The MLS PseudoDraft and other obstacles that Latino Americans face in American soccer

By Paul Gardner

Time for another MLS SuperDraft. It would be better called the MLS PseudoDraft. It might also be known as the Slim Pickings Draft. Most of those involved are college players, and the day has long since passed when a bumper crop, or even an ordinary crop, of pro-ready players might be expected from that source.

Over 80 players will be drafted, which will register yet another triumph of hope over reality. For a select few, maybe a dozen of these guys, a pro contract, and meaningful playing time looms. Quite likely, half that number will be foreign-born.

The No. 1 pick last year was the Canadian Cyle Larin, who started 24 games and scored 17 goals for Orlando. Larin played 1,905 minutes -- which, according to the MLS website, was more than the total playing time for all 21 players drafted in the second round -- they totaled only 1,527 minutes.

So, as a key stage in the development of American players the PseudoDraft leaves something to be desired. And if you happen to be a Hispanic-American player, it leaves everything to be desired.

A month back, MLS announced the names of 59 college players who would take part in this year’s draft, and who would participate in the pre-draft series of games known as the combine.

Of those 59 players, only four are Latinos. All four are foreign-born. College soccer, it appears, does not offer many opportunities for American-born Latinos.

This appalling situation will come as no surprise to anyone who has been keeping an eye on the status of Latino players in American soccer. Because it is not just the colleges that display a reluctance to engage with homegrown Latino talent. In doing so, the colleges are simply reflecting a much more widespread bias.

For a start one can point to the massive coaches convention during which the PseudoDraft will be staged. A quick rundown of the speakers and clinicians and coaches featured at the convention reveals experts of one sort or another from England, Scotland, Wales, the Netherlands, Finland, Germany, Spain, France, and Canada. But nobody from South America. And nobody from Mexico.

I really do not see how such a lop-sided schedule, totally ignoring the immensely influential Latino game, can be justified.

And here are some more percentages that are worth perusing. (When the following stats include rosters, the goalkeepers are not included).

• Number of Latino players on the 18-man US team that competed in the 2015 U-17 World Cup: 11 (61 percent).

• Number of Latino players on the 18-man U.S. team that competed in the 2015 U-20 World Cup: 6 (33 percent).

• Number of Latino players on the 16-man US Olympic roster: 3 (19 percent).

• Number of Latino players on the current U.S. men’s national team 22-player roster: 1 (4.5 percent).

I do not find any surprises here. That Jurgen Klinsmann’s national team should show the lowest percentage is logical, for the German has made it abundantly clear that he is not that interested in Latino players.

And how goes the coaching situation on the various USSF national teams?

• Number of Latino head coaches on the nine US national teams, from U-14 up to the men’s national team: 1 (11 percent).

A pattern is discernible. More than discernible -- it leaps out of these stats. The U-17 team is 61% Latino. The U-20s start the downward trend, at 33%. The Olympic U-23 team has 19%. Then we arrive at Klinsmann’s national team, where Latinos have virtually disappeared -- he shows 4.5 percent ... just one player.

How to account for that extraordinary drop off? What happens to the young Latinos from the U-17 team? Are they simply unable to develop? All of them? Does their almost total disappearance indicate something wrong with the Latino players, or something wrong with the system?

Since 1999, a key part of that system has been the residential program at Bradenton. The intake of players for 2015 included 7 Latinos among 25 field players -- 28 percent. Considering that this group has been carefully selected and supposedly represents the best young players in the country, that 28 percent should be a reliable guide: just over a quarter of the best young players in America are Latinos. Yet within a few years they disappear. The question recurs: is it the players, or the system?

There is also MLS to consider. A rather different situation, where neither the traditional non-Latino structure of college soccer, nor the personal persuasions of Klinsmann should be influential. Yes, a few American-born Latinos have made it. Maybe the most obviously successful have been the Galaxy’s Omar Gonzalez and Portland’s Jorge Villafana. Both of whom, as it happens, left their MLS teams at the end of last season, to play in Mexico.

In MLS I do not see the crude lack of interest in Latinos that the colleges and Klinsmann display. And there is a goodly sprinkling of skillful Latinos (almost all of them foreigners) on MLS teams. Nevertheless, I do think MLS clubs could do more to encourage such players. Within MLS, the coaching situation is slightly worse than it is among the Federation’s national teams. Allowing for two assistant coaches on each of the league’s 20 teams, there are 60 slots to be filled:

• Number of Latino head coaches and assistant coaches on MLS teams: 4 (7 percent).

I am not about to suggest that there exists a natural level, a set percentage figure, for Latino involvement in American soccer. Quotas are definitely not a good idea. But the percentages at the moment strike me as being unarguably lower than they should be.

In particular, the sharp drop off in Latino players from the youth to senior level, cries out for an explanation. Either the Latinos are quite hopeless at developing into pro players -- in which case U.S. Soccer is wasting its time bothering with them at all; or there is formidable resistance to their use on the national team -- resistance that can come only from Klinsmann.

However one views the various stats given above, there can be no escaping the conclusion that the development of Latino American players is being held back. While Latino talent is adequately represented at the younger age levels, the players run into problems as they move up the age ladder.

