Kevin Payne on the current freak-out, player development, pay to play and soccer parents

The majority of American soccer fans probably know the name Kevin Payne from his long tenure (1994-2012) as general manager and then president of D.C. United as well as his time with Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), but he played soccer and way back in 1989 he became the national administrator and director of marketing for the U.S. Soccer Federation, and in 1991 he moved onto Soccer USA Partners.

For 10 months, he was president and CEO of Toronto FC, and in January, 2015, he was hired as CEO of U.S. Club Soccer, formed in 2001 as an alternative to U.S. Youth Soccer. Payne is vice-chairman of the U.S. Soccer Foundation and has worked on committees of MLS and U.S. Soccer.

What’s your evaluation of the current mood surrounding the federation and president Sunil Gulati?
It makes me a little crazy that everybody’s freaking out shouting, “Off with his head! Off with his head!’ I don’t think our failure to qualify means we’re doing everything wrong and I also don’t agree with people who look at our results in the U-17 [World Cup through the first four games] and say we’re doing everything right. I think it’s somewhere in the middle.

I think the task is a lot more complicated than people want to give it credit for. People want to believe it’s simple. It’s been a failing at U.S. Soccer that we’ve always had this attitude that if we just discover the one thing that we’re not doing, we’ll be fine. It’s not one thing, it’s a number of things particularly in the way we do things, that we have to change. And it’s going to be hard.
You’ve known Sunil Gulati for a long time and worked with him on many projects. Where does he stand?
He’s been an extremely influential part of the U.S. Soccer since the mid-1980s. As a result of that, he shares a very large amount of the credit for the things that have moved us forward. Unfortunately, he also shares some of the blame for the disappointments. And he would probably say this too, he gets too much credit for the good things and too much blame for the bad things, which is kind of the way it works, because people want it to be simple.
Many people called for him to resign and he hasn’t. Should he?
I don’t think Sunil resigning does anything to help the process. That’s as a starting point. I think Sunil still has great value to U.S. Soccer and if he doesn’t run, it shouldn’t be because we didn’t qualify. If he chooses not to run, it should be for bigger reasons than that.

I made some fairly specific suggestions to him but I don’t want to share them publicly because I don’t want it to seem like I’m pressuring him or he may have a different idea.
What does U.S. Soccer need to address most urgently?
I haven’t heard a lot of people -- publicly at least -- talking about the need to completely re-imagine the way we develop players. There are some people have been saying that behind the scenes, and our organization has been saying it and some others. I’m in meeting with some of those people.

There are a lot of people right now that just feel a need to make noise because that’s what expected of them or in some cases that’s what they’re paid to do. I haven’t heard a lot of constructive comments from them. One of the guys on one of the networks went into this almost hysterical rant and then at the end of it actually said, ‘I don’t know what to do, I just know something needs to be done.’

Well, thank you very much for that. That’s quite useful.

Everybody has a theory about the best way to develop players. In your mind, what are the key elements of refining the system we have in place?

I feel strongly that the way forward is going to be found through better collaboration and the federation needs to make a very conscious effort to seek out thought leaders and influencers and not only try to convince them of what it wants to do, but make them a part of the process of determining what they should do.

There’s an awful lot of experience out there in our country and outside of our country. It’s not all in Soccer House.
The problem with everybody -- I don’t care who they are or where they’re from or now much success they’ve had -- they start trying to think of, ‘How do we scale change across the scope of the soccer landscape here?’

It’s very, very daunting. The magic in a lot of this is really in the process. How do you effect change and who needs to change? It’s not, ‘Should we be teaching this at this age and this at that age?’ Whatever it is we decide what we need to do, how do we convince a majority of the stakeholders in youth soccer to do it?’
Eric Wynalda is someone who’s been calling for a complete revamp of the system for some time. Is he on the right track?
I’ve talked to Eric about some of this stuff and I agree with him about it, but the easy thing is to say, ‘This is what is happening. Why don’t you do it better?’
So what’s a good starting point?
There are huge constituencies. I still think the biggest task in front of us all is convincing parents of what it is they should be looking for in their kid’s soccer experience. It’s not easy but it’s never going to change if we never attempt to change it.

Our organization [U.S. Club Soccer] is trying to change it through Players First. When I talk to coaches I tell them ‘What we’re trying to do is instead of doing things the right way being a detriment in the youth soccer marketplace, which is the case right now, we want to make doing things the right way be a competitive advantage.’

