaware make the US National team or make it to the big time. Those kids are screwed because there are NO academy programs in those states.

  38. Eric Stratman, February 4, 2012 at 1:42 p.m.

    Throw in the other states where the Academies are only located in major cities and you quickly see that the Academies are really going to get the best of the best. They will get the best of the best in certain locations. If you want the best of the best and be able to identify them, break each state down into 8 different sections. Have tryouts and pick 8 elite teams. Take those teams and bring them together for a week of games and workouts in the summer. From those 8 teams, make an all-state team that then moves on and competes at a region level for a week. Then take the best of the best from the region level and those kids comprise the best of the best. Similar to what ODP has in done. Problem with ODP is that in Illinois for example, the try-outs are in Chicago and the cost associated for a downstate kid to try-out is too much.

  39. michael cassady, February 4, 2012 at 4:10 p.m.

    You hit the nail on the head. US Soccer needs less elitism,the academy's are exactly what we don't need... bring them home.develop home grown clubs and keep high schools..keep the ball on the ground.

  40. Jack Niner, February 4, 2012 at 4:35 p.m.

    I'd like to say a HUGE THANK YOU to Mr Stratman - The Gateway City Classic in St Louis is about as close to a HS Nat'l Trnm as you can get, and it has formidable competition. If you love soccer, try and make this HS trnm - You will NOT be disappointed. Oh yeah, the guy knows what he's talking about - great thoughts. Let's make the soccer tent bigger, to benefit the game and the kids, NOT the posers.

  41. Eric Stratman, February 4, 2012 at 5:22 p.m.

    After reading my post I want to clarify that I wasn't saying people who gets licenses are fools. My point was that in many cases, a total soccer illiterate can get a license and work their way up. Just because you have a license doesn't mean you are at another level. I have seem some very accomplished licensed coaches who I thought were total asses. But I could also sit and listen to Terry Michler talk for hours and learn so much

  42. R2 Dad, February 4, 2012 at 8:57 p.m.

    There is so much variability in club and HS coaching as well as the pool of available candidates, that it is hard to make generalizations. What impacts more students and is of greater detriment is that high school students no longer have the option to play multiple sports like they used to, because clubs discourage or prevent it. I think this is a big mistake, because elite clubs incorporate cross-training as an important component of the overall development of the player. I don't think the DA should be able to treat high school players like MLS treats their clubs. Again, what is missing is an overarching strategy, with overlapping tactics that seek to rationalize the sport in this country. The pathetic history of the NCAA proves they are ill-equipped to do anything but serve their own interests. Here is the real problem with soccer in this country: we allow the free market to do whatever works, only to be surprised when it chooses revenue over the development of our kids. Case in point: There is a U9 coach of a boys team, who physically confronted a referee at a state cup match. This coach got his team kicked out of the tournament and the premier league they were playing in. This coach, and all those coaches like him, are training our kids to disrespect the referees and the game--and the system enables him. Should this coach be allowed to continue coaching youths? Of course not, but there will always be a club that will take him because of his coaching record, contacts and the revenue he can generate for a club. As parents, we deserve to know who gets disbarred, and those coaches should be banned from youth teams. If Klinsmann is truly going to fix soccer in this country, he really has to use the bully pulpit and reach down into the youth system and fix our broken processes.

  43. Jason Calhoun, February 5, 2012 at 11:03 a.m.

    @ Ric Fonseca: Sorry I wasn't more clear, and I understand your confusion. It's actually quite simple...he retired from his NCAA DI gig, spent a year or so figuring out what to do for the next phase of his career, then decided to coach at our high school among other ventures. Nothing illegal whatsoever. I can assure you he is not in it for the money, but rather for the love of the game and the opportunity to help turn quality boys into quality young men. We are truly fortunate to have him.

  44. Mike Koeshartanto, February 5, 2012 at 11:50 a.m.

    "Most parents of these elite players will buy into the decision, much in the same way they believe it costs thousands of dollars to assure their child becomes a strong player and receives that $2,000 partial scholarship."

