Klinsmann and Co. make case for 10-month club season, no high school ball

By Mike Woitalla

U.S. Soccer made it official last Friday that its 78-club Development Academy league will move to a 10-month schedule starting with the 2012-13 season.

More than 3,000 of the nation's elite boys play for Academy teams in U-15/16 and U-17/18 leagues and the schedule change means no high school soccer for them. That's the most controversial aspect of the move the Federation says is necessary to create a better balance between training and games and to “close the performance gap with the top soccer nations.”

U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann said in the Academy’s press release:

"If we want our players to someday compete against the best in the world, it is critical for their development that they train and play as much as possible and in the right environment. The Development Academy 10-month season is the right formula and provides a good balance between training time and playing competitive matches. This is the model that the best countries around the world use for their programs, and I think it makes perfect sense that we do as well."

Said USSF Youth Technical Director Claudio Reyna, "This schedule puts our elite players in line with kids in their age group internationally, and places the appropriate physical demands at this stage in their development."

The USA, however, is unique to international soccer powers in that it has a strong tradition of scholastic sports participation. The club vs. high school conflict emerged before the Academy league’s arrival in 2007, but it has heated up since one third of the Academy teams moved to the 10-month schedule last year. U.S. Soccer addressed the issue of “banning” kids from high school ball in its “Frequently Asked Questions” about the schedule change:

“Every player has a choice to play high school soccer or in the Development Academy. We believe that for those elite soccer players who are committed to pursuing the goal of reaching the highest levels they can in the sport, making this decision will provide them a big advantage in their development and increase their exposure to top coaches in the United States and from around the world.

“We are talking about a group of players who want to continue at the next level, whether that is professional or college, which is still the destination for a majority of our graduates.”

On whether the quality of high school soccer would be reduced, U.S. Soccer responds with:

“Overall, only 1 percent of all players currently playing high school soccer are involved with the Development Academy. We are only talking about a small percentage of elite players who have the goal of playing soccer at the highest levels. High School soccer will continue to make an important contribution to the soccer landscape in this country.”

On whether Academy coaches are better than high school coaches:

“There are many quality coaches in both the Development Academy and high school teams. The Academy environment allows for more focused and consistent training with less emphasis on games. Academy players and coaches also receive ongoing feedback, instruction and guidance from U.S. Soccer Technical Advisors, who are also the main scouts for the U.S. national team programs.”

U.S. Soccer says the move received “overwhelming support” from its member clubs.

“The key to development, to me, is playing against quality players in practice,” said Crossfire Premier Coaching Director Bernie James in a statement. “I think if you’re with a group of good players who are pushing each other, and you have that for most of the year, then I think it’s bound to be better for development.”


U.S. SOCCER’s Frequently Asked Questions:
Academy Starts 10-Month Season in 2012-13 HERE

U.S. SOCCER's Development Academy Quote Sheet: Why Federation leaders (Claudio Reyna, Tony Lepore, Kevin Payne) and Academy club coaching directors (Don Ebert Strikers FC, Calif.; Bernie James, Crossfire Premier, Wash.; Alan Mezger, FC Delco, Pa.: Dave Farrell, Oakwood SC, Conn.; Steve Klein, PA Classics; Kevin Smith, Solar Chelsea, Texas) advocate the 10-month season HERE.

2011-2012 Development Academy Clubs/Conference Alignment Map: HERE.


Joe Lyons' article in St. Louis Today includes responses to the "high school ban" from Missouri high school coaches. ("If you're a top player, a truly elite player, you're going to be found, no matter where you play," says Chaminade coach Mike Gauvain.) Read "U.S. Soccer bans its elite players from high school teams" HERE.

Paul Tenorio of the Washington Post spoke to University of Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski, who argues that the Academy can function alongside high school and was initially designed to do just that. Read the article HERE.

61 comments about "Klinsmann and Co. make case for 10-month club season, no high school ball".
  1. John Roode, February 13, 2012 at 9:44 a.m.

    All I can say is... "it's a bout time!". The US has been so backward in this regard it's ridiculous. In Europe at the age of 15, a player "commits" himself to playing at the highest level... and in many cases signs a pro contract. Their development from that point forward is actually accelerated. In the US, when a player turns 15 and they choose to play HS, they are actually making a commitment to back off and their development actually decelerates. Our development from the ages of 15 through 18 has been the worst in the world. And this is one of the main reasons why... oh... other than the fact that we coddle our children on into their early 20's by sending them to collegiate day care.

  2. Brian Something, February 13, 2012 at 9:45 a.m.

    Well of course they should eschew high school. In HS, they’re less likely to get a coach with an accent and we all know that the worst coach with an accent is better than the best American-born coach.

  3. Brian Something, February 13, 2012 at 9:46 a.m.

    Sorry John Roode, but the biggest problem with youth development in this country is as at the U12 and younger levels. Too much overcoaching, too little understand of stages of development.

  4. d griffin, February 13, 2012 at 9:57 a.m.

    I have issue with this because the US is NOT like Europe. The academy is great for kids who have access to Academy soccer, which seems to exist in larger cities. In England and Europe, clubs everywhere have programs for youth, allowing opportunities for kids everywhere... we do not. If we limit elite soccer to the academy, we lose kids from far too many areas across the country. Beyond the academy, we have to figure out how to mainstream the sport... we don't have enough national coverage, we don't have enough support in communities and we don't structure our professional soccer like clubs in Europe. It's a much bigger issue that simply the Academy. And, in my opinion, what has happened with the academy is only isolating the sport even more.