We’re not telling you to stop trying to make a living at this. We’re not telling you to blow up the pay-to-play model, because we’re not naive. We don’t think that’s going to happen. What we’re saying is there’s no reason within the pay-to-play model that you can’t do things the right way. You begin with needing to convince the people who are paying what the right way is. And that’s not an impossible task.
Pay-to-play is taking a lot of heat but how many people have any idea of what the numbers really are?
Tell me anything or any place that isn’t pay-to-play. Every soccer player who’s reached a decent level in Germany, somebody’s paying for that. That’s not free. The only question is: ‘Who pays for it?’ They have an economic model in which they’re generating enough money through television rights and so forth that the bulk of that expense is being borne by the professional clubs and the DFB itself. We’re not there yet.

We did a survey this year to our membership and we got a very significant level of response, certainly statistically significant. What we were told was that more than 75 percent of our families spend a minimum of $3,000 per year on soccer. We have 500,000 members. That means in our organization alone the parents are spending somewhere around $1.5 billion.

So do we honestly think at some point there’s going to be a single-payer solution to this? It’s just ridiculous. Single-payer in the insurance world could work theoretically because the government could do it. The government’s not going to do this.

How is the federation going to generate a billion and a half dollars? And by the way, that’s just our organization. The federation surplus is just a drop in the bucket, about 10 percent. And that’s only our organization. And the top-level kids are spending more, they have more travel.
Getting back to the parental issues, how they can be changed?
I don’t think there are many parents who sit around the dinner table at night and think, ‘How can we make soccer a really awful experience for our kids?’ But they manage to do it and they enter into this unspoken, unholy alliance with their coaches. The adults establish the agenda and they make game not fun for the kids, and the kids leave and people wonder why.

Well it’s not fun anymore. You don’t need tons of research to know that kids play sports because it’s fun. They play sports because they like doing things with their friends. They like the camaraderie. They like to be valued. They like the idea that their friends are relying on them to hold up their responsibility to their team.

When you have an environment in which they’re being told they’re not doing that or they don’t get to play or they’re being screamed at by the parents and micro-managed by the coach and criticized for every mistake, who wouldn’t quit?
How is the academy system working?
When I served on the committee that came up with the concept of the academy program, I said -- and I’ve also said it every time I’ve spoken publicly – this is an intervention. We need to change the environment for competitive players because the existing environment in which they’re playing maybe a hundred games a year and maybe five of them were worthy games and the rest of them were crap, we need to change that.

But we also said in the committee – and there was pretty broad agreement on this – that the academy programs needed to do more than just draw the best soccer players from the surrounding community. They also needed to help the soccer community at-large to improve. Unfortunately, with a very few exceptions that has not happened at all.

What is your opinion regarding the ban on high school soccer for academy players?
I think they should be allowed the choice. When I was chairing the committee and we introduced the academy, we made it that basically they had a choice. And we said we don’t think it’s the best thing from a soccer standpoint but we understand that socially it can be important.

The kid that’s really on track to be a high-level pro and maybe a national-team player, they’re probably going to make that decision for themselves. They don’t want to risk injury. They’d like to play their friends in high school but they realize they can’t risk that and waste that time.

But the idea that it’s a hard-and-fast rule to me is a problem.

What would like to see changed?
In my opinion, their approach to this has been too narrow. They believe they can identify the top one percent or whatever percentage of players it is at 11 years old and pull them into an academy and they don’t really care about the rest of them. I don’t think that’s well-founded based on research of athlete development, but I also don’t think it’s the right way for the federation to respond to its responsibilities.

There’s a lot of things that need to be talked about and I don’t think the people in Soccer House have all the answers. I don’t think they have even half the answers. The answers in a country of this size are going to be best identified by a very wide effort to elicit opinions. It’s the right thing to do.

29 comments about "Kevin Payne on the current freak-out, player development, pay to play and soccer parents".
  1. Tim Silvestre, October 23, 2017 at 5:41 p.m.

