Commentary

Bayern Makes its Move

By Mike Woitalla

One thing we hear a lot from the foreign clubs coming to the USA is how they're aiming to help Americans produce better soccer players.

Six years ago, when a wave of British clubs arrived to partner with American clubs, we heard from Burnley that it would “aid youth development and share training methods.” Chelsea promised to “assist in the development of young players at all levels in America.”

Whether foreign clubs really have expertise that can help American soccer is one thing. I would think the U.S. game has evolved beyond needing or wanting advice from the likes of a Burnley. Even Chelsea, when it forged a partnership with North Carolina’s Capital Area Soccer League (CASL) in 2008, could boast of only one product from its youth program who saw English Premier League action for the Blues the previous season: John Terry, who debuted a decade earlier. Four years later, Terry, who joined Chelsea at age 14, was still the only “homegrown” player who contributed to its Champions League title win.

Regardless of whether they have something valuable to offer American players or coaches, I’m hard-pressed to believe that foreign clubs coming here are motivated by a desire to help America children. I just cannot imagine their executives fretting about U.S. player development and saying to their coaches, “We’ve got to help the Americans!”

More likely, the motivation comes from the knowledge that the U.S. market is the low-hanging fruit of the global soccer industry. They've gotten wind of the fact that Americans will pay $150 to watch preseason scrimmages between big European teams without their stars. They heard we'll spend $5,000, even $10,000 a year on our child's soccer.

So from all over the world they come looking for a piece of the American pie. And an especially enticing point of entry into the U.S. market is youth soccer.

Chelsea’s partnership with the 9,000-player CASL ended in 2012, but it sold lots of replica jerseys to Americans. This year, we’ve had two European clubs venture into the U.S. market that actually do have an impressive record of graduating players from its youth academy to its first team: Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

Barcelona has launched an academy in Florida. La Masia, Barcelona’s famed academy in Spain, doesn’t charge kids. This U.S. version is, surprise, a pay-to-play venture.

Credit to Bayern Munich for being honest about why it has forged a partnership with Global Premier Soccer (GPS).

“Our main objective is that we brand build and get in touch with our fan base,” Rudolf Vidal, CEO of Bayern Munich in the USA.

Despite its long history as a superclub, Bayern has lagged in U.S. popularity behind English Premier League clubs, which have gotten far more television exposure in the USA than Bundesliga teams, and behind the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Bayern, a Bundesliga record 23-time champion, has been on a particularly good roll recently, reaching three of the last five Champions League finals. And Germany’s 2014 World Cup title-winning team included seven Bayern players and five players from Bayern’s youth academy.

The quest by Bayern, which opened a New York City office and a U.S. online store earlier this year, to build its American fan base is perfectly understandable as its global rivals have been doing the same. Kids, of course, are a prime target.

“Part of the brand-building process is definitely the grass-roots approach where we can bring our know-how to the States,” says Vidal. “We want to build the brand, get in touch with the people who are interested in Bayern Munich and go into the youth soccer structure and try to help wherever we can. It’s not like we can reform the whole system. We want to help, add something.”

He says he’s very confident this will be “a win-win situation for everybody. That means for the kids, for Bayern Munich, and for GPS.”

GPS specializes in importing coaches from the UK and Ireland to serve clubs and leagues in 11 states. Vidal says GPS’s network suits Bayern quest well.

“It is an organization with more than 75 clubs,” says Vidal. “So they have Tier 1 clubs and Tier 2 clubs, and that means Tier 1 are clubs run by GPS and Tier 2 clubs get marketing support, they get coaching support. They get everything what a club needs. Bayern Munich is working with all of them.”

Vidal assures us that the very coaches who make Bayern’s academy at the Sabener Strasse so successful will be the ones spending “five, six weeks a year” in the USA.

“We’ll send the best coaches coming from Germany,” Vidal says. “We’ll bring GPS coaches to Germany. We’ll give them our curriculum and principles to tell them how we work, what is the secret behind that.”

Much of Bayern’s success in youth development is not so secret. It fields one team at each youth age group comprised of the best players it can find from mainly southern Germany, but also from throughout the country and abroad. And each year players are cut and new talent comes in.

Bayern coaches have the luxury of coaching the very best players at a particular age group. They coach players whom their scouts assessed as having the potential to become pros. The American coaches whom Bayern coaches will be advising coach in a very different environment. Will Bayern guidance help them become better coaches to young Americans? Perhaps. Will Bayern be selling lots more jerseys? For sure.

12 comments about "Bayern Makes its Move".
  1. Georges Carraha, November 21, 2014 at 3:54 p.m.

    I coach soccer at the youth level and I strongly believe that American parents are being bamboozled by these English clubs and coaches. It is all about money and their coachins is average. England can barely produce great players today. The US public is still ignorant about the game these kids play like robots. We do not need money to create great players. Give them the environment and the tools to grow, play and get better.