The rarity of Latino coaches, in the pro game, and on the various U.S. Soccer national teams, does not help -- just one Latino coach among the nine U.S. Soccer national teams, two Latino coaches among the 20 teams of MLS. At the senior and pro levels a detectable bias in favor of European, rather than Latin American, soccer prevails, finding its sharpest edge in the policies and decisions of the national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

A player development system that includes a strong input from antiquated attitudes and narrow-minded bias is a sick system. In the case of American soccer, tragically sick, because it creates a milieu that is reluctant to embrace the Latino side of the sport. And stupidly sick, because the Latin influence has so much to offer.

60 comments about "The MLS PseudoDraft and other obstacles that Latino Americans face in American soccer ".
  1. R2 Dad, January 14, 2016 at 1:12 a.m.

    As a non-hispanic, I can't speak in general to all the whys. What I do know is that hispanics in the big city get drawn into afterschool and nightlife activities that are incompatible with good grades and a college track, despite the best efforts of immigrant hispanic parents. There are parents working 2,3,4 jobs just to give their kids the best opportunities and education. But there are distractions and trouble at every turn, and ALL promising kids have a difficult time with the school/soccer balance. And if that isn't enough, there are cultural dietary issues on top of that. It's sad to see skilled little players balloon before they're 12 but it happens frequently enough.

  2. R2 Dad replied, January 14, 2016 at 10:03 p.m.

    I'm not African American/black/African so again, these are my observations; I'm not personally a representative. From what I have seen, the majority of those kids I see playing soccer are immigrants or the children of Africans, or blacks raised in European countries that have traveled to the US. I don't see many African Americans playing the sport. That community focuses on basketball & football, then track. When the highlight reels every night show enormous NBA players posterizing opponents & slam dunking their way to stardom, NFL stars making one-handed catches and breaking 70 yard punt returns for TDs, I can imagine young African Americans saying to their parents, "Soccer is for girly men, watch this clip of Sergio Bouquet rolling around on the grass--that's embarrassing. Let's go outside and play catch/hoops". There just isn't much interest, maybe because they don't know who Drogba/Sterling/Aubameyang are--usually kids like stars who look/play like they do. So there are issues different from those the Hispanic communities (there are many) face. I'd say it's more difficult to get African Americans playing--it's just not on their radar. On the girls side, I see higher participation but the overall numbers are low.

  3. R2 Dad replied, January 15, 2016 at 12:30 a.m.

    All American, this just seems like race baiting and I don't see anything constructive come out of this.

  4. Scott Johnson replied, January 15, 2016 at 12:44 a.m.

    Discussion of "cultural shortcomings" quickly veers into the swamp of racism. Observing that basketball is popular among African-Americans, and that soccer is popular among Latinos 'round the world, is OTOH perfectly fair comment.

  5. R2 Dad replied, January 16, 2016 at 11:25 p.m.

    OK, here is a real example. Family friends have kids that were complaining of migraines. Turns out Taki, peanut butter and those lead-laced Mexican candies (which are quite yummy) aren't so good for your health. I don't believe the African American community has quite the same dietary challenges.

  6. Scott Johnson, January 14, 2016 at 2:17 a.m.

    You're looking at things backwards, Paul. Unless a kid WANTS a college education, and desires to pay for it by playing NCAA ball, why would an aspiring young talent want to play college soccer? If soccer is your first priority, as opposed to engineering or medicine or English literature or whatever other academic subject floats your boat, you're better off in an academy. Or in a lower-level team, honing your skills. This isn't American football or basketball, where the top pro leagues essentially force kids to play NCAA ball for one or two years; young soccer players have options. And further, many options that young kids have may interfere with amateur status and NCAA eligibility.

    Don't worry about Latino players in the US, Mexicans in particular. Liga MX teams are rather busy scouting them these days, and setting up academies in US cities--the ones that make it through will have a better path to the pros (not necessarily MLS) than those who toil for a few years playing for Old State U.

  7. Scott Johnson replied, January 14, 2016 at 2:18 a.m.

    It must be pointed out: Guys like Jordan Morris are the exception, not the rule.

  8. Scott Johnson replied, January 14, 2016 at 4:54 p.m.

    I'm not defending MLS, to be certain--mainly pointing out that college soccer is not the primary conduit for talent, and shouldn't be. (Pro basketball and American football are the outliers, not the norm). Many MLS clubs are getting better, especially those that are taking their academy programs seriously. FC Dallas has long been good at discovering and developing Latino talent; the Timbers (whose academy is far more recent and doesn't have any players through the pipeline--Rubio Rubin precedes much what PTFC has done) are also doing well. But I don't consider it a problem that many soccer players bypass NCAA soccer, any more so than I consider it a problem that many talented baseball players (Latino or otehrwise) don't play an inning of college baseball. (Indeed, college baseball is so different from the pro game--metal bats being the main difference--that the minors probably are the better path for major league prospects). In general, I'm of the opinion that student-athletes should be students first, and people who want to pursue pro careers should not be forced (or otherwise pressured) into college as a prerequisite. Especially any NCAA university, given the crass exploitiveness of NCAA shamateurism.

  9. Al Gebra replied, January 14, 2016 at 6:41 p.m.

    Good point Scott re the Liga MX. Good for them. It's probably one more reason why I watch Mexican soccer way more than MLS. BTW, After graduating from Santa Clara in 1998, my son went down to Mexico and signed with a pro soccer team there. That event was off MLS's radar.

  10. Scott Johnson replied, January 14, 2016 at 6:48 p.m.


    MLS was a sorry joke in 1998, so don't feel bad.