  5. Pete Pidgeon, February 13, 2012 at 10 a.m.

    As a fervent supporter of high school sports, I have to say that this decision makes sense for the players in the Academies. They are there to focus on development. That's why they've worked to achieve selection in the first place. One key phrase that stood out for me was the reference to the focus on development in training with less focus on games.

    Most, if not all, pro clubs work on the premise of five practices and one game per week. The hectic addition of cups, Champion's league, etc. are always greeted with the ambiguous feelings of the strain the extra games place upon the fitness of the squad.

    If it's a concern on grown adults, how much is that magnified on growing young men and women? Four practices and two games per week on a high school schedule and two to three practices with your club team is simply too much to expect from a teenager.

    On the other hand, high school participation can play an integral part in a young player's maturation. For anyone NOT in an Academy roster, it makes perfect sense. Club teams need to recognize that the kids need to be kids socially, academically and mentally. You can have your NINE month season, simply by leaving September, October and November off your schedule. You get a more rounded player and the player and the school team gain the advantage of the skills and knowledge that a dedicated soccer player can bring to the table.

    The tired argument of 'let them play' doesn't mean run them into the ground and a conscious application of Law 18, common sense, can make the relationship between club and school work very well.

  6. Stephen Peck, February 13, 2012 at 10:12 a.m.

    The one thing that this country prides itself on is education.

  7. Douglas Mohrmann, February 13, 2012 at 10:32 a.m.

    many of the comments have valid points, coaching under 12 isnt available to kids to practice the necessary skills.

    Additionally the US is not like Europe, we have other major sports with very well established professional leagues, long history of "sports heros" with whom many american childeren are familiar. they take good athletes and/or split the focus of good athletes.

    fianlly thre is very little hope for the strong academy players to turn professional in the US. Our league is small and there are no meaningful 2nd and thrid divisions that
    offer professional playing opportunities.

    this is a generational project. Todays academy players are kids of the first solid generation of American players which took root in the late 60s

  8. Stephen Peck, February 13, 2012 at 10:41 a.m.

    The one thing that this country prides itself on is education. All the academy seems to worry about is the access to training and coaching. What about the players academic education. Is US Soccer going to instill academic requirements for players to maintain roster spots? Or is this the parents problem and players can drop out or flunk out of high school with US Soccer still allowing them to compete. If broad strokes are being taken to devalue HS soccer in the US does that mean "elite" soccer players also end up with the message that US Soccer can take or leave their academic development? HS coaches are teachers and first and foremost respect the US belief that education will always play the most important part of our children's lives? How about the academy layout a plan for how these young men will get the overall HS experience while playing academy soccer? The average college scholarship for "elite" players is $7000.00 dollars while college expenses are averaging about $35,000.00/year. Of the approx. 3000 academy players on the 78 teams only about 1 to 1.5% or 30 to 45 of them will ever get the offer to sign a pro contract. Where is the improvement from the current system? Athletic scholarships are being decreased (especially in the non-revenue sports) by colleges every year and academic scholarships are where the money is for college. Three nights of training and games on Saturdays does not leave much time or concern in addressing academics. What is the plan US Soccer???

  9. Brent Crossland, February 13, 2012 at 10:54 a.m.

    The high school and college associations have never wanted to be part of "US Soccer" -- either the formal organization or the philosophy or mindset. They've always acted as if they know more, modifying the FIFA game to suit their purposes. Why is this act on the part of US Soccer any different?

    What we need is for ALL player development entities to get on the same page! Play the same LOTG that the rest of the world plays; teach coaches a similar philosophy of play; work together on player development (yes, I understand that you need to win.) In short, run programs for the players!

  10. David Whitehouse, February 13, 2012 at 11:11 a.m.

    I have a number of thoughts on this subject, so I'll post each separately.

    First of all, it should be pointed out that for many years High School Associations (at least in Michigan, where I live) have forbidden kids from playing for a Club Team during the High School season.

    This is not for the good of the player - in 9th grade my son asked if he could also play on a Co-Ed AYSO team. This had nothing to do with soccer, and everything to do with Girls. I told him the school would not allow this, although if he wanted to play AAU Basketball seven days a week, that was OK.

    Rather, these policies are meant to give players no choice - it's High School or nothing.

    So USSF is giving schools a taste of their own medicine, even though it affects very, very few players, and of course every academy player who gives up High School soccer will be replaced by another High School kid, who now has an opportunity to play.

    High School Associations constantly preach that "it's about participation", but that is simply not the case. As many players will participate on High School teams, just not all of the best ones. It's about winning - some school coaches will find they need to work with less skilled players and develop them, if they want to win.

  11. David Whitehouse, February 13, 2012 at 11:22 a.m.

    In discussing this situation it is useful to look at what goes in the other "minor" professional sport in the US - Ice Hockey.

    Kids who wish to play in the NHL, or even in a major college program, usually will play Junior Hockey (basically U21) at some point. Some do it in preference to High School hockey, while others will do it for one or two years after High School.

    This system has turned out a large number of NHL players, including players of the highest quality (a claim US Soccer cannot make)

    For example, Mike Knuble, a local boy and long time NHL player, played only Club Hockey as a kid, except for one year in High School. He then played Junior Hockey for a year, before being recruited by Michigan. Most youth hockey players they are not ready for even College play at 18.

    This points out a missing feature in the Academy system - U21 play. This would allow players a chance to learn the adult game before deciding on the College or Pro Route. It would also allow some players to play in High School, then U21s. This is particularly useful for players who cannot reasonably participate in Academy teams at younger ages. It also would be embraced by major College coaches, who would be getting experienced 19 and 20 year olds instead of 18 year olds.

  12. David Whitehouse, February 13, 2012 at 11:27 a.m.

    Of course, High School sports is like being drafted into the Army - you have no choice about where you can play.