    The problem with US Youth Soccer is not the existence of the pay to play system but the fact that a profit based model ultimately rewards financial wherewithall over soccer prowess. Having participated as a parent and step parent in the club soccer world for the past dozen years I've seen wealthy parents basically buy spots on club teams at the expense of better players and use their financial influence to promote their daughters and sons ahead of more talented teammates. I agree that there is no quick fixes here, but believe that national soccer organizations need to have objective scouts roam the soccer fields of the country with teams beginning at age 11 but continuing on to ages 15/16 to find players everywhere and channel them into development programs, subsidizing their play if needed. The current club programs that I've seen want to promote their continuing existence not the talents of their players.

  2. M S replied, October 23, 2017 at 10:19 p.m.

    clubs main motive is profits from parents. Us Club just like Usysa main motive is to profit from clubs tjrough their sanctioned leagues. Their entire structure is to benefit those needs and help clubs achieve tjose goals.

  3. Kevin Leahy, October 23, 2017 at 6:17 p.m.

    I find it very interesting that, Cristian Pulisic parents had him on a team that trained 2 times a week with, a game on the weekend. He became the player he is because, he played on his own. We are too organized here. Three years ago I was refereeing high level teams and found them to all play like drones. Saw only 1 player capable of breaking down their opponents. AAU basketball is doing the same thing to basketball players now too. How many timeouts does a basketball coach get now? We have taken the thinking out of everything. Although I respect what many people in the coaching ranks have accomplished, the have been removing thinking since Tom Landry and Don Shula were coaching. Some baseball managers call every pitch. Adults need to control everything has ruined sports. Soccer without timeouts and limited substitution is the last place left to get away from the control freaks.

  4. Fred Rweru replied, October 23, 2017 at 7:09 p.m.

    i found your comment quite interesting. 

  5. M S replied, October 23, 2017 at 10:20 p.m.

    Absolutely spot on with everything including AAU who is really no different from DA.

  6. Ben Myers replied, October 24, 2017 at 10:13 a.m.

    But, some state high school associations, like the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA), allow each soccer coach one timeout per half and one timeout per overtime, if and when there is overtime play.  Absurd!  Ridiculous!  Messes up the game!

  7. Kris Spyrka replied, October 24, 2017 at 10:41 a.m.

    Kevin true.  Christian Pulisic's dad being a coach helps one understand why he no doubt got on an plane with him and got the hell out of here.  Just like a young Messi's father probably understood how navigating the political futbal environment in Argentina would have stunted his illustrious career.  Our talent selection process for all programs:  ODP, PDP, ECNL, NPL, NPL Academy, including DA is dubious at best.  

  8. R2 Dad, October 23, 2017 at 6:17 p.m.

    We can listen to what this guys says, or pay attention to what his organization did. US Club Soccer thought they had something different to offer kids/families/clubs/leagues, so started up a competitor to AYSO. In my neighborhood, US Club has the upper hand as far as team participation % for travel teams. If US Soccer isn't getting the job done, and this country keeps hiding behind "our country is just too big to manage", maybe we need an alternate organizationn to US Soccer that is willing to take these unmanageable issues head-on.

  9. Scott Johnson replied, October 23, 2017 at 8:02 p.m.

    AYSO, for the most part, focuses on recreational soccer; US Club seems to focus mostly on competitive soccer.  (USYSA seems to be somewhere in the middle).  I don't know if having these different organizations is helpful or harmful (what may be good for rec is not for classic or premier); I do know, speaking as a team manager, that having to carry around multiple sets of cards is a royal pain in the asterisk.  (There's one tourney my team does that only takes US Club cards; and won't accept the USYSA cards issued by our state assocation). 

    One big reason, I think, that clubs focus too much on winning over development--is that's what a lot of parents want.  A lot of parents (and let's face it, a lot of kids) don't like losing, and some can be fiercely competitive, even if winning the state association's Silver league doesn't get you anything more than a pretty medal and a team photo.  And some parents get cranky when the coach says "play it out of the back" and the other team pressures the punt or goal kick and scores a cheap goal when the defense fails to do so.  Other parents get cranky whenever That Kid checks into the game.  Most of you, I'm sure, have run across such sideline saboteurs.

    A certain DoC I know who frequently visits this forum likes to tell his kids "you're not special as long as your parents are playing me to coach you".  The problem with pay-to-play is that this logic can be turned on its head--when the coach's salary comes from Mom and Dad, they tend to think of themselves as customers entitled to immediate satisfaction, not as students who are hiring expertise (and who, as part of the bargain, will defer to said expertise).  Some clubs and coaches are better at resisting this pressure than others. 

