Hugo Salcedo: 'U.S. Soccer has to have a greater presence in the Hispanic community'

"My dream is that all of our kids in all of our communities feel that they belong to the U.S. Soccer Federation."
-- Hugo Salcedo

The issue of integrating Latino soccer talent into the mainstream of American soccer has been around for a long time, but it has never gotten as much attention as in recent months -- in the wake of the U.S. men failing to qualify for the World Cup, the switch by Californian Jonathan Gonzalez to the Mexican national team, and the election of a new U.S. Soccer president.

"The Hispanic Issue" has even entered mainstream media coverage of American soccer. For example, said Julie Foudy in an interview on NPR, "You still see that it's a largely middle-class white affluent sport. And so there's a whole Hispanic population we're not giving enough attention to with eyeballs on them."

In the USA, 25 percent of the population under the age of 18 is Hispanic. Soccer is the most popular sport in most of the U.S. Hispanic community, and the Latin style of soccer is particularly successful worldwide.

This is a good time to check in with Hugo Salcedo, who at the 1972 Olympics became the second Mexican-American to represent the USA at a soccer world championship, after Ruben Mendoza, a 1956 and 1960 Olympian.

Hugo Salcedo

Salcedo turned 72 last month, and he's still working in the grassroots of Southern California soccer that he's stayed closely connected to throughout a career that has included work for MLS, Concacaf and FIFA, which he served as coordinator at eight men's World Cups, four U-20 World Cups, four U-17 World Cups, a Women's World Cup, five Olympic soccer tournaments, and three Futsal World Cups.

A director of the non-profit MaxInMotion, Salcedo organizes tournaments, player clinics, college visits and coaching courses for 16 independent youth leagues comprised of 25,000 players, mostly Hispanic.

"In California, some estimate that there are 900 leagues that do not belong to a state association," said Salcedo. "It's difficult to account for every single league that's not affiliated, but I would estimate a minimum of 500,000 kids play without being in state associations. It could be up to a million kids in the country who are not affiliated with the U.S. Soccer Federation.

"The kids have a right to be seen and a right to the opportunities to move up."

Standing L-R: Bob Guelker, Julie Menendez, Horst Stemke, Steve Gay, Hugo Salcedo, John Carenza, Neil Stamm, Al Trost, Mike Seerey, Shep Messing, Mike Ivanov, Gene Edwards Buzz Budell. Kneeling: Joe Hamm, Buzzie Demling, Manny Hernandez, Archie Robostoff, Mike Margulas, Casey Bahr, John Bocwinski, Wally Ziaja.

Salcedo immigrated to the USA from Mexico with his family at age 14. They had left the small town of El Salto, Jalisco, on the outskirts of Guadalajara, when he was 12, then spent two years in Tijuana while their documentation was getting processed.

In El Salto, he had played street soccer until trying out for a team at age 10, playing barefoot during the tryouts because he didn't own cleats. The club gave him some when he made the team.

He couldn't find youth soccer in Southern California, so he fibbed about his age and played for an adult team comprised of Mexican immigrants.

After playing for the USA in the 1971 Pan American Games and 1972 Olympics, he worked as a Los Angeles County medical social worker, a job he left to become part of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Committee. He served as a venue director at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

Salcedo says he can't help but get emotional when he's asked to tell his story: "A 10-year-old kid in a small Mexican town having to prove himself for a pair of shoes, and 14 years later I'm in Germany wearing the U.S. uniform at the Olympics. Another 14 years later, being in charge of one of the World Cup venues -- in Mexico."

Salcedo's son, Jorge, played for the USA at the U-17 World Cup in 1989 when it beat Brazil, played in MLS, and is now UCLA head coach.

"How do you tell people how great the USA has been to us?" says Salcedo.

'Come and work with us in the community'

But Salcedo is also frustrated. His story is unique. He sees an American soccer environment in which too many Latino children don't have a pathway to the highest levels of the sport -- and he believes that American soccer would benefit greatly if it did more to create that pathway.