    Many High School programs are horrible - the coach is a problem, there may be only a few kids with even moderate skill, and soccer is often a second class citizen to football. Perhaps the USSF initiative will stimulate schools to improve their programs (or to add one - in Michigan over 200 High Schools do not have a soccer team).

    For the players, High School sports are usually about playing with friends.

    For the coaches, High School sports are usually about winning.

  13. Kevin Sims, February 13, 2012 at 11:28 a.m.

    If this policy truly addressed the elite players, perhaps this would be a healthy posture. However, to suggest that 4,000 players (and the number of Academy clubs & teams will certainly grow) comprise the elite who may wear USA jerseys some day ... or play professionally ... or receive college scholarships ... is a considerable stretch. No particular situation can be deemed ideal for all players. So I take exception to the denial of freedom of choice and the mandate. Yes, let's ramp up opportunities for the truly elite. No, let's not mislead players and families whose children are not special. Honor freedom of choice and let families and players decide how they wish to invest their time, energy and resources to grow in soccer and in their lives. As a related matter, how much diversity and inclusion is in evidence on these Academy rosters?

  14. David Whitehouse, February 13, 2012 at 11:31 a.m.

    A friend of mine, a former College and Club coach once remarked about High School soccer: "You know Dave, I think it makes them [the players] worse".

    What he meant was that the typical High School team might have a few very good players, and a number of kids who are good athletes (think fast and strong), but not great soccer players.

    The result is a style that is very direct, since it offers the best results in the Win-Loss column, but this is often cited as the major problem in US youth Soccer: An over-emphasis on athleticism.

  15. Roy Pfeil, February 13, 2012 at 11:33 a.m.

    Having a good talent identification program is critical to achieve the ultimate goal of consistent success on the international stage. The talent search network currently has some big holes in it that passes up talent in suburban areas that exist far away from the big cities. The academy program is a great idea but the scouting tentacles need to go deep not only into urban areas but suburbia/rural areas as well.

  16. Antonius Molay, February 13, 2012 at 11:34 a.m.

    Kudos for Klinnsmann & Co.
    High School Soccer has never had quality coaching or play. Their main goal is to promote the high school agenda and enhance their personal careers; not the players. Political correctness at its best. The level of play at the high school level is awful, and the coaches do nothing about it. The games associated with high school is like a chicken fight; utterly shameful. We have a HS coach in our town in Connecticut that players do not respect. All this coach is concerned about is writing blogs and sports articles, and looking forward to entering the HS Hall of Fame. Furthermore, the refereeing is awful and inconsistent and the rules are modified to appease the arrogance of the public school system. The most beautiful game in the world can only be developed based on Klinsmann and the USSDA's approach. It's about time! Thank you.

    Footnote: HS Basketball will be going in the direction of AAU Basketball very soon in order to develop great players. HS is failing at both the athletic and academic level.

  17. David Whitehouse, February 13, 2012 at 11:37 a.m.

    Finally, a parting thought.

    Schools, whether High Schools or Colleges, do not subscribe to the notion that professional athletics is a worthy profession. The corollary is that only school sports are worthy.

    In what other country, or profession, do you see schools tell kids "You can't accept any money to further your career aims". A kid can work at a car wash for minimum wage, but not accept $50 to play in a soccer game.

    In essence, school sports are a goose that lays golden eggs, but not for the players.

    A round of applause to USSF for helping to offer an alternative to the gifted players. If it is an inferior choice the players will reject it, but now the players have the choice.

  18. amir hadzic, February 13, 2012 at 11:44 a.m.

    As a former professional soccer player in Europe who passed all stages of academy soccer - I can see the benefits of more balanced schedule, better and more competitive training environment, less burn-outs and injuries etc. However, as a Collegiate and High School coach here in the U.S., I can clearly see the benefits of playing high school soccer or both club and high school soccer. Young players who play for their high schools develop a different set of skills they would not necessarily develop playing in a highly competitive academy setting; they develop their leadership skills, they learn how to excell in the environment where they are "the main guys on the pitch", let alone playing in front of their high school peers. I think academies (and I was a part of such academy) can only partially prepare players for the next level. Playing both high school and club soccer actually prepares players better for the collegiate and professional level. The only clear advantage of playing only for academies, in my opinion, is that the coaching staff at the State, Regional and National levels will be able to recognize/identify quality players much easier than searching through thousands of club/high school players. Also, we now reached the point that high school soccer is the second sport by participation among high school students. Not allowing some kids to participate would decrease numbers of participants and fans and therefore have an influence on the popularity of soccer in the U.S. If high school participation was the problem in the past - how is it possible that our U.S. women's team was so successfull in the 1990s and 2000s when majority of young women participated in their high school teams?

  19. Kevin Sims, February 13, 2012 at 11:47 a.m.

    Yes, there are poor high school programs. Yes, there are great high school programs. Yes, there are poor club programs. Yes, there are great club programs. There are many coaches who serve both club soccer and high school soccer, both Academy soccer and high school soccer. To suggest there is no value to high school soccer under any circumstances is offensive. All coaches, whether high school or club or Academy, should be motivated to serve the long term best interest of the child ... shame on any who act otherwise ... I think you would find this to be a small minority in reality.

  20. amir hadzic, February 13, 2012 at 11:52 a.m.

    Also, i forgot to mention that "no high school soccer" fever will spill out to all clubs (not only the academies) across the nation because clubs depend on the revenue from the high school age kids. Therefore, some clubs will also demand that their players don't play high school ball and that will further deminish the numbers and quality of high school soccer. As a consequence, many high schools will cut their soccer programs and we will go back to early 1990s where only a limited number of high schools actually had soccer programs.

