Commentary

U.S. Soccer blundered badly on high school soccer

American soccer, so plagued by the pay-to-play problem. If only there was youth soccer that didn't charge kids so much money.

Hold on! It does exist, and it’s massive. Nationwide. It’s called high school soccer.

Sometimes, hundreds of people show up for a high school game, the players are celebrated on campus, rivalries date back for decades, there’s even local media coverage.

Not always, but often around the country, high school games create a special kind of atmosphere in the stadium.

As you enter, there’s a snack bar with homemade baked goods and hot chocolate to raise money for senior night, the annual game when parents tear up like they do at graduation.

There’s a scoreboard, a PA announcer, and music blasting from the mixtape the captains compiled -- making sure they downloaded the censored versions of the latest rap songs -- while the players warm up.

Players from the same clubs play against each other – and the parents who usually root together are on separate sides after exchanging pleasantries. Postgame they congratulate and console each other.

Some club coaches are there too, proud that they’ve got current or former players on the teams. They mingle with the parents and catch up on old times. The boys team shows up to cheer on the girls, or vice versa. Friends and boyfriends and girlfriends are in the stands. The class clowns are leading cheers and jeers.

High school soccer differs from club soccer not just by exposing players to the pressure and exhilaration of playing in front of crowds, it also puts players from ages 14 to 18 -- from freshmen to seniors -- on the same field.

None of that seems to impress the U.S. Soccer Federation.

It started on the boys’ side. When U.S. Soccer launched the boys Development Academy in 2007, it allowed a break for high school soccer. But in 2012, it introduced a 10-month DA season and banned high school play.

Jurgen Klinsmann, the U.S. national team coach at the time, announced that, "If we want our players to someday compete against the best in the world, it is critical for their development that they train and play as much as possible and in the right environment."

One would not expect the German Klinsmann to have any appreciation for American high school sports, but the ban also got the blessing of then U.S. Soccer Youth Technical Director Claudio Reyna, former U.S. World Cup captain and Hall of Famer, a big part of whose youth soccer experience was at St. Benedict’s Prep, the same high school where Tab Ramos, another Hall of Famer who is now the Youth Technical Director, starred.

So, although the likes of Reyna, Ramos, Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard played high school soccer, the Federation had decided that high school soccer was no good for today’s players -- even though for whatever faults the high school game has, it had certainly improved over the years.

The high school vs. club battle predated U.S Soccer’s 2012 decree for its DA. And I imagine U.S. Soccer was doing a favor for the club coaches, who could now blame the Federation when telling kids to give up high school ball. Because it had to have been difficult to tell each of the 20-some players on the roster that sacrificing high school ball would be worthwhile in the long run.

Club coaches may be able to sincerely tell some of their players that they wouldn’t regret forgoing high school ball -- but no way would that be the case for every single player.

But U.S. Soccer was smart on the boys’ side by waiting until the DA was well-established before becoming so heavy-handed. It erred badly on the girls’ side.

The 2017-18 Girls DA season is in its first season and major clubs are already defecting, with the high school issue being a key reason. Those clubs can play in the well-established ECNL, launched in 2009.

Just as Mallory Pugh was emerging as a super talent, with everyone knowing she played high school soccer, in addition to ECNL ball, U.S. Soccer was disparaging high school ball while setting up a league to compete for the nation’s top talent with the ECNL.

Talk about bad timing.

People who know a heckuva a lot about girls and women's soccer, such as Anson Dorrance, Tony DiCicco, Amanda Cromwell, Julie Foudy, disagreed with U.S. Soccer’s attitude toward high school soccer.

But U.S. Soccer believes it’s paramount that kids play in one environment for 10 months. It only allows DA kids to play in its competitions. Dempsey, when he was a teenager, played club ball, high school and in the Hispanic adult leagues in the East Texas town of Nacogdoches. He’s managed to have a stellar career without having spent 10 months of every year as a teen in the same Federation-run environment.