    That's a pretty hypocritical statement considering it is equally as expensive to join and play in the ODP system.

  45. Brian Jackson, February 6, 2012 at 12:15 a.m.

    I'm a parent of a player who gave 3 years of his life to an Academy program, played, travelled 2 hours to training and games, and missed out on every school, church, family, and friend function during that time. The only thing he didn't compromise were his top grades. He gave it up for his senior year, is having a blast, is leading his HS team to section finals, and has received more offers from D1, D2, and NAIA schools than even contacted him during his Academy time. Academies have agendas and politics just like every other organization. I agree with the comments about parents thinking they can buy their boys' success in soccer. If I could get back 3 years of my son's life, I'd pay any price over the soccer success he had in Academy. He'll still play college ball and now he's happy too.

  46. Brian Jackson, February 6, 2012 at 12:22 a.m.

    To Ric Fonseca - based on my recent confirmation of the NCAA rules on coaching outside of college, you can coach club but can only recruit players (or have on your team) those who live within 50 miles of your college job. one coach near us picked up this girls U15 club team so he could train them and recruit for the local college team. What happens to the kids who don't want to go to that school (or have better options) but the local coach is also the club coach giving the references. Looks to me like he created his own way to build his college team when they are only 15, skirting all NCAA communication rules.

  47. Robert Robertson, February 7, 2012 at 11:52 a.m.

    While the article was aimed at boys, the same discussion occurs in the girls side of the game. The answer to the question depends on each situation and varies from year to year. My daughters former hs coach (from Freshman to Junior)was just collecting an overtime check. He never played soccer and did not spend the effort to learn to coach the game since other sports were his interest. I forced my daughter to play on the team which resulted in greater injuries than in club, little recognition, etc. Next year we have a new woman coach who has enthusiasm for the game and for coaching so, things will be better. However, many players on elite teams play on powerful hs teams as well so they gain recognition in local papers, in their community, amongst their friends, with their fellow students and have competent coaching staffs. So, its clearly worth it to play hs for them.

  48. Ken Sweda, February 9, 2012 at 11:25 a.m.

    Dr. Phil would say: "High school soccer as a developer of talent? How's that working for you" The answer is: no World Cups. And isn't that what the discussion should always be about--success in the ultimate competition on the planet for THE INTERNATIONAL sport? We always get sidetracked into arguing about what's best for a kid's overall development: educational, social, psychological, recreational, etc. The discussion is about soccer, nothing else. And HS (and, frankly, college) as the main incubators of international-quality talent DOES NOT, and HAS NOT, worked.

    Further, while the comments about paying to participate in academies and expecting better results are well founded, even this misses the point. Kids who want to pursue soccer as a career SHOULD NOT be paying to attend academies, because real academies SHOULD NOT be charging. If the parent club really believes in the sport, and supports the idea of a real soccer profession and the ultimate goal of a World Cup title, the academies should be funded by the clubs. End of.