  21. Kevin Sims, February 13, 2012 at 11:53 a.m.

    The best and most responsible high school coaches have overwhelmingly pointed the elite talent to the Development Academy ... and now are being slapped in the face. High School soccer has done much to bring visibility and credibility to soccer in the USA and deserves respect. To bite the hand that feeds you with stereotypes is not wise. US Soccer should recognize that Academy soccer and high school soccer can coexist and in many cases accelerate the growth of the player and person ... respect freedom of choice!

  22. Alan Gay, February 13, 2012 at 12:04 p.m.

    Like many plans, this one will likely succeed in addressing the perceived problem: the lack of teenage players who are playing close to their maximum potential when they reach their late teens. Whether it makes for, on average, a better life for the kids involved is a decision for their parents. The non-soccer downsides to this plan are numerous, but I hope no one is expecting Jurgen Klinsmann to be responsible for those evaluations and decisions.

    To the college coaches who say "better players for me", it's only lack of money at the MLS level to fund a professional farm/development system that will keep these players channeled into the college programs. A dual system (somewhat similar to baseball) will eventually emerge.

    To Jurgen Klinsmann, I would say, "Are you sure you are solving the real problem? Have you considered whether the real limitation is in fact that very few, if any, of the true top athletes are playing soccer beyond age 10 in the US of A?" I see more speed, power, and quickness in a single person in an average D1 defensive backfield or on the basketball court than I see on the USMNT. If you define that as the problem, I suspect the plan would be different.

  23. James Rich, February 13, 2012 at 12:17 p.m.

    Not being part of Europe is what makes us American. Sorry SoccerAmerica I think you are wrong. Why no opposing views from some of the top HS coaches whom some of us also hold an "A" license and continue our training. In the urban cities most athletes can't afford the commute to the cities where the shear numbers dictate participation in club soccer, therfore, club soccer becomes elietist rather than the best talent.

  24. Luis Arreola, February 13, 2012 at 12:29 p.m.

    Douglass made the best points of all. Us soccer academies are only taking what is beneficial $$ to them from other country big clubs. Unlike other countries us academy clubs make their money mostly and directly from their own player fees. Other country club s look to develop their players from the youngest ages hoping to cash in on the best ones and this is where they profit the most. Us acadamies are not concerned with the individual player development because there is very little for them to gain from it. They need to win to justify their fees of $3000+ a year. This alone takes away greatly from player development. Failed system. FIFA should force US Soccer(MLS) to have 2nd and 3rd divisions just like they do to much smaller and poorer countries like El Salvador, Guatemala, etc. This would force MLS teams to have to develop players to remain competitive or risk getting bumped down to 2nd or 3rd divisions. Only the best overall programs will survive and not just the better marketed ones. At this rate we will only see more and more foreign players coming in to this league. Wake up USA!!!

  25. Rich Blast, February 13, 2012 at 12:55 p.m.

    The local high schools around here (North Texas) provide 5 day a week training during the whole school year. The DAs are run by the same clubs and coaches that put win at all cost and make money before development. How is this really better?

  26. James e Chandler, February 13, 2012 at 1:37 p.m.

    With high schools from different states playing their soccer seasons at different times, there was no way for the academy teams to have any continuity.
    If NFHS would mandate that every state played at the same time, then perhaps the academy could work around high school soccer.
    Still, this is not the answer.
    Men's soccer in the U.S. is behind other countries because it's drawing from a smaller talent pool due to participation in the more popular sports. In addition, youth in the U.S. have more opportunities to participate in other second tier sports as well, i.e. tennis, swimming, etc.
    Of course the member clubs want the longer season. That way, their staff is still drawing a check. Using the argument that clubs are in favor is weak because it's backed by a self serving agenda.
    All the previous points made on both sides of the issue are well expressed, and valid. Still, I lean toward the social aspects, and community involvement that high school sports includes. High school sports also requires participants keep minimum grades, and behave responsibly whereas a player outside the education system can be mean and stupid as long as he can put the ball in the back of the net. (Sports the world over has a few of those around.) Is that how we want our children to develop?
    Sure we'd like to see the U.S. win the World Cup some day. Our membership in FIFA is good for the world, but if we never, ever win, the earth will remain on its axis.

  27. Luis Arreola, February 13, 2012 at 1:48 p.m.

    Ric, Yea, Stupid Man makes his usual ignorant appearance every time I sign on. I guess I can only speak for Illinois when it comes to the "Academy" systems. I see little or no development and have experienced it first hand with my son who is a top 99' in Illinois, by the way. We requested our release from one of them even though it was free for him. "Free" is a tricky word when it comes to sports. With this Academy he played in about 4 meaningless tournaments a year where the only purpose was to blow everyone out to "market" the club. Who was doing the marketing? The players. This team also played a year up as promoted but would bring down 5-6 top age appropriate players when it was a tough game. Is this really playing up as a team? What would be the purpose for this? Marketing. Free? Hmmm. Development?? Hell No!! I am a coach who started a small club 4 years ago with 1 team of 10 players. 9 of them have or are still playing for that very "Academy" club as starters on their top teams. My son would still be on that top team as a starter, no question. But development is more valuable to him and me. I mostly see "Academy" clubs doing the heaviest and nastiest recruiting in Illinois. I also see very few of their top players improve. Where is the development in a team that completely changes their roster in a couple of years ?? Here is a story for you. This "Academy" club paid a few kids from Ghana, who everyone saids did in no way appear to be the age their temporary visas stated, to basically win the tournament for them. Development?? Maybe some or 1/2 the "Academy" clubs do things right but the way this system is designed gives them to much freedom to abuse it and profit from it. What worries me is that everyone thinks that the "Academies" are their only chance to get the better opportunities. I am out to prove them wrong. Why is the MLS the only league to not have 2nd and 3rd divisions as mandated by FIFA?? They should not be recognized by FIFA, in my opinion.