  10. Scott Johnson replied, October 23, 2017 at 8:03 p.m.

    Correction:  "You're not special as long as your parents are PAYING me to coach you".

  11. Dennis Mueller, October 23, 2017 at 6:23 p.m.

    Payne recognizes that kids playing and having fun is the way to ensure more players wil get better and he recognizes that parents, right now and probably forever, are the ones who really control that.

    There will always be jerks who happen to be parents and make things more difficult for the kids than it needs to be.  I think that as time goes on more and more of the parents will have played soccer at some level and more and more at a pretty decent level.  Those parents are the hope of US soccer and their kids, maybe not even born yet, are the future.

    Just do not believe anyone who says that things are not better now than they were 20 years ago or that they won't be better in another 20 years, pretty much regardless of what national soccer administrators do or do not do.  The influence of a few hundred national and state level people will always be drowned out by the legions of parents.  Most of those parents have the best interests of their children at heart; the role for state and national associations is to offer those parents easy-to-find advice.

    Once there is a big enough talent pool at the 14 year-old level, Development Academies and National Team coaches will have something to work with.  Right now, it is still true that US National level youth coaches must still spend too much time teaching basic skills that should have been learned and more or less mastered when the kids were 10 or 11.

  12. Glenn Auve, October 23, 2017 at 7:06 p.m.

    I like KP and I think we've missed him at DC United. But he talks in a lot of corporate-speak and generalities here.

    The problem with pay to play is that we'll never know how many good or better players are completely being left behind or bypassed by the current system. Why does it have to cost a billion $ plus to find and train players currently? Why are the pro clubs charging thousands to their players? Is it just a way for MLS to pad the bottom line?

  13. Fred Rweru replied, October 23, 2017 at 7:31 p.m.

    thank you. i was also struck by the language. it just seemed like things are trying to be more compicated than they really are. i don't even understand these organizations, like US soccer and their real motives in the game. there just seems to be a lot of motives invloved that are not necessarily pulling in the same direction when it hurts their bottom end. i hear some politics of healthcare being thrown in there, and it just buffles me why and how the whole system can get so mystified. if these organizations are as good and useful as they claim to be, then, why hasn't the country done better at the world cup? 
    the US ranking at "26" is so deceptive. they are not even in the top 50 or 60 probably! that ranking is based on the fact that they keep going to the world cup from a genrously easy to qualify zone. they would never go if they were in europe or africa or south america. so, i am buffled, if those are the best players available, then what are these organizations doing?!
    why are systems that are more "organic" say in Mexico, like the rest of the world doing better? i've watched the US team the last ten years i've been in the US i honestly don't feel confident about them. there's just something that doesn't feel "legit" about them, i think its the lack of "organic" development. and i think one can see the difference with a player like Pulisic. he's been brought up on a different diet of soccer, he's not mechanical etc. so, if those other players are really the best the US has to offer, then what are these organizations really doing? it just seems like there are too many cooks, and poor cooks at that, and worse, cooks with varying or questionable motives. 
    this whole prental thing to me sounds very problematic. it should be the kids doing their thing, and then later if they want to take it further the parents help out. 
    anyway, the whole system seems quite buffling to me.

  14. Scott Johnson replied, October 23, 2017 at 8:05 p.m.

    FIFA ratings are, for the most part, junk.

  15. James Madison, October 23, 2017 at 9:08 p.m.

    Interesting talk,  Payne is a sympathetic observer.  Much of what he says is more applicable to the development of male players than to the development of female players.  Soccer does not compete with baseball and American football for their interest, but only basketball among what we call the major sports.  We also have the task of both developing professional and international level players while fostering a devotion to soccer as recreation.

    Payne's spot on to speak of focusing on the kids and growing youth.  The challenge is what to do about parents.  Parents who focus on the kids should be included; those who are focused on themselves need to be excluded. The trick is to distinguish between the two.

    Germany presents an interesting development model.  Iceland is another and somewhat different model.  The task is to draw from others like these and develop our own despite the combination of our geography and our social tendency to create a new organization whenever we don't like workings of the one we're in, 

  16. R2 Dad replied, October 23, 2017 at 11:47 p.m.

    James, BA and Sunil, supported by the status quo of usmnt coaches & the media, have demonstrated exactly why we need upheaval--they see no need to change. Utter failure of the USMNT to get out of the easiest confederation on the planet has only sparked an interest in nibbling around of the edges. The body is dying and Sunil wants liposuction instead of amputation. The intelligent approach is to work within the system, but entrenched interests don't really want change. I would love for US Soccer to put on their big boy pants and do the hard work to improve the structures to allow the soccer cream to rise to the top--but US Soccer is wed to MLS and is really unable to act in the best interests of the country. What now? Rosary beads?