  11. Lou vulovich, January 14, 2016 at 9:18 a.m.

    Paul, the draft involved the best college players available, it is as simple as that. You select who you think are the best players available, no quotas
    black, white, Hispanic.
    Simple as that. The MLS is definitely color blind.
    This time you are way off.

  12. Ed M, January 14, 2016 at 9:25 a.m.

    Mr Gardener, you once again try to create controversy when there probably is none at all. Your facts are incomplete and fashioned in a way that helps you to write this article. You fail to include any reasoning besides Latino players are being ignored. If you have ever really worked with these players and coaches you would find that many are still undocumented. This creates problems for college and jobs. Many ads decide to play for their original country of heritage and not the US. This gets for professional leagues. As far as inviting Latino speakers and presenters for the convention in Baltimore, I believe that it does happen and perhaps this year may number less with no intentional snub involved. Many times I find that the language barriers prevents great coaches and speakers from presenting at any event and I suggest that this is a major reason more are not involved at the convention.

    Mr. Gardner, you may think that those who take the time to read your articles are stupid and have no soccer background and are unfamiliar with many of you topics. However, many of us know what's what and these attempts to start controversy without any real basis is unprofessional and lacking in any newsworthy information any decent journalist would be able to provide.

  13. jose cornejo replied, January 14, 2016 at 1:10 p.m.

    Language barrier is a lame excuse, Soccer is Soccer in any language, look at the number of South Americans playing in the top leagues in Europe: 65 in serie A, 66 in la liga, 29 in the bundesliga and 30 in the premier league. South america is doing something right, let's try to learn from them, invite them to the convention (Argentinian/Uruguayan/Colombian/Brazilian coaches) let's not continue to do more of the same just because we understand the language, come on NSCAA I will be glad to translate for you.

  14. Scott Johnson replied, January 14, 2016 at 5:02 p.m.

    What *is* the South American system, anyway? Are there wide similarities between Brazil and Argentina and Uruguay and wherever else when it comes to youth development, compared to the US model? (And why is the US being compared to Europe--Europe doesn't FTMP use pay-to-play, instead the top European sides all have mature youth academies and such).

  15. Scott Johnson replied, January 14, 2016 at 6:52 p.m.

    How is it funded and paid for? Mainly academy teams giving low-cost (or free) training to talented players? State-run training programs? Pay-to-play? Or are the organizational differences nil, and the only important difference is better emphasis on technique, and less on tactics at a young age (which I tend to agree with--tactics without technique aren't very useful, and tactics are better learned when older whereas technique is best learned when young).

  16. David Sterling, January 14, 2016 at 9:46 a.m.

    I'll offer an even more logical explanation. The percent of Hispanics/Latinos in the US population is 17%. Of those, an unknown, but probably rather large (not necessarily majority) percent are foreign-born; and of the remaining, another very large (probably majority) are first-generation. In other words, it is very safe to assume that the majority of Hispanics/Latinos in the US have an affinity for non-US leagues or National Teams. The point then would be that U-17s, U-20s, and the Olympic team are probably statistical exceptions; where the Senior team maybe needs to add two players to meet the statistical ratio. Another stat to look at is college education. In 2013, there were 2.2m Hispanics/Latinos in college. That is a tiny number to begin with, so now consider the smallest of fractions when you think of how many chose college to play soccer. Paul's argument is extremely boring when you consider statistics are against him, and that money in LigaMX is against MLS. I think it's a non-issue at this point.

  17. David Sterling replied, January 14, 2016 at 5:08 p.m.

    Thanks, you actually helped make my point. PG isn't making any point. He's missing it by a ten miles like he usually does when he tries to make a mountain out of a mole hill.

  18. Carlos Figueroa, January 14, 2016 at 10:20 a.m.

    I'm Latino and agree PG is throwing darts at the wall to see what sticks. As mark twain said (I think), "there are lies, dirty lies, and statistics."

    However, he does bring up one troubling fact: where's the Latino speaker/guest at the convention? I can understand liga mx snubbing it, they do know what they're doing in the US, but where's the South American representation? Surely there's English speaking reps who would love to represent their leagues and academies. They could even just send some unpaid kid to run an hour long highlight reel of boca vs river games and garner a big audience.

  19. David Sterling replied, January 14, 2016 at 10:39 a.m.

    I would agree on the convention point as well, and I don't think it would be wrong to question MLS or USSF intentions. The US in general has always drifted toward Europe more so than anywhere on the American continents, including Canada.

  20. Raymundo Ramirez replied, January 14, 2016 at 5:02 p.m.

    I'd have to slightly disagree with Paul and you on this one. I attended the 2012 Coaching Convention in Kansas City and saw a presentation from representatives of the Mexican Federation and they were demonstrating the major changes that the youth national team coaches had to implement in order for Mexico to compete in the World stage: changes in discipline and mental toughness, which they stressed were the major weaknesses. They even touched on how they recruit players from here that are overlooked by US Soccer scouts. Funny how the youth national teams in Mexico have prospered greatly. At last year's convention in Philadelphia, Raul Gutierrez, a world youth champion coach with Mexico, conducted a field session with a translator. The issue was that there were not many spectators at both sessions taking notes. In this case, there seem to either be fewer numbers of Latino coaches in this sport, or the coaches who hold a NSCAA membership aren't too interested in the Latin style. Although, I would love to see more presenters from Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Costa Rica at the convention. Their soccer is productive and we need help right now on player development.