  28. John Soares, February 13, 2012 at 1:52 p.m.

    Ric, Perhaps with your experience and considering where you live. You can answer my biggest concern on the topic.
    Around here the "elite" programs are VERY expensive, several thousand $ per year. Well out of reach for a majority of young players.
    As a result many pontentials will never get the opportunity. How do we get around that issue (seriously)!?

  29. Ronnie j Salvador, February 13, 2012 at 2:13 p.m.

    Several people have mentioned the ‘high cost’ of these Academy programs. However, in my neck of the woods the Academy programs are either free or low cost. When our own premiere club looked into the application to be an ‘Academy’ team, IIRC, there was stipulation about making the team affordable through massive fundraising or corporate sponsors. We know players who play for an Academy team, and they pay little or nothing at all. There are Academy programs that charge quite a bit like those with boarding facilities, but I thought that was more the exception.

    I don’t believe there is a US Citizenship requirement in the Academy clubs. So @Luis, it can’t be helped that there’s an influx of foreign youth players in the Academy clubs and private schools. We’ve had to play against many of these recruits. Quite frankly, they are some of the best youth players we’ve seen. Sure, the birth certs are a little iffy and perhaps there’s an uneven playing field since obviously being older helps boys a ton. But there’s little that can be done about that. As most of you know Ghana has an organized system to recruit youth players and send them off to pro clubs or private schools. We don’t see as many South American youth recruits here in the east coast. But I think that’s because South America have many established pro teams and their best youth players don’t see an advantage to be in North America.

  30. Chris Morris, February 13, 2012 at 2:40 p.m.

    It’s a good idea for our academy system to follow the model of “the best countries around the world” (Klinsi). But if we really did this, every academy team would be part of a pro club, they would play only against other such teams, and no one would have to pay to play. The system would then be limited to players genuinely believed to have pro potential. But we can’t replicate that here because of the small number of pro teams with youth clubs and the great travel distances between them. So instead our academy system has 78 different clubs, each with two teams, and with no roster limit some of them have 30 or more players. This is well upwards of 4,000 players, meaning that probably 99% of them will never come near the pro game, let alone the national team. Why should all those players bypass high school soccer just so that they can provide a better competitive environment for the 1%? If high school soccer is truly detrimental, then an elite player (or any player for that matter) can simply choose to stay out of it. They have always been free to do that anyway, so why does USSF need a mandate to keep them out? Are we afraid that the kids themselves, given a choice, will want to play for their high school?

  31. mark courtney, February 13, 2012 at 2:46 p.m.

    For the record I must admit that I am basically new to club soccer having only concluded the fall season with with my U8 son.I am, however, admittedly somewhat obsessed with the game. I find it odd that we produce the best in "our" American sports for - obvious reasons - yet our approach to soccer is so different.In keeping this short, I find it disturbing that HS soccer is on the way out. I'll offer my opinions about a few issues that simply amaze me. Already I have seen excellent players slowly change sports because the Club cost is intimidating. Rec or Club ... nothing in between. This isolating aspect shrinks the field drastically in terms of numbers of players for future levels. When you look at the total cost vs. scholarship possibilities ... soccer seems to be an illogical route. Also, and this will rub a few the wrong way, many successful professionals, in all sports, spent hours ( think 10,000 hour rule ) perfecting their skill simply because it was more enjoyable playing their sport compared to other options that existed. In many cases, they would rather be on the court than in a dysfunctional environment at home. Of course this is not a blanket statement - but long ago a well respected coach mentioned how often the best player on several teams he coached often was the one that had no family members watching in the audience. Two points I am making with this illustration is that "free play" is basically non existent with young soccer players and the kids that are able to afford club fees might be a bit "softer" than those determined to find a better future through a physical determination. So the model we have is simply set up for disaster starting at the earliest levels. Longer seasons at the higher levels will never counter this problem.
    How clever it would it be for Clubs to perhaps "adopt" elementary schools, help rec coaches really get off to a proper start, and then foster the program. Eventually the talent would increase. Also, do everything possible to get kids to simply go play pick-up games of any sort.

    Until we increase the numbers at the bottom end, and until free play increases, we will never have a chance against other countries. I am amazed already at the resistance from Clubbers when trying to organize free play - as if they could not have fun or learn skills outside of games or practice. It would of course cut into revenues.

  32. mark courtney, February 13, 2012 at 2:54 p.m.

    P.S. So my overall point is to look at the large picture, focusing at increasing numbers, increasing free play, helping educate volunteer coaches ... all at the lower levels. Later there will be more players, less travel needed for competition and HS soccer will be a of much higher caliber and this discussion will not be necessary!

  33. Luis Arreola, February 13, 2012 at 2:55 p.m.

    Ronnie, Ghana also has had many questions raised about the way they handle birth dates. The kids I am talking about were "guest players". Development should mean how much better a club will make a talented player over time and not who can recruit the most talent over time. Don't you think?

  34. Rich Blast, February 13, 2012 at 3:02 p.m.

    If you play soccer, you take soccer as a PE class. Most the big schools coaches also coach for a club team. Our particular school has an indoor practice facility and a strength training area with a trainer. Soccer gets to benefit off the money spent on Texas High School Football.