  17. M S, October 23, 2017 at 10:33 p.m.

    Pay to play will never go away and there is pay to play in most countries.Mexico included. 
    So in no country is youth soccer subsidized entirely. Most olayers are oay to play in the entire world!
    The difference is that for the top state players its free because the club structure is Pro/Rel and Training compensation is law.
    This means that youth clubs take risks on playerd they think will geberate income and invest in them to hopefully sell to 3rd, 2nd or 1st division teams or at least get Tc for them.
    Nothing is free but Mr. Payne decided to not mention exactly how it works in otger countries. 
    Why do all these guys pick Germany as an example?
    The poorest cou tries are also great at developing top players provibg that the Training compebsation system works gor the clubs that develop the best players and are willing to take risks and are great at it.

  18. Carolyn Haack, October 24, 2017 at 7:10 a.m.

    This article reads as a softball interview, with a lot of generalities. His answer to the pay to play question is particularly egregious. Definitely seeing a pro-US Soccer as it is today bias in Soccer America lately, which is disappointing.

  19. Kris Spyrka replied, October 24, 2017 at 10:51 a.m.

    Well said!

  20. Gary Allen, October 24, 2017 at 8:32 a.m.

    The crux of the issue is youth development. We currently have a developmental monolith, even though each new iteration of a youth league or academy is supposed to change things. Our the training leaves little room for the inefficient experimentation from which an important part of development emerges. In addition to the strict training sessions we already have, we need to  informal environments where players can experiement. We must include envronments where the players are allowed to assess and adapt their play to different players around them. We have mastered the concept of "purposeful training," but lack informal play where each player creatively solves problems. Our general level of play is mssing this because everything we do is choreographed from the coach's point of view. The coaches, not the game, create the problems to solve. If Brazil entered two teams in the World Cup, both would probably reach the second round. By comparison, if we lose 2 key players at any time, we would never qualify. Our players' technical level and speed of play are below much of the rest of the world. Why is it that so many countries have players that generally are so much faster technically and tactically than our players? We have made great strides with academies and elite leagues, but while we have created efficient players who rely on their strengths just to make the team, they lack vision and creativity because they are always playing a role with other "elite" players. In many countries young players play in the streets where they play with and against many different types of players. Their decision-making, therefore changes. Their play vaires with the different situations and players around them. We excel at creating specific situations in practice, but have no patience for informal play with inefficient experimentation. We need both. Formal coaching is important, but it should guide young players' decisions rather than always dictate. I have read others say that "street soccer" is out of date. Just imagine basketball in the US without street basketball. Do you think we would dominate the rest of the world without it? Hardly. We need more focus on developing our young players' decison-making abilites in game-like environments, in addition to the formal training we already have. "Elite" players need to sometimes play with "non-elite" players to be creative, not just efficient.

  21. Ben Myers, October 24, 2017 at 10:09 a.m.

    Payne identifies much of what was painfully obvious after the USMNT exit from the 2014 World Cup.  It sure was obvious to me, working at the grass roots level, and I am not any soccer luminary, just an experienced observer.  What Gansler says in his interview still holds today: "...before him U.S. Soccer was an association for adult soccer -- they didn’t give, pardon my French, a shit about youth ball...”  US Soccer still focuses on adult soccer and the revenues it brings in, with insufficient attention to where the development of elite players starts, with the young players.  That US Soccer has placed so little focus on player development and all the factions with a financial interest in soccer is enough reason to call for change at the top.

  22. Thor Thor, October 24, 2017 at 12:29 p.m.

    This interview started with a promise but quickly took a turn towards corporate speak and generalities especially when he started dancing around the issue of pay to play. He basically defended the status quo. If he has some ideas on how to fix youth development he certainly didn't express those ideas here.

  23. Ridge Mahoney replied, October 25, 2017 at 1:55 a.m.

    Anybody who thinks Payne is defending the status quo is just plain wrong:

     "It’s been a failing at U.S. Soccer that we’ve always had this attitude that if we just discover the one thing that we’re not doing, we’ll be fine. It’s not one thing, it’s a number of things particularly in the way we do things, that we have to change."