"I played, I coached, I was president of a league," says Salcedo. "Not a single person from U.S. Soccer has asked me any questions. I've been working with the Hispanic community for 50 years. No one, no one, has ever asked, Hugo can you tell us something about the Hispanics? What can we do?"

His answer as to why we have not seen more Latino players reach the highest levels is:

"We don't have the infrastructure in these communities to help the Hispanic kids to live up to the expectations," he says.

For youth players to climb the ladder, they need coaches who appreciate their talent and understand the system. The system in the USA requires a navigation through an expensive coaching education program run by the Federation. A "C" license, for example, costs $2,000, in addition to travel and room and board expenses. And time off work.

Major American mainstream youth soccer clubs employ full-time coaches and pay for their coaches' U.S. Soccer licensing expenses. A cost that is ultimately paid by the parents through their children's registration fees. That is very much not the case in most of the Hispanic soccer community.

"These guys aren't going to fly across the country to take a coaching course," says Salcedo. "If U.S. Soccer wanted integrate and bring Hispanics into the family, they would send coaching educators to these leagues, they would do clinics for these leagues. The Federation doesn't have to serve them everything on a silver platter -- but come and work with us in the community. Let's compromise. Let's meet halfway. U.S. Soccer has to have a greater presence."

Why hasn't U.S. Soccer been more ambitious about tapping into Latino talent?

"Maybe U.S. Soccer is too busy with other things. Maybe it's not the game they want to play … the more technical game. Maybe it's the mentality."

Or perhaps the coaches who scout and coach at the highest levels don't appreciate what Latino players have to offer?

"Maybe not," says Salcedo. "And it's not only the playing style, but the behavior, the mentality -- and the ability to make players feel comfortable in an environment."

Salcedo says his first reaction to the USA not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup was sadness.

"But it's helping us to reorganize, to take a closer look at what hasn't been happening," he says. "We will not resolve anything, we will not improve the present situation until have an open discussion with U.S. Soccer officials, and give our opinions and our insights and experiences."

18 comments about "Hugo Salcedo: 'U.S. Soccer has to have a greater presence in the Hispanic community'".
  1. R2 Dad, February 9, 2018 at 2:51 p.m.

    Thank you Mike, you could fill a column every day with people like HS who have lived this divide. This interview should be forcefed to the two Status Quo candidates, one of whom will apparently win this election. Unfortunately, Mr. Salcedo's comment, "But it's helping us to reorganize", might just be wishful thinking. The reality about J Gonzalez is that everyone in the Nats coaching system knew about him--they just didn't value him. The supreme irony of JG going to Russia this summer, and possibly playing an important role, will be completely lost on the all the scouts, coaches and hangers-on associated with the way the Nats system works now. We have failed at qualifying for the world cup, and everyone who votes thinks we can just keep going about our business. If there is no evolution, US Soccer should prepare for revolution.

  2. frank schoon, February 9, 2018 at 4:52 p.m.

    This photo brought back memories since having played against Manny Hernandez and Al Trost within two weeks of each other on the road towards the '68 NCAA championship. 
    As much as I want to see the Latino scene dominate US soccer, I'm likewise greatly disappointed at what the huge Latino community has produced in way of players in US soccer, especially when you consider the large volume of Hispanics in this country whose first love is soccer and whose culture eats, sleeps, and drinks soccer. In other words, this community HAS NO PROBLEM of having to introduce kids to the game, for it is second nature, as compared to Julie Foudy's perception of a largely white afluent middle class that lacks a second nature for soccer.
    Salcedo states that just in CA there 900 leagues, or about 500,000kids not associated with state or US Federation..LIKE, SO WHAT. You mean to tell me in a state like CA where there is such a huge latino community and culture, we can't seem to generate any latino stars, TALENT, which has been the case as far as I'm concerned ,or is it that the Latino community has so much youth talent but it is only due to the myopic character of US Soccer that shows no interest for the hispanic community. Realisticly, the former would apply here. We also know that soccer communities don't exist in a vacuum, for coaches of both communities have contacts, socially, professionally, organizationally, through the educational system, through tournaments and other circles. That if there is a much talented hispanic youth in the making he will become known by all coaches and will be approached by the non-hispanic sector of soccer. Just look at the African youth from a poor country who come here, talented and skillful who lack formal training let us say, no benefit of licensed coaches, or nice upper middle class soccer accommodations, but somehow come to this country and end up on nice a well to do team. 
    I give the Latin community enough credit to produce so much youth talent that the US Soccer Federation would be busting the doors down in the Latin community to grab up prospective Latin talent. SEE NEXT POST