  21. Rich V, January 14, 2016 at 11:21 a.m.

    Purely based on the national team numbers, there is an alternative interpretation. Given the progression through the various teams, perhaps a recent influx at the youth level have not made it to the senior team yet. Analysis would have to be done to compare teams over time to be able to support the conclusion made in the article. However, there is certainly opportunity to bring in more Hispanic influence to the usmnt, which I think is his point.

  22. Jeffrey Organ, January 14, 2016 at 12:03 p.m.

    This is a very complicated topic and we live in a very large and complex country. Obvious, but easy to forget at times. I suspect we are all grasping for straws when trying to apply simple and universal explanations for the trends laid out in this article. I know I do. What I have observed through the years is that non-insiders like us have this continuing circular discussion filled with endless anecdotal opinions, about this topic in particular, and it all goes nowhere. It does seem like US Soccer and MLS have taken strides in the last 5 years to address the issues raised here. Unfortunately they do a lousy job of explaining it to us. I also believe that until we start addressing this issue on a specific and local level we will never get anywhere. One thought is that with the entry of Rio Grande Valley into USL we now have a professional border team, in an overwhelmingly Latino area, for the first time in the Academy era. I hope that US Soccer pays attention to RGV's academy program and uses it as a laboratory, in a general sense, to try and figure out some of the open cultural questions raised in this article in a systematic way. It would also help if they actively seek out some new Latino voices from their area to add some new thinking to the discussion.

  23. Miguel Dedo, January 14, 2016 at 12:25 p.m.

    The logic here is that of the diner who complained that the food was terrible – and the portions miserably small. College soccer is a terrible preparation for a pro career, and how terrible that so few Latino players participate.
    Facts: 61 percent of the US U-17 National team was Latino, 5 percent of the current MNT is Latino.
    Conclusion: The figures reveal JK’s anti-Latino bias, the 61 percent figure being the honest measure of ability.
    Alternative conclusion: That figures reveal the U-17 coach’s pro-Latino bias, the 5 percent figure being the honest measure of ability. (After all, the MNT is where the visibility and pressure are highest, where bias is likely to be more costly and therefore less likely.)
    Figures do not lie, but who figures?
    Finding an anti-Latino bias is more politically correct than finding a pro-Latino bias.

  24. Scott Johnson replied, January 15, 2016 at 12:45 a.m.

    What, you mean Mexicans don't smother their food in Cheddar cheese? :)

  25. Lou vulovich, January 14, 2016 at 1:50 p.m.

    There are a disproportionate number of African/American/Caribbean/African South Americans, in the MLS, does the MLS favor those players.
    The question was about the college draft and I believe right or wrong MLS clubs are drafting who they believe are the best college players available. Period

  26. beautiful game, January 14, 2016 at 2:20 p.m.

    MLS clubs should do a better scouting job. Saw the last four in the 2015 NCAA tournament. At least one player impressed, the rest had too many shortcomings to comment on.

  27. Scott Johnson replied, January 14, 2016 at 5:04 p.m.

    Other than Jordan Morris, any NCAA players worth a bucket of warm spit at this point?

  28. Allan Lindh, January 14, 2016 at 3:33 p.m.

    Gentlemen, you all make good points, but ignore the obvious elephant in the room -- you are just too politically correct. The reality is that Hispanic youth largely live in poor communities, with very poor schools, and associated gang and crime problems. Their families are poor, and in many cases they don't continue in soccer because they begin work young to help support families. So in spite of the desire of many Hispanic families that their young do go to college and prepare for a better life, the game is stacked against them. So while MLS cannot solve this broader societal problem, there are simple programs that might help.

    Start by identifying talented players at the HS Freshman level. Provide real support, extra training, and tutors to get them through high school. Then get them into a good JC program, and continue the support. (I wrote a long letter suggesting this to the SJ Earthquakes when they first started, no response as you would expect.)

    It is far too easy to accuse Klinsmann of racism, but that is just CS. The reason young Hispanics do not progress in futbal is that there lives fall apart. They are playing a very difficult socio-economic hand, and to discuss the problem w/o recognizing that problem is just blowing smoke.

  29. jose cornejo replied, January 14, 2016 at 8:12 p.m.

    To Allan Lindh; I have to disagree with you why hispanics/latinos don't progress in FUTBOL. Not all hispanics live in crime ridden neighborhoods next to bad schools, how about the pay to play system? or coaches that don't recognize skill or creativity and want all their players (robots) to go 100 miles an hour and do exactly what the coach says because they are only concerned with winning?
    To Scott Johnson; The community colleges in the New York/New Jersey area offer not only affordable schooling but high quality soccer programs.
    To Ric Fonseca; Gracias Amigo!!!!!