  24. Thor Thor replied, October 25, 2017 at 11:21 a.m.

    @Ridge Mahoney

    I hope you're right but statements like "...there’s no reason within the pay-to-play model that you can’t do things the right way..." sound like tap dancing around the issue.
    Pay-to-play model is wrong, it doesn't work, it's detrimental to our soccer and that's been proved time and again  and it needs to be stated plainly and forcefully every time one gets a chance. Only then something, hopefully, will change.

  25. Kent James replied, October 25, 2017 at 5:55 p.m.

    I think one of Payne's main points is that like it or not, the pay to play system will not magically disappear (this is where he made the awkward single payer system analogy; if the government wanted to come in, take over the $1.5 billion costs that US Club soccer parents currently pay, it could work, but that's pretty unlikely to happen).  He's not defending the pay to play system, just doesn't see how to change it.  So the question then becomes how can we work to evolve the pay to play system so it is not so detrimental to development?  He didn't provide an answer, but it's a reasonable framing of the question.

  26. humble 1 replied, October 25, 2017 at 7:12 p.m.

    Interesting interview.  There's a lot of meat in there.  Read it again if you don't see it.

  27. M S replied, October 26, 2017 at 1:27 a.m.

    KP job title depends on pay to play? Why would he want it to change or switched?
    Pay to play will always exist as it jas always existed in other cou tries that jave alwats had Training comoensation and Pro/rel.
    Why doesnt KP say this? 
    The National team scouting does not go on in pay to play at all in other countries. Only in Pro/Rel leagues and teams. In that system.
    Must have slipped KPs mind huh?
    Why is this so difficult for people to understand Ridge?

  28. Matthew Arnold, October 25, 2017 at 10:54 a.m.

    I found his comment about identifying talent at eleven and then staying with that player no matter what.  Players change.  Mentally, Physically.  Passion wise and they also can stagnate just because.  I have always believed players develop differently.  A kid that can barely walk and chew gum at 10 or 11 may be an incredible player at 18 and vice versa.  Wayne Rooney didn't start taking the game serious until he was 16 years old or so.  Michael Jordan was cut in high school correct?  There has to be a better way to continue to identify players no matter what the age group.  With all the money US soccer has there ought to be major training camps where large groups of players are brought in and trained and looked at.  I am not talking about ODP.  Too political.  The fact that the same players are picked year in and year out in an area with a lot of talent shows you that is a fact.
    US Soccer should be able to go town to town with a development staff and run camps for free assess kids in training and game play.  Scouts in tournaments don't work.  Kids can have poor games.  Their opponent may be strong or weak.  The other issue is what a coach deems to be a talented player.  You can line 100 high level coaches up and they will all have different opinions of the same player. 
    I am slowly seeing the national teams moving away from bigger, faster, stronger to players that have high soccer IQ's and creativity, but it is taking a painfully long time getting there.  Everytime I watch the National team play I say out loud that there is no way in hell that those are the best players the US has to offer.

  29. Fred Rweru, October 27, 2017 at 11:20 a.m.

    I was somewhat deflated with how Mr. Payne seemed to politcize the game, often by bringing the rhetoric we now hear in politics: "some body has to pay" and the usual alusions to governemnt and all the other divisive topics and language in the current politcal climate. To me it was quite disheartening and disappointing. 
    I think its a peak at perhaps the biggest problem facing American soccer, one that's been brough to light by the failure to qualify for the WC: money interests in the game. 
    It seems American soccer has been hijacked by such money interests who now employ this kind of political rhetoric and language to protect their little turfs and thiefdoms, I think. 
    Like reall? "somebody has to pay!" 
    Why does soccer really have to be that complicated and mistified and elevated beyond the reach or ordinary people? 
    Soccer is popular around the world because it is one of the most affordable games. Get a ball, get space, play, period. 
    Why is there all this complexity? His whole answers seemed to point to over-confusing and complicating the whole game to milk it, I think. 
    It is really disheartening to see what has happened to this game in the US. 
    These organization and individuals such as the above, i think, have made it so difficult for kids to play and enjoy the game, from what i am starting to gather in learning about how the game is conducted in this country. It's just unfortunate, i think. 
    They've made the game a chore, and an expensive one, i think. 

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