  3. frank schoon, February 9, 2018 at 5:23 p.m.

    Salcedo, sees the problem as structurally. Apparently those talented African kids coming from poor countries don't seem to have these obstacles. Or look at the Brazilian female star Sissy who also came from a poor country, who lacked any organizational support or structure for her and had to play with boys to get her game going...And here we have a huge hispanic community like in CA and we have all these excuses of lack of support, structure. Look at the Black community, talk about lack of structure with all their disadvantage players  and see what stars are produced on these playgrounds of those poor communities
    The worst thing is for the Latin community  to get involved with the US Soccer Federation and those licensed coaches. Look at how well they have done in developing players in the past 50 years... zilch. I want to see creative latin players who are not programmed by these licensed Nitwits. Look at Sissy from Brazil who became a revelation in US women soccer. Can you imagine if she was brought up in the US by these programmed licensed coaches. I can assure you it won't be the same exciting Sissy we would have seen. 
    When we cross that southern border into Mexico and proceed to go down into Central America, none of these kids have in those communities are as well off as the Hispanic communities in California and certainly these kids down there lack the structure and support but somehow as adults these kids end up playing in the MLS, go figure......

  4. Ric Fonseca replied, February 9, 2018 at 6 p.m.

    Mr. Schoon:  You close your comment with a statement:  Go figure.  I can't.  

  5. Ric Fonseca, February 9, 2018 at 5:56 p.m.

    hank you Mike W for the Salcedo article and topic that I others have been speaking about now for quite a number of decades.I have known Hugo meeting in the early '70s when his brother Hector attended UCLA and played on the Bruin Soccer Team. Second, I will not beat a very "live horse" and go over and over and over, yet again, regarding this lamentable US Soccer "myopic" view as virtually many of us in the Latino/Hispanic communities, local towns and mega-cities have been lamenting for too long now; And that the JGonzalez move sorta-galvanized us, not making the Russia party, and now this coming weekend's US Soccer presidential election, may have awoken us, but all I can say is maybe it has taken someone in the person of July Foudy to lend us her voice. To R2Dad, yes you are correct, the US Soccer Federation coaches damned well knew about JG, hell they've known about hundreds of kids ask B Rothenberg (of all people) and he will tell you and perhaps even provide videos of the multitudes of very soccer knowledgeable kids he's seen. As for the "good old boy US Soccer mentality, that is like on of the mysteries of life, that I've not been able to pinpoint since and even we organized Latin American Soccer Coaches Association (LASCA) pre and post WC USA'94. As for implementing a soccer "evolution", I'd prefer this over any "perceived revolution," that is, until we produce our own "US Latino Soccer Revolutionary Manifesto."To Mr. F. Schoon, I've tried to understand your message with little luck, but I can tell you that we DO in fact and deed generate many "latino stars," only thing is is that there seems to be very little interest - if any - and again, other than B. Rothenberg's "Sueno Program) And no we - the communities - don't exist in a vacuum, it is just that US Soccer has turned a blind eye, and yet you include/mention the educational system, well, I do not know where you live, but I'd welcome the opportunity to come to the greater Los Angeles area on any given evening or weekend and check out the talent. Lastly,when I was intrinsically involved in youth soccer, I remember ayso making some feeble attempts to break into the Latino communities. they hired a friend of mine to d this, however, when he did start it, he had one helluva time explaining to the parents and other coaches and non-affiliated leagues about the ayso model.It failed.Likewise, when I attempted to have the local affiliated youth soccer association (CYSA-S) make any inroads into the Latino communities, translationg the association's Constitution and ByLaws, all I got from the members of that board, was nothing but foot dragging In sum, yes, thank you to not only Hugo Salcedo, Coach Julie Menendez (San Jose St Men's Soccer Coach) as well as Hugo's team mate Steve Gay, and then Luis Sagastume, and yes, even Steve Sampson, and of course Mike Woitalla for the article.  I will close with the following:  SI SE PUEDE!!!