  49. Chuck Coan, February 9, 2012 at 3:20 p.m.

    Let's get the national and state High School governing bodies to change their rules to actually allow high school coaches to train and develop their players! The biggest complaint I hear about high school soccer is that the coaches do not develop players and HS seasons are not set up to allow players to improve. The quality of high school coaches has gone up every year in our state. However, the environment for them to be able to develop players has not changed.
    How do you train your team when every day is either the day before, the day of or the day after a game? Open gyms during the school year are wasted. The coach has 2 choices-Follow the rule or cheat. Here is the rule: There is no instruction during the open gym by a coach or anyone else. I have to sit and watch players ingrain bad technical and tactical habits.
    My state HS association has allowed HS coaches to have summer coaching contact with their teams provided that they are organized by an outside entity and the players are not assembled in a way that substantially resembles a high school team. This well meaning act took place just as club soccer moved to a fall/spring season for high school age players and summer soccer has nearly disappeared.
    High school and college soccer could be a great gift to the sport if they were managed for the welfare and development of the players as well as the positive press for their sponsoring institutions. I believe it is a potentially better model than the European club model. Excellent athletes, getting essentially free (to them) high quality instruction and competition while receiving an education that prepares them for a future in the real world! When the occasional anomaly that is the true professional level athlete appears, at any age or level, an academy run by a professional club should be available to groom and develop them for the highest level soccer in the world. We should be overjoyed when that happens! It will happen if we have more players playing early on and playing longer because there is great training, competition and recognition at local High Schools which are in every village, town and city in our nation! If the only way to keep playing soccer is to go to the few professional academies in this country the sport will wither and die in short order. High school drives continued interest in club soccer not the other way around in 90%+ of the communities in this nation. You destroy HS Soccer you remove the incentive for most young people to play the game.
    By compressing seasons into a space that allows for no training and development and then restricting access to the athletes during most of the rest of the year we deny HS coaches the opportunity to teach and develop their players and we deny our players the opportunity to improve their skills and enjoyment of the game. Then we curse the coaches for their inability to develop world class players! Use our energy to improve what we have-not bash each other!

  50. Eric Stratman, February 11, 2012 at 8:40 a.m.

    In the words of Dr. Phil, "Residency was supposed to develop the best of the best." Result, 0 world Cups. How'd that work for ya?

    Great we say, so well that now we have 156 of them located across the country.

  51. Jack Niner, February 11, 2012 at 7:06 p.m.

    When you read the comments at USSoccer on the DA's going to a 10 month season, the logic is 'this is what the reat of the world does, so the US must also to be good' That's it, no facts other than that. Hucksterism at it's worst. Use the kids, and say it's best for them. If you talk with a funny accent, drive a German sports car, wear the lastest in warm-up fashions, grow your hair kind of long, and chase after young soccer Mom's, all of a sudden you could be considered an expert on youth soccer and player development in the USA.

  52. Soccer Coach, February 12, 2012 at 10:56 a.m.

    I suspect the purpose of this article was to establish a dialogue on the topic, and based on the number of comments and follow up articles I would say it was a success. The topic is fraught with emotion which inhibits rationale thinking, the willingness to be dead right or dead wrong is extraneous, you’re still dead!

    Like many articles there are expressed opinions and facts and at times it is hard to discern one from another. We may agree or disagree with the presentation but the ability to have through discussion will ensure we have best outcomes for our children (the players). In business, the existence of standards allows disparate parts to work together, the lack of standards results in extinction of one or more (think beta max versus VHS). The productive outcome would be focusing on how these venerable programs ( academy/club soccer and scholastic programs) can work in concert to maximize the opportunity that exists in the USA (300 million people ).

  53. Soccer Coach, February 12, 2012 at 10:56 a.m.

    The scholastic game and the club/academy game are different, which results in different strategies and skills designed to be successful. Scholastic game allows for two referees each with whistle, club game has Center and two AR. The ability to identify offside is hard enough but in scholastic game it is further compromised by how officials assigned to the games are aligned. The rules in scholastic for cards differ from club, while the club game follows FIFA rules on advantage play which is non-existent in scholastic. These difference and other results in style of play which at times may substantially differ between the two groups, coaches of course recognize this and as result they focus on practice and training activities which increase their success on the pitch. These different approaches become fodder for the message boards on why one group is better or worse then the other but without context really adds no value to the real issue. How do we maximize the potential within the US? I propose less infighting and more collaboration. Now that the discussion has hit the national stage (thanks Mike Barr and others) can we get a national discussion on how to standardize the game in our country? Can we demand small sided games in younger age groups, eliminate State Cup competitions at age groups before the USSF Intermediate stage, foster more development pools before USSF Advance level and harmonize rules between scholastic and club games? Can we do it all with less exclusion of those without the resources to travel the country each weekend and to pay coaches with foreign accents telling us what we are doing wrong in this country despite not have won World Cup themselves in recent memory?