  35. Luis Arreola, February 13, 2012 at 3:06 p.m.

    Chris and Mark, could not agree with you more. All of these "Academies" use the "Academy" stature as a means of recruitment and to charge the $3000 fees to their U14's and under with the notion that these younger players will get first look for a spot on these "Academy" teams. It's amazing how many people buy into that. More amazing, is how a few of those loyal players make these top "Academy" teams. Is it me or have most of these "Academy" players only been there for 1-2 years??

  36. Luis Arreola, February 13, 2012 at 3:51 p.m.

    the true development is not happening at these top clubs as I have witnessed in Illinois. The better players always come out of the much smaller, poorer clubs like my own where they are truly being developed but then they get sucked in by the big names too early in their development and fade away. The Academy ages for U15/U16 and especially U17/U18 should be a place for fine tuning the already developed skills with structure and athleticism. The development should be focused on mostly at U4-U14. People should pay this crazy money they give to these top clubs to the smaller clubs where these top players come out of, instead. Sockers FC in Illinois is the one "Academy" club that I have to say is developing team players and you can tell they follow a structured system by just playing against them a few times. I believe more in developing outstanding players that can do what most can't with the ball and later (U13+) learning tactics but I respect what they do. My U13 son is one of the few that has followed my system and he scored all 4 goals in a 4-3 win vs Socker's top NPL U13 team vs my top U13 team and all 3 goals in a 3-2 win over Socker's U13 2nd team with my 2nd team. This happened just last week and the week before. We were losing both games 2-0 at half. They were both indoor games where we have a better chance at beating teams like this because of the difference of player pools. They usually have 6-8 on the bench. We choose to have 1-3 on the bench with 3-4 players playing the entire game. What do you guys think is better for player development??

  37. Robert Schaefer, February 13, 2012 at 3:56 p.m.

    This is absolutely the right path, and I am very glad we are doing it. To the people who can't wrap their head around this, let's make it simple: This does NOT limit freedom of choice. If a kid want to play high school soccer, then by all means, that is great. But if a kid is a very strong athlete with a strong passion for the game, and would like world class training, then the youth academy program is an OPTION.

    People also mention that this isn't Europe...well to twist this around to the right ain't throwball (American football). The sport requires a completely different type of training. There is a reason why European youth systems are so successful, it is just like Chess training schools in Russia. The results come when the right training happens from an early age.

    This doesn't solve ALL our problems with US Soccer, and yes, the U-12 program has to improve, but if your kid love the beautiful game, has strong aptitude and a desire to possibly wear the USMNT shirt, then you don't want your kid playing high school soccer. The level of training is poor and level of play is too slow. We want to beat European and Latin American teams, and this is the way to do it. The amount of untapped athletic talent in this nation is by far greater than any in the world, we just need a world class program in order to achieve world class results.

  38. Robert Schaefer, February 13, 2012 at 4:02 p.m.

    Mark, High School soccer is not on the way out. It will remain a second-class sport in high schools, filled with second class athletes. However, we are talking about the estimated 1% of talent here. Kids who love the sport and want to have the best chance possible to excel. This is the right way to proceed.

    As for small local clubs...we love them! Competition is good, and if Luis is successful at developing his kids, then everyone embraces that. There are wonderful local clubs in north Texas and some of them do well in the Dallas Cup.

    We have to embrace positive change folks. Instead of having your kid play for a inept HS soccer coach who doubles as a Biology teacher, let's do this the right way and win a World Cup or two in the future. Let go of nostalgia.

  39. Ronnie j Salvador, February 13, 2012 at 4:04 p.m.

    @Mark: free play isn't as valued as it once was. It's changed even in Europe. Although, a top level player will go work out on their own [speed, agility, conditioning, strength, etc.] in addition to organized practices.

    Here's Werner Kern, head of Bayern's youth development. SA: It’s a common held belief that free play, or street soccer, is a key to the development of exceptional players.
    WERNER KERN: It used to be like that, that kids would come home from school and play with friends. But the whole infrastructure has changed. There’s almost no unorganized soccer. Now the kids have a longer school day. The school is so demanding that they don’t have time play streets or in the park.
    That’s what prompted us to invest in development. That’s why we coordinated with the schools that they have soccer twice a week at school.

  40. Luis Arreola, February 13, 2012 at 4:36 p.m.

    Ronnie , is this the same for central and south American players where most of the best players come out of? I don't think so.

  41. Daniel Clifton, February 13, 2012 at 5:11 p.m.

    I really have difficulty caring about this. In my area, Charlotte, NC, there are different levels of play among the high schools. Some of the high schools are like recreational teams, and then others, in the more affluent, suburban areas have strong teams. Some of the high school coaches are good. Some of the high school coaches are a joke. I think this decision is a good move. However I have to agree with all of those people talking about the earlier age groups and how real change needs to happen there.

  42. Mark Deblois, February 13, 2012 at 5:25 p.m.

    I think that the use of the word "ban" is irresponsible. Players can choose to play high school soccer if they want to. Nobody is stopping them. They just need to choose between one or the other. This issue is inflamitory enough without Soccer America pouring gasoline onto the flames.


    1. to prohibit, forbid, or bar; interdict: to ban nuclear weapons; The dictator banned all newspapers and books that criticized his regime.
    2. Archaic .
    a. to pronounce an ecclesiastical curse upon.
    b. to curse; execrate.

  43. mark courtney, February 13, 2012 at 8:01 p.m.