  6. frank schoon replied, February 9, 2018 at 6:50 p.m.

    Ric, I love to take you up and you show me the Latino talent around LA but unfortunately , I live Reston ,Va. I have a difficult time to accept what you are saying about the US Soccer Federation ignoring the Latino community..I don't get it. If I were running US soccer that's the first community I would go to to look for Talent..Anybody with half a brain would first seek the Latino community first ....I just don't get it why this is so...

  7. Bob Ashpole replied, February 9, 2018 at 10:37 p.m.

    Frank in a pay to play system coaches prefer to recruit players from the richer areas of town, where parents can afford to pay the coaches. It is that simple. Parents from poor neighborhoods cannot afford to pay the coaches or afford to drive their child to practices and matches located in the suburbs. I am oversimplifying and generalizing, but that is the economics behind it. It is a rare coach and club that will give an opportunity to a kid without resources.

    For unknown reasons USSF scouts historically have looked at affiliated matches and not unaffiliated matches except high profile college matches. 

  8. Bob Ashpole, February 9, 2018 at 6:05 p.m.

    It wouldn't hurt either to have the federation intregrated into Hispanic soccer culture. :)

    I am glad to hear that Hispanic leagues are still thriving in California.

    I remember stopping at McDonalds after an adult match and adults looking at me like I am crazy and insulting me for playing a "kid's" game. Yes, USSF needs to educate the non-soccer playing public. USSF also needs to stop uninformed adults of every ethnic background from controlling youth soccer. Some people don't understand the important part that ethnic leagues have played in US soccer. USSF "owns" affiliated play, but it doesn't "own" all of US soccer, not by a long shot.  

  9. Ric Fonseca, February 10, 2018 at 12:33 a.m.

    Frank:  You are right about one aspect of your comment: US Soccer has only a half-brain.  You see, WE are in every state of the Union, including Hawaii and Alaska, and granted while not all of us play el jogo bonito (jeez, would you believe that we're great "peloteros" (baseball) and basketboleros, and many have even played futbol americano, still US Soccer for reasons that I will probably never find out, has not seem fit to look into our communities, and this includes major universities.  And Bob Ashple has hit the proverbial nail on the head, the pay for play factor is a fact of urban-outer urban soccer, and is not in the inner cities - thankfully!!!  And Frank, quite honestly, I shrudder if you were "running US soccer," why? Because taking from your posts, I'd also shiver as to how you'd approach and find a solution to this "problem." 

  10. R2 Dad replied, February 10, 2018 at 1:15 a.m.

    Ric, I can't wrap my head around the macro problem of getting more hispanic kids into Nats camps, playing professionally, etc etc. But if I could help one kid afford to play at the DA level, I could feel like I was part of the solution instead of just staring at the problem hoping our new president will fix it. Have you heard of GoFundMe pages to raise funds for something like this?

  11. frank schoon replied, February 10, 2018 at 11:36 a.m.