  30. Ric Fonseca, January 14, 2016 at 4:36 p.m.

    Damas y Caballeros, Ladies & Gentlemen: For the past hour or so I've been wondering just how to write my comment, seething at some of you who purport to know just what ails my Mexican american/Latin American communities. Of the 23 comments, only three are from Latinos (Figueroa, Cornejo and Dedo) with somewhat mixed feelings. First, let me start by telling you that I am a Mexican immigrant, US naturalized citizen, a veteran,recently retired college professor and former NCAA and CC/JC coach, referee and youth soccer administrator, and WCUSA94 Historian and a 30 year+ member of the NSCAA; Second I want to profusely thank Paul Gardner for his article (even though I rail at his articles on the EPL!) and even thank him even more for including or injecting glaring statistical information; and third, during an NSCAA conventions - a rare one held in Santa Clara,Calif in the early '90s, a group of Latino coaches, met to form the country's Latin American Soccer Coaches Association (LASCA) with US Soccer's and the NSCAA's blessing, to specifically call attention about the dearth of Latinos in ALL aspects of soccer in the country and how to and hopefully remedy this glaring deficiency with some success, much so that the NSCAA eventually subsumed LASCA and other minority coaching groups and melded them into something called - I think - Minority Committee - (someone please correct me on this!) The records are there should any of you want to read them. Third, that some of you purport to know why PG has seen fit to statistically focus on the "plight" of Latino/Hispanic/Mexican American players is in my humble opinion all wet, only and UNLESS you live in our community, are a sociologist, or a teacher working in our "barrio schools." True, there are some truths to some comments, by I feel highly insulted at some, especially as to the education barriers, or even dietary "deficiencies" (my emphasis) and yet only one calls out the JC's that could be and ARE an avenue to a four-year college education! I could, and perhaps will, write several tomes on this theme, and weld it to soccer as a possible avenue for a pro-career. Allan Lindh has supposedly written with some authority, but I dare ask him where he lives in the San Jose (CA)area and how does he come to this conclusion? I see hundreds of young high schoolers play almost daily at a local small sided courts where I work part-time, and have spoken to many of them, and when I ask them about college, they all point to a local community college, yet thus far, after five years working there, I've only met four who told me they were recruited to play at a local four-year State University - and not one single one, recruited to play at a UC university program! There is obviously more to this than there is room to talk about, but suffice it to say that Paul Gardner, has for at least the past 25 years, been talking about this very problem that vexes soccer in this country, with no positives in sight.

  31. Scott Johnson replied, January 14, 2016 at 5:17 p.m.

    Ric--are these talented player, unwanted by the UC schools--playing high school soccer (by which I mean organized intermural soccer for their high school)? Or club soccer? I think part of the problem is that many college coaches--use high school experience as a major factor in who they recruit and offer scholarships to. The smarter coaches also know that clubs exist, and recruit there as well--but it wouldn't surprise me if some old-time soccer coaches are mainly interested in HS players. The fundamental problem is that college coaches are unwilling to give a shot to (let alone a scholarship) to someone who doesn't come with an established pedigree. If you don't play high-level organized ball as a youth, you're not going to get recruited to college. Like it or not, pick-up games and street soccer mean nothing to college coaches. One solution to this would be to regularly hold open tryouts--and I think this is a good idea at all levels of sport--but so many programs are loathe to the very idea. (If a Div 1 team holds an open tryout for any sport, it is often taken as a sign that something is SERIOUSLY wrong...)

  32. Scott Johnson replied, January 14, 2016 at 5:27 p.m.

    One other question: To what extent should JUCOs be a career path for athletes? Must junior and community colleges, if they have athletic programs at all, do not have anything resembling a high level of competition. If someone is going to a JUCO for an education, and is a high caliber player, he probably needs to look elsewhere for soccer training.

  33. Al Gebra replied, January 14, 2016 at 9:12 p.m.

    My son experienced what you said about "some old-time soccer coaches are mainly interested in HS players". In 1994, Sigi Schmid (UCLA) came to a high school game that my son was playing in. At the same time, my son was also playing with one of the top club teams in Northern California. Why Sigi picked a high school game to evaluate my son's goal-keeping abilities is beyond me. BTW, Sigi spent more time on the sidelines joking with the fellows with him than looking at the game. My son ended up going to Santa Clara.

  34. Bob Ashpole replied, January 14, 2016 at 11:20 p.m.

    Ric, your comments make me think of Jose Torres, native born citizen. USSF didn't even know he existed until he was playing professionally in Mexico. College scholarships and college soccer is largely irrelevant if your goal is to play professional soccer. I worked my way through undergraduate school. Today I could not do that. College is just too expensive even with financial aid and scholarships. And the post-college jobs I considered then are not available today. The US economy has changed drastically. The pay-to-play system costs so much that families would be better off saving the money for college instead. What I think is relevant is the barrier that the USSF elite youth system represents. USSF needs to break out of its white suburban middle class shell.

  35. R2 Dad replied, January 14, 2016 at 11:29 p.m.

    Ric, you are right to feel unhappy about the education hurdles and dietary issues--they are real and obvious for all to see. Insulted? Only if none of it is true.

  36. R2 Dad replied, January 15, 2016 at 12:04 a.m.

    All American, you can be as disbelieving as you'd like, but I've seen time and time again parents feeding their kids junk food 30 minutes before a youth soccer match. Poor dietary decisions. It's unbelievable, but yes, I'm quite serious.

  37. R2 Dad replied, January 15, 2016 at 12:34 a.m.

    All American, I was referring to hispanics, not Mexicans. FYI, they're not one in the same. This is just more race baiting on your part--I wish you would just stop.

  38. R2 Dad replied, January 15, 2016 at 12:47 a.m.

    Ric, I take exception to your comments. While I am not hispanic, I am active in those communities and my experiences in youth soccer are based on real kids, real families and are valid. I live in a progressive area; there are no dueling banjos playing on the porch, and I don't see why only hispanics can have a valid opinion in these matters. My neighborhood is very multicultural with lots of blended families. Maybe in your neighborhoods this litmus test is hard and fast, but it's not in mine.