Why the USSF has the confidence to believe only it knows exactly how every child should be coached is hard to see. That it didn’t have the foresight to see how problematic a high school ban would be for the Girls DA is puzzling.

The Federation could have considered that high school soccer is likely even more important for girls than for boys. It could have tried to manage a DA without its strict stance against high school ball.

The quality of high school soccer varies widely around the country. Some players are better off skipping high school ball -- and have since before the boys' DA or girls' ECNL started -- and there are players who will benefit from it. But instead of dismissing high school soccer because it has its flaws, U.S. Soccer could have appreciated its attributes and its potential, regarded it as a partner instead of a nuisance, and even taken steps to improve the high school game.

Now, if U.S. Soccer doesn't reconsider its attitude toward the high school game, it faces a major challenge in making the Girls DA the destination for the nation's top clubs and players.

But it has been clear in recent years that U.S. Soccer believes in a one-size-fits-all approach to youth soccer. That’s a perilous approach in a nation as large and diverse as the USA.

49 comments about "U.S. Soccer blundered badly on high school soccer".
  1. Dan Woog, April 20, 2018 at 6:48 p.m.

    Great analysis, Mike. And your observations of the atmosphere and importance of high school soccer (from living in Texas, Hawaii and California) are equally true for me, a high school coach (and former player) in Connecticut. The DA program is great for a small  number of extremely top players. It would be great if it was limited to only MLS clubs. Right now, it's selling thousands of kids a bogus bill of goods, and denying them an experience they'll remember the rest of their lives.

  2. Coach Referee, April 20, 2018 at 6:54 p.m.

    Thanks for finally sticking up for us high school coaches.  I'm not the on campus custodian or cafeteria worker or teacher that got "stuck" coaching because no one else would do it.  I'm an off campus coach with a regular day job.  I've got my National D license and have coached club as well for many years.  There is some fantastic soccer being played in high school throughout the central valley of California.

  3. John More, April 20, 2018 at 7:51 p.m.

    Excellent. What US Soccer should have done is support high school coaches.  In the the DC area, some of the top club caoches are also high school coaches and their players -- especially girls -- go on to national play.

  4. barry politi, April 20, 2018 at 8:59 p.m.

    This article makes me mad and disgusts me.  They should be working with the schools, not against them.  USSF, Sunil and US Soccer have done nothing but hinder youth soccer in America in many ways.  Untill we as parents, players and coaches and schools band together and form our own organization kids will continue to suffer at the hands of USSF.  

  5. James Madison, April 20, 2018 at 10:26 p.m.

    Bravo, Mike!!!  "Both-and" is a win-win.  "Either-or" is a loser.  US Soccer arrogance arguably carries over and contributes to our not qualifying for the men's World Cup final 32.

  6. Bob Ashpole, April 20, 2018 at 11:58 p.m.

    Great article Mike. USSF deserves to be hit over the head with the facts until they get it right. 

    Sure there are challenges in playing both scholastic and club soccer, but USSF should be leading the way in working through the challenges. USSF needs to remember what amatuer sports is about for the athletes. It is a quest for excellence for sport itself, not a business enterprise.

  7. Ted Fundoukos, April 21, 2018 at 12:13 a.m.

    I certainly agree with James Madison comment regarding “US Soccers’ arrogance has contributed to not only not qualifying this year” but has hampered player development in this country for decades. I cannot link it to or agree that are poor WC performance ahs anything to do with not being able to play HS soccer. It definitely seems to do with the federations ability to make many in the soccer community lose respect for them with there "holier than thou attitude" that we know best, no one else and does nothing to explain the reasons or method to their madness. It certainly has not worked and people who continue to believe that nothing has to change are effectively insane or just setting their expectations too low. The expectation should be to win a Men’s World Cup. It is lost on me why they feel the need to micro manage every little step in the process. Kids, parents and many coaches are not stupid and can figure out how to manage playing a few hs games with their friends. They seem to be breaking their own rule in that soccer needs to be fun. Learning and developing cannot happen without it. Limiting play for developing teens through restrictive subing rules goes against the many hours of purposeful practice needed to become elite. Players cannot play anyplace else and also coach cannot put players back into games once subbed out. Head Scratching as to why whomever is making the decisions at USSF cannot defend their positions. Just makes you want to