    Robert, my thoughts about free play stem from playing basketball growing up and thinking about the hours played outside organized instruction. I am sure any NBA player would agree probably 75% of their time developing was from free play. At the U7/8 level it is about 95% instructional. I do value it for sure, but I even see several faults in the methods as well so there is no guarantee that all club coaching is tops. On my cynical days I think a few foreign coaches saw an opportunity to create a nice business and also guarantee that the US will never be a true threat. Happy to get into this at a later date. The other fact I came across that blew me away is that some poor countries produce top players because they have nothing, start playing barefoot with a self made ball at an early age. Also, in other countries kids grow up playing with a ball and mates - here they learn to stand in line and do organized drills. Though they are important, I even see the standard teaching of these drills as generally flawed. Kids are shown a move, told to do it at full speed toward a cone or person then they learn another move the next practice. Basically the approach is a mile wide and an inch deep. It's sad to see this method and watch as 90% of the kids make a sloppy attempt and then it is time for the next drill. Maybe a few will practice on their own. Free play would at least offer more touches.
    Sadly, the untapped talent you mentioned will be most of the kids that never touch a soccer ball in the first place.

  44. Bill Ford, February 13, 2012 at 9:05 p.m.

    @Robert,lets be clear, NOT all of the DA's offer world class training. Just like the club scene some are good and some aren't so good. The DA's are in no way a panacea for all that's wrong with US soccer. The DA's are simply another path to reach the highest levels of soccer. To be honest some of the 1% would better served in Europe rather than the DA.

  45. Jack Niner, February 13, 2012 at 9:40 p.m.

    OK, now that all the Klinsmann homers have posted about how a few expensive DA's across the country will win the WC for USA (someday) soemone tell me what happens to the game we love till that happens? I'm affraid it's relegated to being dicussed in soccer blogs - not mainstream. You want to grow the games importance in America, you mainstream. This is isolationist. OK so when's the next big U18 game with the DA's? You mean I have to travel 200 miles to see it. Sorry, your game just died.

  46. Jack Niner, February 13, 2012 at 9:47 p.m.

    PS: One more thought - Like to see HS athletic bodies in key states relax the contact time for coaches so that they can now be free to train 8 months of the year in their hometowns for a modest expense - could be part of the club scene in that community - But the coaches can now continue to work with their players. Let's see how the DA's compete with the full energy of HS who have the facilities, resources, and staff at a fraction of the cost. After all, it's for the benefit of the kids first, right?

  47. Luis Arreola, February 14, 2012 at 12:21 a.m.

    Stupid Man, thx once again for your always pointlesss rants. And we wonder what is wrong with USA soccer.

  48. Ricardo Velez, February 14, 2012 at 4:36 a.m.

    To all,

    How can Messrs. Klinsmann and Reyna rush to express these subjective thoughts. More importantly, how can a futbol federation arrive to such a conclusion by stating that high school futbol is conflicting with that of academies. The decision to ban players who play high school futbol from academy teams has been a rushed decision. It is based on limited analysis and lacks scientific comparisons. The federation and Messrs. Klinsmann and Reyna should conduct more extensive research so they can become more knowledgeable about the futbol that is played in South America. There, you find the talented players who play on the streets, in high school, in academies, in professional clubs' minor divisions. And then, from South America we still export players to the entire world.

    Come on, federation and messrs. Klinsmann and Reyna, please be more analytical and scientific in your analysis. Modern futbol has to be analyzed in a more scientic way.

  49. Daniel Pelleck, February 14, 2012 at 10:03 a.m.

    This really seems like a minor issue in the grand scheme of things. If this involves only about 1% of male soccer high school players, it likely only affects about 0.66% of high school soccer teams. How does this really change anything?

  50. Luis Arreola, February 14, 2012 at 10:27 a.m.

    Ricardo, that's what I have been saying. The problem is they do not want to look at South America or Mexico as models because its not as profitable of a model for coaches. A pro player should be getting signed by 17 years old yet at this age they are only halfway through the "academy" system. Then there is the excuse of education being more important to USA players than going pro but they ban H.S. soccer from these players to make them drive more and fly out to games?

  51. Luis Arreola, February 14, 2012 at 10:30 a.m.

    I believe the 1% are the kids that have a chance at a scholarship. Academy teams usually have 2-3 pool teams for backup.

  52. Kent James, February 14, 2012 at 10:44 a.m.

    Many good comments (esp. Amir Hadzic & Kevin Sims). Academy teams for truly elite players at the last stages of their youth development make sense as long as costs and travel times can be limited. Where we have to be very careful is if all clubs try to mimic the Academy teams and make their players choose. This risks pushing soccer back into a niche sport for the wealthy. The quality of HS soccer is varied, but it has a crucial role, in that school sports are where a lot of kids are exposed to sports (and money does not limit participation), and to strengthen the quality at the top, soccer needs to tap into the stream of athletes that are currently missing. Soccer has made process in the schools, gradually being accepted as a "real" sport. We shouldn't piss that away. To improve soccer in America, we need to get quality soccer incorporated into the schools at the younger levels (elementary and Jr HS) so that more kids are attracted to the sport at a younger age. It is more important to expand the pool of potential players than to focus on the cream a the top (though there is no harm in doing the latter unless it is at the expense of the former).

  53. Kevin Sims, February 14, 2012 at 2:43 p.m.

    The Development Academy (DA) chose to ban kids from the ESP Camp ... then from ODP ... then from participation in a HS All-America game held on an inactive DA weekend (which received rave reviews from college coaches in attendance despite most of the DA kids bowing out in the face a threatening sanctions from DA). Are these decisions all about providing opportunities for the best players to develop? Does DA believe it holds a pure monopoly on valuable soccer activities? How does the DA feel about players playing pick-up ball on various fields & courts across the country?