    Ric, If I were running US soccer, my first approach to the Hispanic problem is to bring up the problem and talk about the elephant in the room, for all the contestant, thus far, have not really put any emphasis on the situation or even acknowledge it. I'd also would ask why isn't anyone or more individuals from the Hispanic community running for the president of US Soccer. Why?? Why hasn't US Soccer, not integrate their Coaching Courses with a Latin element of soccer combining Argentinian/Brazil training techniques 
    Bob, may have a point about pay to play but I don't buy it as the crux of the problem. Pay to play is a most recent phenomenon...Besides, when I look at all the poor countries south of our border whose players are in the MLS, tells me this is not just a simple black and white situation concerning money. 
    Why the Hispanic community, is so ignored ,by the US Soccer as Salcedo states, I can't explain that.  It's just mind boggling to me and of course .I've never been a fan of the US Soccer program and how they have gone about running it. But I do also think that the Hispanic community has to look in the mirror and see what they can to improve the situation, for example, why isn't anyone from the Hispanic community running for president or just have someone run and try to instill an awareness by just focusing on the "Latin" problem in US Soccer.  
    Why hasn't SA a Soccer journalist who writes about the Latino situation to further illuminate the problem. Why isn't there an Hispanic soccer award, for high school, college, and MLS player of the year award. Or Hispanic player or coach of the year who contributed to US Soccer ..It is stuff like that, seeds to make the public aware of the Hispanic contributions 

  12. Wooden Ships, February 10, 2018 at 11:03 a.m.

    Salcedo summed it up best when he referenced playing style. It’s been a conscious decision for many a moon to not play the more technical game at the exclusion of many players. Why? Because those that have been in control don’t and didn’t have that level of skill. There has also been a modicum of jealousy in this regard and an outright avoidance. Remember when Pirlo said, “less running and more playing?” Ric, I think Frank is more on your side than you perceive or that he could convey. He has also mentioned a lack of a playing identity which has held the US back. I’ll agree with that, but that’s because we are trying to use players that lack the requisite skill. If we would select players that can control the ball we then could have a style. Bob referenced Pay to Play as inhibiting many access, which is true, but it’s really about bias. Those in charge have not wanted the truly technical player. For too long we’ve thought the game must be played at a frenetic pace by physical specimens. There’s been talk about bridging the divide and reaching out about including the Hispanic community. There has not been a real desire to do that and there won’t be until there is new leadership which includes many Hispanics. 

  13. frank schoon replied, February 10, 2018 at 12:34 p.m.

    Ships, you stated it perfect < It’s been a conscious decision for many a moon to not play the more technical game at the exclusion of many players. Why? Because those that have been in control don’t and didn’t have that level of skill"> Those in control don't have the skill  level, BINGO!!! This is why I tend to condemn the USSF coaching academy in many of my posts. Remember Teofilo Cubillas going for a USSF B-license because he wanted to help US soccer. They denied him a license for Anson Dorrance and his college coaching buddies that ran the US coaching school didn't think he was good enough, yeah right! Cubillas has more skill in his big toe to teach kids than these idiots combined. You mean to tell me that Cubillas who was third behind Pele in scoring world cup goals, great international star wasn't good enough to teach and coach  US  youth players....what a joke. You mean St. Louis soccer program wouldn't employ Cubillas, for they would prefer an Anson Dorrance because he has a license. I'll tell you what was behind this decision is that if Cubillas received his B-license and went on to get his A-license, he would be the highest level licensed coach (Latino even,LOL) with the most playing experience making the Anson Dorrance and his buddies just munchkins... Paul Gardner wrote column on this travesty....And this where it all began where those in control who lack the skilland showed a bias  toward towards those with technique skill. The problem lies deeper most coaches tend to be more of the organizational types, defensive types, and thus look askance at playerswith skill. That is why so many who have skills and who prefer a more technical game like Latinos, are yelled at from the sideline, " you dribble too much, don't be fancy, pass the ball, get rid of it, don't hog the ball, be a team player" etc.. There is a TECHNICAL bias from day one and it certainly is supported by the USSF coaching academy. 
    This is why the USSF coaching academy has to be run by players who have played at the highest level and preferable who were technicians of the game and not some defender types  who has spend their whole career chasing the heels of attackers as Ernst Happel once said.