  8. Bryan Holland, April 21, 2018 at 2:01 a.m.

    This article raises excellent points. I think think the big challenge where I live is that the high school soccer governing body is run by a bunch of people with a background in baseball, football, and basketball. Their antiquated rules cram too many games into a 2.5-month window and enforce rules like "conditioning without a ball" which are periods where a ball cannot be used. They somehow think this is beneficial by banning the use of a soccer ball for certain periods of the year. Just look up Raymond Verheijen or Jone Cone if you are confused by my post here.

    Also, when is the NCAA going to figure out that their soccer season shouldn't be crammed into the same narrow window. It's all governed by people that see soccer as purely an endurance sport. They are clueless to fatigue, speed of actions, and freshness. Until this changes, I think the US Soccer Development Academy is better suited for player development. For the record, I played both high school soccer and NCAA D1 soccer.

  9. Jamie Nicewander, April 21, 2018 at 3:24 a.m.

    This has needed to be brought out for quite a while by a writer such as yourself. We have been very successful in our high school and club symbiotic relationship. There is no experience in club soccer quite like what we have under the lights in our Home stadium against our rivals, where over 1000,  easy attend to cheer on their family and friends. The announcements the next day, the posters supporting the players, the region, sectional and state achievements, the feeling of playing for something bigger then just a team....your school, your community. We send on many more then the national average of student athletes (parents and US Soccer forgot about that academic aspect) on to the next level. Participating in high school soccer is a great experience and we have proven it can be very effective when combined in conjunction with club soccer. Well researched and well written article!!

  10. Randy Vogt, April 21, 2018 at 6:54 a.m.

    Great article, Mike! Yet clearly, HS soccer has some issues, such as non-competitive games, not using the Laws of the Game and too many games still using the antiquated two-ref system. But top HS games compare favorably to DA games. I was officiating a top Boys HS game last fall while there was a GU16 DA game on an adjacent field. The level of play was similar but the differece was it was two local HS teams while the visiting team of the DA game had driven over 200 miles (in their own cars) and there were hundreds of spectators for the HS game and 15 for the DA game. 

  11. Right Winger replied, April 22, 2018 at 11:05 p.m.

    Randy. Great comment.  How about teams in Texas flying to Colorado to play league games or fling to Kansas City or Chicago. Or teams in California flying to Canada or Seattle to play league games.  It is absolutely crazy.  

  12. David Parker, April 21, 2018 at 11:10 a.m.

    An interesting article.  As a former youth coach (AYSO and USYSA) and high school coach I agree that this is not the way we want to go in developing youth players.  While I can understand USSF concern over the quality of high school coaches, as many are teachers just doing it for extra money, removing the kids from high school programs will only hinder their development.  For a player to develop they need to be exposed to as many other players as possible to learn different techniques.  Seeing the same faces every day will make them stale.  A better appoarch might be to have training programs for the coaches that are both technique and tactics based.  In general USSF does a lousy traing of youth coaches.  I received my AYSO Advanced certificate while never having to travel more than 20 minutes for training.  To get my D License I traveled over on hour.  Many coaches I knew would not make that time commitment.  If USSF was serious about developing youth coaches they would make their training more localized.  Better trainded coaches equal better players, in most cases.  This would provide the college level teams a better pool of players to choose from, giving the national team a better selection as while.  Finally if USSF was seious about improving high school play they would push to burn the High School Rule Book and have states adopt the Laws of Soccer as their rule book.  This is the only good thing I see about the DA program.

  13. frank schoon, April 21, 2018 at 11:45 a.m.