    On May 25, 1961 President Kennedy said the following:

    I believe we possess all the resources and talents necessary. But the facts of the matter are that we have never made the national decisions or marshaled the national resources required for such leadership. We have never specified long-range goals on an urgent time schedule, or managed our resources and our time so as to insure their fulfillment.

    He was talking about putting a man on the moon before the end of the decade, an objective that was achieved. I propose we do the same in US soccer and marshal the scholastic and club soccer expertise to place US Soccer on the top of the table in International soccer discussions. This can only be done by working together..

    Full disclosure: I have 4 boys playing club soccer, two also play scholastic. I have several coaching licenses and have a decade of experience coaching, including both club and scholastic teams, currently. I am member of Board for large club/academy program and I receive zero compensation for any of these activities.

  54. Eric Stratman, February 13, 2012 at 8:39 a.m.

    Soccer coach, I agree with a lot of what you say, but also disagree with a lot of things. I am from Illinois and we use a 3 Man system for every varsity game, so that is not correct on your comment. High school soccer nation wide has many flaws, many of which could be fixed if a certain organization would step in and make better decisions rather than worrying about what color tape is on your friggin socks or if there is blue stripes on your white uniform. I am glad that you have volunteered your services to your various clubs and you should be commended for it because I will argue until I die that MANY club coaches do NOT do it for the love of the game. I would like to challenge the 78 clubs to open their books and show these families where their money is going. Like I said, I know a club that is within 300 miles of me that paid their top 10 people over $1 million total a year. I am working on writing an article similar to the one above but from the eyes of a person who has devoted his life to high school soccer. I hope someone chooses to publish it.

  55. Vicki Zacharewicz, February 13, 2012 at 8:50 a.m.

    One of the atmospheres that Academy ball cannot replicate is the experience of a stadium of fans, both cheering and jeering at you during a game. For my freshman to play a state cup game with the Varsity team, this was something he will not come across again until he makes a return to HS soccer. And it was an incredible experience for him. This is just a small part of what make HS soccer great. I just hope that when he can 'come back' to HS soccer as a senior that his coach will accept him and that in the next 2 years he will not be judged too harshly by his peers who may see him not playing for the school as a snub.

  56. Scott Calabrese, February 17, 2012 at 5:08 p.m.

    In a presentation by the KNVB (Dutch) U17 National team coach he described the structure of the soccer enviornment in the Netherlands. He stated that the best players must play with the best players and compete against the best players. In the Academy Enviornment the players are selected and are the elite players in an age group over a large geographical area. Consequently the training enviornment places top players against each other. The matches are played against similarly high level teams. So the best play with the best, against the best.

    Unfortunately HS teams must select players from a very limited geographical area, they play other teams who are similarly structured and consequently may lack the depth of quality necessary to create a challenging enviornment. I think this is less of an indictment of the coaching in HS but rather the issues that the structure creates for elite players.
    In team sports the coach is only one factor in the enviorment... other players and competition are critical.

    Do you as HS coaches feel the level of your team is similar to that of the Academy teams, Is there a large gap between your best players and your weaker players on your team. Is there a large range in the quality of the teams you play???

  57. Angela Travis, February 17, 2012 at 6:14 p.m.

    This is an issue/problem that my family has been dealing with since October when my sons academy team delivered the ruling that he would no longer be allowed to play HS soccer. The teams in the Northwest region moved to the "10 month" season this past fall and we were forced to conform - or leave the program. When we committed to a second year of academy invovlement in August, we were under the impression that it would be another year before the NO HS rule would take effect, and that we would be able to continue as we had the year before playing both HS and academy. When this all changed, my son was overwhelmed by feelings that he had let down his HS friends, but also knew that in the long run HS ball was not going to get him to the next level. While this year in the academy has been challenging for many reasons... the training that he receives 4 nights a week and the exposure that he has gained by playing in front of many college coaches, would never have happened on his HS team. Plus the life experiences of traveling with his academy team as a 16 and 17 year old have been extremely valuable. The bottom line is that US Soccer put these kids in a horrible position, and then punished the ones who chose to fulfill their committments to their HS teams.