  39. Jeffrey Organ, January 14, 2016 at 6:31 p.m.

    Ric, I appreciate your passion,,knowledge and long time work in the sport at the grassroots level. You have provided an informed and detailed real world opinion about this issue that reinforces Paul's point. So what do you specifically believe should be done to address the issue?

  40. Ric Fonseca replied, January 14, 2016 at 11:02 p.m.

    To Scott: You asked if the players play "intramural soccer" for their schools? Maybe in Phys Ed classes, but many do so in order to get a PE grade; some do play VARSITY soccer for their schools, but those teams often go for wanting a well trained coach - usually a young guy in his early 20s attending college or working elesewhere. So for them to be "noticed" by a 4-year college coach, sorry, it is very RARE the time when a coach, say from a well know 4-year university UC or Cal State will go and see a high school game or notice a high school player.

  41. Scott Johnson replied, January 14, 2016 at 11:38 p.m.

    Ric, I meant varsity. I think we mostly agree on the problem: Higher levels of soccer depend on lower levels of soccer to do vetting (you can't just show up at the SJ Earthquakes camp and have a tryout), and some of the lower levels of soccer have motives other than development of soccer players--many of which may pose hurdles to kids who don't have some combination of a) money, b) interest in higher ed, c) ability to travel to tournaments, d) connections, e) tolerance for substandard coaching. Latino kids, in many cities, are particularly affected. (And there's no reason to indulge in crude stereotypes about Mexicans, as others in this thread have done, to understand why).

  42. Ric Fonseca, January 14, 2016 at 7:38 p.m.

    1. To Scott J: a. I know for a fact that Community Colleges in California (only one Junior College) offer a high caliber of futbol-soccer competition, and in Southern California, I can name at least a dozen in a flash (e.g. Cerritos, East L.A., Mt. San Antonio, Pierce, Mission, El Camino, Hancock, Ventura, Long Beach, Golden West, Pasadena, Glendale, Com Colleges etc.)and do actual recruiting; b. For career purposes Com Colleges also offer a myriad of two-year or associate degrees in various fields, from a general ed transfer to a a 4-yr univ for a B.A. degree to general fields, e.g. radiologic technology, dental, carpentry, electrical, plumbing, etc. as a student athlete with faint hopes of a pro contract. c. The sad part is that very few NCAA Div I actually recruit these players, while some Div II do, and Div III don't since they don't offer intercollegiate athletic scholardhips yet field some fairly strong teams; NAIA, do some recruting (I had several transfer as recruited student-athletes get a BA/BS degree from these univs; d. The cost of attending CC-JC is in Calif is afordable and there is federal financial aid available to those who qualify (and most do) o/a $50/unit for residents. So you see, there is a very valuable opportunity in attending CC/JC.

  43. Ric Fonseca, January 14, 2016 at 7:57 p.m.

    2. To All American: Unfortunately what you propose will never work and will never be implemented. Pay Training Compensation will be fought tooth and nail by virtually ALL DI, II, III, NAIA, ComColl/JC's since it will completely ruin the much hallowed degree of "amateurism" with which the NCAA was founded way back in the day and which is slowly, ever so slooowly being done away with (to wit: the former DI football and basketball players out of Northwestern Univ and UCLA that've taken the NCAA to court recently in order to also share the millions of dollars garnered by tv rights, corporate sponsorship that benefit the universities but not the student-athletes that "put on the sporting show" (my emphasis) I've seen pay for play clubs come and really rip-off unsuspecting parents IN MY OWN BACK AND FRONT YARD, promising their kids direct contact and recruitment to ABC University or College, and yet charge them literally thousands of bucks. BUT they sure as hell DO NOT go after the Latino players, though they sing a nice tune telling potential benefactors that they set aside some dinero for "deserving and talented players" (yeah right!!!) Demanding US Soccer to do the right thing, good luck, never happen! And know what mi buen amigo, the good old boy network will sadly ALWAYS rear its ugly head and not disappear. So what to do? Every one ID a talented player, no matter his/her ethnicity or country of birth, and forward the name to a "top club" or college coach, or pro-scout; DEMAND from the Federation to let us know just who the so-called US Soccer Scouts are and their contact information; DEMAND of US Soccer, to stop pussy-footing around; CONTACT a local college/university coach and tell him/her about that special player; go out to the communities, the inner city fields, or even in the suburban areas, be PRO ACTIVE and contact your local MLS club, and by all means be aware whenever the so-called professional outfits such as ALIANZA come to your neck of the woods (their mantra is to convince potential talent and then they forward the potentially skilled player's name and info to Liga MX "scouts" (who probably get paid as "head hunters" and can convionce a player's parents their kid is the next Chicharito or Gio Dos Santos, etc. Lastly don't dismiss them as you say for politics or $$ by being PRO ACTIVE in favor of the players. Anyhow, just saying!

  44. Scott Johnson replied, January 14, 2016 at 8:10 p.m.

    Thanks, around here the community colleges (we don't call them JUCOs either) have pretty marginal athletics. One thing we DO have around here is an outfit called La Amistad Soccer Club (LASC to its friends) that mainly markets to the local Hispanic community, quite possibly (I'm not sure) offers coaching only in Spanish--and which has been lately kicking the tail of the local pay-to-play clubs, including the various Timbers' affiliates. (Liga MX team Leon has an affiliate club here as well, but doesn't seem to be anywhere near as good as LASC).

  45. Scott Johnson replied, January 15, 2016 at 12:49 a.m.

    That gets back to the issue of how much development fees should a pay-to-play club get. In general, if the club is subsidizing the player--his training costs well more than any fees he pays--development fees should be given. If not, then no.