  54. Kevin Sims, February 14, 2012 at 3:02 p.m.

    @ Ric Fonseca: Laugh if you must, but the most media coverage and celebration of soccer to be found in the areas I have lived (GA, VA, TN, OR, NC) over the past 50 years has been via high school competition and high school rivalries. High school soccer played a tremendous role in each of these areas to bring the game to more kids. And the passionate high school coaches founded the leagues at the YMCA and the recreation centers and the churches and the clubs and the amateur divisions ... and time has run its course and now there are distinctive entities of all sorts for all levels. Club soccer receives little media attention, nor does MLS in cities lacking franchises. I will not pretend to know the lay of the land and the history in your area of the country. As to your finding that we protest "even before the Academy system has gotten US Soccer's blessing and announced" ... the Academy system has been announced through a media release on the US Soccer page. Fortunately, the FAQ @ US Soccer on the Academy now speaks in respectful tones of high school soccer. As a man of history, I am surprised you so readily paint all of high school soccer with one sweep of the brush. There are many high school coaches who have superbly developed high quality soccer players and high quality people. I favor the "us with us" approach over the "us versus them" approach. All that said, I am in favor of US Soccer efforts to raise the bar and to provide elite players with elite environments to pursue truly elite status ... I just can't wrap my head around the ethics of leading at least 4,000 young men to think they are on the cusp of reaping the reward of college scholarships, professional soccer and national team duty.

  55. Luis Arreola, February 14, 2012 at 3:51 p.m.

    DA's are in fact trying to monopize the talent. This is too much power. That is why they are banning these players from H.S. The reaction to the effect of this monopolization goes against player development at all earlier ages. In Illinois there are 10 different Chicago Fire Jrs. Clubs, all claiming to be the direct feeder into the Fire DA as the best means of recruitment. They take over teams and clubs that showed better soccer development before they joined Fire. I see too many people constantly complaining about how they played for the Fire

  56. Luis Arreola, February 14, 2012 at 4:05 p.m.

    Paying their big fees and not making the DA. The new top leagues are following the same patterns and giving the top$$$ clubs, and not tge top teams, exclusive rights to the few Premjership spots. The only purpose for this is for these top$$$ clubs to use this stature for recruiting purposes and to justify the $3000+ fees per player. The smaller club top teams that many times have shown to be good enough to be there have no chance because of their club size. This of course secures the league with their best customers being happy with gauranteed success. How is any of this good for development?? After all these are all actions following the DA model

  57. Ricardo Velez, February 15, 2012 at 6:05 a.m.

    To all,

    This is also a complimentary comment to what I recently expressed with regard to Messrs. Klinsmann's, Reyna's and the U.S. Federation's comments and decision to ban academy futbol players from playing high school futbol. Incidently, I always try to refer to futbol because this is the correct sport name, not soccer.
    Let us be objective, sincere, analytical and straightforward. Even though, there is a great deal of good intentions and desire on the part of many academy coaches to teach our youngsters this beautiful and most popular sport in the world, they lack the knowledge, expertise and training to teach them. Futbol in the U.S. must undergo a profound transformation. How is it possible that at the age of 12, 13, 14 or 15, thousands of our youngsters are not consistently trained in learning, for instance, proper ball trapping, proper use of the chest, head, set play variables, pressing, anticipation, properly spinning the ball, direct and indirect kicks plays, when and how to use the instep and/or outside of the foot, the correct and consistent use of cones, offside traps, the overlapping and so on. With my limited time I have had to go on the field and do one on one with my son. With all due respect to those who teach our kids and those who are in managerial positions directing the future of our U.S. futbol, what the U.S. federation should do is send our most prospective talented futbol coaches abroad to residency clinics to learn from those with ample international experience such as Menotti, Basile, Capello, Pochettino, Leao, Mena, Pep Guardiola, just to name a few. Support our coaches and youngsters so they can learn from the best!

    Very respectfully,

    Ricardo Velez

  58. Daniel Pelleck, February 15, 2012 at 11:03 a.m.

    Ricardo, really,futbol is the correct sport name. That's helpful, I was confused when others referred to football or soccer. I'm glad you cleared that up. It's like when someone calls you a wanker, tosser or jack-off- it all means the same.

  59. Mark Deblois, February 16, 2012 at 4:45 a.m.

    Why do people keep using the inflammatory word, "Ban" to describe what is going on? Players are free to play high school soccer, play for non-DA clubs, participate in ODP, etc. Nobody is being banned from these activities. Just because, with three practices a week and high level games on the weekend, they ask players to choose between one activity or the other, it doesn't that anything unfair is happening. Why is the fact that participation in the DA program is a CHOICE being ignored. This is nothing personal against anybody, but I believe that they use of the word "Ban" to describe this situation is, at best, sloppy and inaccurate. There are no victims here. At some point you need to get over this and move on. If a player doesn't want to participate in the ten month season, they don't have to. One thing is for sure, this path isn't for everyone. I don't think some of the posters here are understanding that.

  60. Ricardo Velez, February 17, 2012 at 2:29 a.m.

    Mr. Deblois,

    Good morning. I have used the word "ban" because it reflects what is taking place within the circles of the so-called "academy futbol". The use of the word is very, very accurate. I respectfully invite you to be more analytical. It is an outrageous situation when an "academy futbol coach" asks a player to choose between playing either in an "academy" or high school team. Let them play 12 months, not just the so-called "10 months". let them play on the streets, in high school, in the parks, in academy teams, let them become true futbol players, let them assimilate what we call in South America the "street futbol instinct".

    Ricardo Velez

  61. Luis Arreola, February 21, 2012 at 3:49 p.m.

    "Ban" or "exclusive commitment ". Same difference. H.S. does the same with Basketball though. You are not allowed to play in a league if on H.S. team. Same system. Both dumb. The full commitment should be in exchange for more than 2-3 practices and 1 game a week and it should defenitely be entirely free.

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