  58. katrice wilson, September 26, 2012 at 9:53 a.m.

    It seems a shame that we allow orginations to dictate what we can and can't do for our children. My oldest daughter's travel team folded at the u16 level due to kids wanting to do other things in life besides soccer 6 days a week. My daughter got her indendent player card and continued.She worked out at home and yes enjoyed 4 years of high school varsity starter position in a very competitive area. No they didn't win the PA state cup and guess what,life went on. Those 4 years had some of the best memories for both my daughter and our family.Dressing in our colors and supporting our community.She went on to be a walk on at WCU without all the expence of camp.That allowed us to help get her a car and move into the real world of reponsibilty and not entitlement. The reality is that there are very very few kids who get a full ride to college in any sport. If all you are doing now is worth a couple thousand dollars toward their college education then my suggestion is to drop to your knees and pray that they do not want to go to concert,family reunions,dances,sleepovers,grandmom's birthday party,to pick out your new puppy and God they better not get hurt! If everyone is not enjoying the ride you are now on,then do your child a favor and get off that bus and let them be a kid. My daughter is now a senior at WCU. She is a full time student who pays to live on her own,bought her own car and yes she plays year round indoor co-ed soccer every week and kicks butt. Looking back,we are thankful that team folded.It allowed us to take a good look at what she was missing.Good luck to all the kids and families!

  59. Rob Walker, October 15, 2012 at 4:30 p.m.

    Quick background on me: I've played at an elite club level and enjoyed my high school soccer experience for 3 years at the varsity level, both of which led me to become a multi-year All American at the NAIA level. I’ve coached boys and girls HS soccer for 6 years (12 seasons in total), with 11 district championships, 8 regional championships, and 1 state runner up. I’m not a teacher—work as a project manager in the business world.

    This article is very well written and brings to light some valid points. We've noticed an impact in the Midwest at the high school level (St Louis, Chicago, and Kansas City). However, I would say there are many positives to this both from a big picture standpoint as well as at a more granular level, which never seem to be touched upon.

    Big picture, these elite players will train with only elite players. They will play against only elite players. They will be trained by former professional players in almost all instances. Lastly, and most commonly forgotten, they will be monitored by only elite officials. If 0.5% of these players can get to truly elite levels by age 18-20, our national team pool will be about 20-25 players deeper, thus, allowing us to be more competitive in World Cup and Olympic competition. While it’s nice to talk about the benefits youth soccer has on our kids (i.e. leadership development, teamwork, social, etc), let’s not forget its ultimate goal is to develop and train for the US to compete at the International stage.

    A more granular approach also shows benefits. The typical impact to a high school will be realized when their 3-4 best players are lost. However, this will create opportunities for the second and third tier players to actually play legitimate roles on their teams. How many times have you had to cut the 19th kid who wants to be there more than anything? How many times have you had to play your 12th player 20 minutes when he/she could do more? The academy set-up widens doors for these kids.

    I've heard and spoke of pros and cons from both sides. What it comes down to in the end is a choice from a player and his/her parent to identify the path that is best for them. Ultimately, if it improves our competitiveness on the national and international stages, I'm all for it. I'll continue to coach and enjoy coaching my high school kids who want to be there, and I will wish my elite kids the best on their journey to D-1 and potential professional careers. If this had gone through one year sooner, I would have had to say goodbye to my All-American, senior goalkeeper. All the same, if it benefits him as a player and person, I would have been the first to support him in his decision, and I would have made it a point to watch his games and cheer him on.

  60. Adesh Tom, January 18, 2014 at 10:08 p.m.

    Hello everyone,
    My name is Adesh.. I am a foreign student currently attending high school in Ohio.. I am 6'0 tall soccer player with skills and quickness. Am looking to transfer to another school because am not getting the exposure I needed to be able to play at college level... I will be really grateful if anybody out their can help me transfer to any school that will allow me play in their soccer team... I am really good at this game and I don't want my talent to waste...thanks
    My email is

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