  46. F G, January 14, 2016 at 8:24 p.m.

    Excellent article! The numbers are there. Often I have seen coaches snub the latin style of play in favor of the more physical, dirty form of play that has become so prevalent in high school and college. Rather than speed, skill, technical and tactical play, coaches take players with poor foot skills who can knock over everyone else. That's not soccer. If you want to play American football, go into the NFL. The latin style of play, a style that has won World Cups incidentally, is very much about skill. The other issue is latino kids who aren't 6'0" always get passed over for the tall kid who can't handle a ball but looks "athletic." Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr, Andres Iniesta would have been passed over by college coaches here in the US because they aren't particularly tall and don't look "athletic." But all three would smoke the best non latino kids at any age. Soccer also has become an elitist sport at the youth level. The pay to play clubs cost more and more each year yet coaching doesn't improve. And where I live latino kid's parents don't waste money on the local clubs as they know what the clubs are teaching is garbage. Soccer is played in Latin America because it doesn't cost a lot of money and doesn't require expensive equipment. But here in the US we have turned it into a $3,000-$5,000 over paid coach, $300 uniforms and overpriced tournaments. The rest of the world does this without spending that kind of money and produces fantastic players. I agree with the author, we don't need quotas. I don't necessarily believe it's a racial thing either. But it's hard to understand why American born latinos who have a soccer ball on their foot shortly after they are born (both male and female) don't seem to make past a certain age. Most latino kids grow up watching and learning the latino style of play. And that is more than likely, along with the ridiculous costs why the obstacles are bigger for latino players. The US has the talent it needs to win a World Cup, they just need to open their eyes.

  47. Ric Fonseca replied, January 14, 2016 at 10:59 p.m.

    "Open their eyes...(sic)" indeed! FG I agree with your some of your assessment, however, I don't when you assume that they "don't seem to make past a certain age...(sic)" you are so very wrong with this innocent assumption! and that "I don't necessarily believe it's a racial thing either...(sic)" I don't know where you live and thus will make an assumption that you are not at all cognizant of the reality of the situation and every-day fact of life in the Latino communities, barrios, or what ever the heck you want to call it! It IS a racial thing, I know, I've lived it, I've seen it, and continue to experience it; as for the high cost of joining a "so-called elitist" club, I know for a brutal fact that there are "coaches" that know how to work the system, and even go so far as to provide meals, transportation, shoes, lodging, etc., to a Latino player's parents just so they can say they are helping out the Latino player. Laudable? No, but laughable and sad. So, lastly, will they ever open their eyes? I doubt it as they will continue to fail to see the forest for the trees. Saludos cordiales!!!

  48. Bob Ashpole, January 14, 2016 at 11:03 p.m.

    In my view US Soccer is a blend of Latin and European elements, but then I think that Holland and Brazil have influenced soccer world wide. What I see is a trend eliminating the past Hispanic influence on US soccer. The Guardians list of 25 best US male players (I couldn't find Soccer America's list)includes 21 field players. Six are from Latino backgrounds and three more are from areas where youth soccer is heavily influenced by Hispanic coaches and players (Texas and Southern California). At least 2 of the 3 non-Latinos played in Hispanic leagues in addition to USSF leagues. Off the top of my head, I would add Hugo Perez and Fernando Clavijo, both are in the Hall of Fame, to the six Latino players listed by the Guardian. My point is that in the past the US Hispanic community played an active part in developing our best MNT players, and not just the Latino players. In 2014 JK didn't bring Donovan, Feilhaber, and Torres to Brazil, 3 of the best skilled and experienced veterans. Why? IMO because JK's view of soccer is more physical and less technical, like European soccer in the 1980s. Germany has moved on, but JK is coaching in the past. JK is not the biggest problem. What I see is USSF, USYSA, and AYSO attempting to monopolize youth development and thereby reducing the past influence of Hispanic leagues and coaches on youth player development. Similarly how many girls do you see playing on boys teams these days? My belief is that we as a nation are doing worse now than 20 years ago at developing youth players. This is not just a soccer problem, it is a basic fitness and health problem in the general population.

  49. Ric Fonseca replied, January 15, 2016 at 2:38 a.m.

    Bob Ashpole, I think you're still living in the past, e.g. "retooling" Perez and Calvijo, (being in the HoF, how is it only two out of how many??? I know not that many as I also serves in the NSHoF selection committee some years ago) who, while true they were sort of "pioneers" they DO NOT provide any answer or possible solutions to TODAY'S current "problem" and for you to equate it to "a basic fitness and health problem in the general population (sic)..." is like you trying to sell me some beach front property next to the London Bridge in Arizona, and with all due respect, all I can and will say is to wake up and smell the coffee brewing and the roses blooming! As for ayso "attempting to monopolize "the youth development" and thereby reducing the past influence of the Hispanic..." is all wet. My god man, did you know that ayso (and the other acronymed organizations,) did not even attempt to get into the Latino/Hispanic communities until the late '80s and '90s and that their philosophy of "every one plays" was not at all welcome in our communities, only and until ayso began to toss some finances to the Latino/Hispanic communities? Lastly and curiously, is Italy really considered a Latino country??? But don't tell Pirlo!!!