  14. Bob Ashpole replied, February 10, 2018 at 3:35 p.m.

    I think the key to the problem is during the early teens, before full maturity. The boys game during that period very much resembles the women's game. Instead of picking early bloomers and playing a physical game during those years of development, the boys should be learning how to play without the strength and power that will come with full maturity. 

    Then when maturity comes, the physical aspect will be an addition to the other aspects (mentality, technical and tactical). We should not have to choose between skill and power. Winning youth games is nice, but it is not player development. How they play is more important than results. 

  15. frank schoon replied, February 10, 2018 at 3:59 p.m.

    Bob, so true. That is why 'street soccer' in my days never dealt with the component of speed and size for you can't employ that on concrete. It's that simple. But what do coaches do today is to pick players with size and speed and that is something Latin players are not known for having, rather it's technique. Like Ships states those in control are not technical people which is another reason that hurts hispanic players. The US for the past 50 years has been run by a German/English clique ,countries who are not known for producing real technical players but more for rough housing and fighting of game in which running plays a big part.  Remember Detmar Cramer made a big impact on the US coaching/training program; too bad It wasn't a Rivelino or a Zico type
    This is why I think, youth coaches in the first phase up to 14 need to be coaches who are technical good offensive ,one on one player types and not organizational defensive types for that is not what these kids need in the beginning...

  16. Goal Goal, February 10, 2018 at 5:11 p.m.

    US Soccer does not recognize the technical game.  It doesn't make any difference what ethnic background you come from.  US Soccer looks at the size, speed and athleticism of kids not their ability handle the ball and create opportunity.  They call it simplifying the game.  Kick it hard and let the fastest strongest guy get to it.  

    I would suggest everyone go one go to this site and read an article by Geoff Cameron "WHAT MUST CHANGE IN US SOCCER"


    Now US soccer has elected a new President that is part of the suni regime.  Most learn from their mistakes.  Not US SOCCER.

  17. Bob Ashpole, February 10, 2018 at 5:38 p.m.

    In my opinion it is a forlorn hope to expect USSF to be an instrument of positive change in the way soccer is played at the national level. The German FA does that, but German culture is not US culture. One of the qualities of our culture for better or worse is disrespect of authority figures. In German culture subordinates do not say "yes boss" and then go do whatever they want.

    USSF is conventional, conservative and resistent to real change. Orthodoxy is expected. Real progress here has to come from independent innovations at clubs. USSF telling clubs what to do has not worked and is not working. Take the DA for instance. Nothing innovative is happening. It is just a bigger display of the conventional. 

    The best that can be expected from USSF is that it does not oppose innovation at the club level and that the national teams take advantage of players and innovations developed by the best club programs.

    If USSF actually supports innovation and change, I will be pleasantly surprised. Overjoyed in fact. 

    I disagree with people who think Martin Vasquez and others are being wasted working with the youth at MLS clubs. Working with youth is perhaps the most important contribution they could make to the future of the sport. 

    The good news is that coaches working locally can make a bigger impact on the future of soccer than the president of USSF.

  18. Ric Fonseca replied, February 19, 2018 at 11:48 p.m.

    Bob today is the 19th, and I am just answering your comment of the 10th.  Re: Martin Vazqez, unless you know something I obviously don't, no one has said that He's waisting his time coaching kids. On the contrary, he's more than likely doing something he enjoys, but that he's not coaching older players or should've had landed an MLS job or a college/university coaching position (and BTW, one of his best buddies is Carlos Juarez, both who played together at Cal St Los Angeles under Berhane Andberhan who was also unceremouniously let go from JK's staff and the Chivas USA) .  So I've known Martin many years, but I've known Carlos Juarez longer when he was at Santa Monica High School, but you might say, yeah so what?  These two excellent coaches should be atthe pinaccle of their coaching careers, but like it has befallen others with similar background, they are contented doing what they truly enjoy, and that is teaching younger players.  There's more to this story, so hang on to your collective hats about the Latino "Issue" or the big elephant in the room.... it's got a nice set of tusks, so be careful.  PLAY ON & SI SE PUEDE!!!

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