  2. Kent James, November 21, 2014 at 4:17 p.m.

    Mike, you did a nice job exposing the ulterior motives of these clubs. Even if they didn't charge fees, they are (understandably) about finding professional players, and needless to say, most American kids playing soccer will never be professionals at any level, much less play for Bayern. Sending a few youth coaches to the US for 5-6 weeks a year is unlikely to have an impact. If these clubs want to have an impact, they should help US coaches come see their facilities and training methods, and let these coaches come back to the US and implement them (or tailor them to US players). And maybe pair that with an annual week long training in Germany for kids that show promise. I'm not saying US coaches need to blindly follow the European clubs' systems, but successful systems (such as Bayern and Barcelona) are clearly doing things worth emulating.

  3. Bill Jones, November 21, 2014 at 4:17 p.m.

    If there was a real effort to improve development in USA you would see coaches getting hired from South America. Not Europe. Good Article even though this is something nay of us have known for years. Good to see Soccer America hitting some real issues for once.

  4. cony konstin, November 21, 2014 at 4:34 p.m.

    It is plain and simple. We need to create the USONIAN WAY!! We need to create our own path, our own style, our own way. This is what our kids need. We need a REVOLUTION in the US. We need 300,000 futsal courts in our inner cities and another 300,000 in our suburbs. Coaching is totally over rated. The pay to play model is not the solution. We need to get away from a coaching environment and create a playing environment where kids starting at age 5 can play for free, 3 to 5 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and with no adult interference. Our kids need a sanctuary and place that they can call theirs. We need radical change. NO more $300 cleats, coaching dvds, fancy uniforms, other gimmicks and smoke n mirrors. REVOLUTION = FUTSAL

  5. Bill Jones, November 22, 2014 at 1:37 a.m.

    Rick, we tried that. Coaches here think they invented soccer. We have more than proven we dont know what we are even looking for in a talent much less develop it. We have shown that all we are interested in is making as much as possible off of parents by winning games. Its all bogus my friend. It's so bogus that Europe is all over our majority naive soccer country.

  6. uffe gustafsson, November 22, 2014 at 6:52 p.m.

    Dude can you stop your cut and past message,
    It reminds me of a movie, oh let's see, ah ground hog day a very annoying movie.
    My eyes glazing over after what 20 postings.
    Let me explain something!
    If you have a kid in school they would have F in every class and be starved to death not mention sleep deprived is they play foots all or soccer 5 hours a day. Not to mention sick as hell of soccer by 15 years old.
    We heard you so now cut it out. Please!

  7. uffe gustafsson, November 22, 2014 at 7:53 p.m.

    And for your revolution with no coaches, really.
    Do you really think other countries don't pay for the coaches. You think Barcelona club don't pay their coaches? Yes I agree that we pay way to high fees to play competative soccer, but cities (park and rec) don't have the money to pay for sports as a matter of fact they use youth sports to pay for up keep of fields.
    If you want change then get on your local city goverment to stop asking for youth clubs to pay the field up keep. Or even better have school with fields to not charging for field time.
    That is a high expense for every club.
    Please way in on this issue.
    None of you are talking about the expenses that all our clubs have to pay for field time that is already paid by tax payers. It's a money machine for schools that have fields.

  8. Bill Jones, November 23, 2014 at 6:18 p.m.

    Uffe, good point and very true. In my town, School District used to supply free fields for clubs charging $2500 a year but once smaller low budget comunity clubs started asking for fields they turned it over to Park District, who now charges per hour for practice and play for governemnt owned school fields !!! Cause and effect.

  9. uffe gustafsson, November 23, 2014 at 9:47 p.m.

    My point excatulally, our clubs in Oakland are paying hugh fees, at one of our schools a community college one of the clubs pay over 60K and that was a cpl of years ago.
    And every one of our clubs the field time is the biggest cost they have.
    So to the dude w his foots all what you think you will pay for indoor fields. Look at reality.
    Nothing is for free. But good start would be no cost to youth leagues for field use.
    Soccer, baseball, softball and football.

  10. ROBERT BOND, November 24, 2014 at 10:25 a.m.

    just wait till Fox gets the real best league next season.....

  11. Kent James, November 25, 2014 at 12:06 p.m.

    Uffe and Bill, while you guys are right that field costs are a huge problem (and the reason municipalities charge is to avoid raising taxes; user fees are more politically palatable than taxes, though I certainly think recreation is an activity important enough to be subsidized), and Cony's numbers are optimistic, I think his point is a good one. That is, kids need to play more (without adult supervision), and futsal develops the kind of foot skills that American players often lack. It's essentially an attempt to encourage street soccer, without the cars. The futsal courts would be outside (to avoid the expense) and once installed, they take no maintenance. They are also able to handle a lot of players/sq ft (compared to outdoor fields), so they should be an efficient investment in player development. The question is, if they were built, would they get used? In my book, you never know until you try...

  12. Bill Jones, November 25, 2014 at 5:10 p.m.

    Property Taxes this year have set a record in my town. Park District is kicking off kids off of fields even though they are only scrimmaging and no one is renting.

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