  50. Bob Ashpole replied, January 15, 2016 at 9:33 a.m.

    Ric, Latino refers to Latin and the Romance language cultures. Hispanic refers to a Latino subset, i.e., Spanish speaking cultures. For instance Brazil is not an Hispanic country, but it is part of Latin America. I didn't mean to imply that Perez and Clavijo were the only Hispanics in the Hall of Fame. They are two that I knew of that were not on the Guardian's list. The six listed players are Renya, Ramos, Bocanegra, Balboa, Gonsolves, and Gaetjens. My intended point was that in the past before soccer became an "Industry" Hispanics were historically not merely included in US Soccer, but an important part.

  51. Alvaro Bettucchi, January 14, 2016 at 11:52 p.m.

    Paul... in all your statistics, you left one Latin country out, Italy! Their coaches are going to Spain, England, France, and they all speak English. Not one Italian is coaching here, nor is even considered. The one Latin (Italian) player, Giovinco, (and there are so mnay young Italians in the B, C divisions that would love to be given a chance) takes the top prize of the season. Talk about being blind!

  52. Scott Johnson replied, January 15, 2016 at 12:49 a.m.

    Well, there's Pirlo. :)

  53. Ginger Peeler, January 15, 2016 at 1:02 p.m.

    I was the registrar for our San Diego traveling team league. We noticed that the boys began dropping out from the age of 14. We had players of all races plus Western European and Hispanic coaches (no Americans...there weren't that many Americans who had experience playing professionally who were available to teach). The boys had discovered girls! Our boys' teams had a major drop off when they hit 16. Cars!!! Cars and girls won over soccer when it came to their social lives! That may help explain part of what you're seeing. When you talk about the drop off of the Hispanic players, you need to compare and see if the same proportion of other races are also dropping off.

  54. Ginger Peeler, January 15, 2016 at 1:36 p.m.

    Also, my cousin was a teacher at an inner city school in the Los Angeles area. She talked about how some of her Hispanic students were brilliant, but no one in their families had ever attended college and it was an uphill battle to get them and their families to consider higher education, even when full scholarships were available. Some of you need to consider sociology and how our society reacts to different circumstances. During the Irish potato famine, the United States accepted thousands Irish immigrants. Some American who were born here didn't approve and ostracized the newcomers. Sports helps level the cultural playing field and, at that time, baseball and boxing were some of the favored sports. The Irish became great boxers. As they became more famous, the Irish people became more accepted by our society. And it was the African Americans boxers who beat the Irish boxers. And now the boxers are Hispanic. It wasn't that long ago that we lived with segregation. It took years for college sports to become integrated. But look at your Heisman Trophy winner. Remember when folks iin the NFL said a black man wasn't smart enough to be a quarterback? No, really! It took about 40 years from the end of segregation for that to happen. Now look at the makeup of your average college basketball team. As Hispanics are accepted in sports, so will society accept them. And as they're accepted by society, they will become more sought after in sports. But it's a loooong process. Don't get's happening.

  55. Ric Fonseca replied, January 15, 2016 at 4:49 p.m.

    Ginger: Thanks for your keen insight and information. You did, however, forgot to mention that in pro baseball, the MLB has a large number of Latinos or Hispanics, mostly from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Nicaragua,etc. Your historical piece on the Irish is spot on, but also don't forget that during the great migration of the Irish they were just as fiercely discriminated against due to their religious preference of Roman Catholicism. But heck we digress, thank you again for your keen insight, but AA, NASCAR? Really???

  56. Ginger Peeler, January 15, 2016 at 1:51 p.m.

    All American, I thought I made it VERY clear that ALL races of our boys began dropping out at the same time. I was suggesting that all the people talking about losing the Hispanic players may not have considered they're losing the non-Hispanic at the same rate. Raging hormones, whatever. And NASCAR?! A car gives a young man the freedom to go places and do things he's never done before. I didn't mean the kids owned the cars, but that they had drivers licenses and they were mobile. Maybe go drive to a friend's house and hang out instead of going to soccer practice. NASCAR? All of my comments dovetail with what PG was saying.

  57. Scot Sutherland, January 15, 2016 at 7:25 p.m.

    I am amazed again. Nobody prompts more comments than PG. I wonder how many non-hispanic Americans play professionally in Mexico. Maybe it is pretty simple: Liga MX pays Latino's more and the US pays non-Latinos more. Maybe it is less about Klinsmann than it is about Liga MX. Just a thought.

  58. Scot Sutherland replied, January 18, 2016 at 10:24 a.m.

    All American. You have a point. I've seen this up close for 30 years of struggling to give young men an opportunity through soccer. There are more obstacles for Latino players at the college level, no question. But I also think there is more money in Liga MX and I have had some players move in that direction. They were all latino.

  59. Scot Sutherland replied, January 18, 2016 at 10:27 a.m.

    In a couple of cases they had legitimate college opportunities, but chose the Liga MX route. The attitude at home was that college was a waste of time. If you are really good you will make it in Mexico.

  60. F G, January 18, 2016 at 12:58 p.m.

    Bob Ashpole you are 100% correct! The pay to play system is so ridiculously over priced parents would be better just saving and investing that money for college. In the area I live in making a top team at the club where the college coaches look can cost as much as $10,000. That's just crazy. Even the lesser clubs cost $2,000-$3,000 and that doesn't include travel costs. Soccer is becoming an elitist sport. For most Latinos, the obstacle is economic. And IMHO, most pay to play clubs are teaching terrible habits, kick and chase dirty play soccer. Creativety is not something they teach.

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