    US soccer has blundered on HS soccer? Maybe ,maybe not, but then again, US soccer, itself, has no room to talk or tell others how to do it, for it hasn't done much in way of developing good players, over the past 50 years. Although I have coached HS soccer Varsity and JV, I was never a fan of it as far as playing QUALITY goes, which is comparable to a "chinese fire drill". I could never understand that because HS teams were suppose to be made up of the best players of the travel teams/clubs, therefore you would expect a better quality game... WRONG! 
    The only reason I was involved was to use HS soccer as a tool, a means for developmental purposes, it was not so much for winning or playing the games itself. To me ,coaching ,when dealing with youth, means in the first place DEVELOPING. I carried 24 players and used them in my practices,EVERYDAY, to play 11v11 on half a field. This was how the famous Dutch team of '74 trained. The kids, complained the first 2 weeks about the lack of space and speed of the game. My answer to that was to pack all the players in 9 square yards and told them to look at how much space there really was out there. After 2weeks they loved playing half-field and found playing full field BORING, for they realized it is all about SPACE, TIME, FAST BALL MOVEMENT NOT FAST RUNNING, and THINKING. I felt successful in knowing that the kids at the end of the season had improved developmentally in their game, for it obviously showed. Regardless of the success season which was really meaningless, it was all about player development for me. And I hope what they have learned would benefit the next team they play for.
    HS soccer doesn't look at DEVELOPING but playing and WINNING games, THAT'S IT!! and the only other thing is to make their parents happy watching their kid play.
     From reading some of the commenrs, I feel we need to  establish or prioritize what do you want to get out of HS soccer, is it player Development, Community feeling, Meeting friends at the game, or whatever. I do think Mike has written a good article.



  14. Bob Ashpole replied, April 21, 2018 at 12:36 p.m.

    Frank, I think you (maybe unintentionally) make the case that high school soccer can be a positive development experience. 

    I cannot help thinking that USSF is forbidding players to participate in high school and ethnic leagues because those competitions are not affiliated with USSF. A typical bureacratic reaction. USSF is responsible for promoting soccer in the US, not just USSF soccer. 

  15. frank schoon replied, April 21, 2018 at 12:51 p.m.

    Bob, you are right about that. It all depends on what the HS coach wants out of this. So many are looking for Glory looking to win the league title. Like Cruyff states ,the problem with coaches of youth soccer is they want wins so they can move up in the system. Good youth coaches are seen in the eyes of the parents if they are succcessful in the win column... When is the last the you heard a parent take his son to another team because that particular coach works on developing players instead a exellent winning record. Most of those types of coaches tend to recruit good players not develop players to be better.

  16. G C, April 21, 2018 at 4:29 p.m.

    This article is fundamentally wrong.  First of all, pay to play has nothing to do with the DA. Play to play existed before the DA.  In fact, many if not most of the MLS clubs subsidize their DA very heavily.  Moreover, many clubs charge more for an inferior product than amost all DAs charge, including the non-MLS DA.  Put differently, for the elite soccer players, the best hope they have of not paying an arm and a leg for quality soccer is the DA. Second, a soccer player who wants to play high school soccer can play high school soccer.  But the elite male soccer players do not play high school (with extremely rare exceptons) because the product and the opporutities are inferior.  The DA offers male soccer palyers a choice: if you're serious about soccer you play in the DA.  If you want to have fun and hangout with your classmates you play club and you play for your high school.  There is nothing wrong with having that choice and there is nothign wrong with a player who chooses to play club/high school or one who chooses to play for the DA.  It all depends on your goals.  Third, one average, there is no doubt that the DA provides a better developmental opporutnity for boys.  To say otherwise is to betray one's ignorance.  There may be rare exceptions.  But institutions are not built around outliers.  Most boys will get better by playing in the DA than by playing club/high school.  In any event, given that they boys have a choice of practicing four times a week and playing 10 months out of the year and playing club/high school, each boy can choose what's best for him.  The market will decide.

    Now what about the girls?  This article hints that girls are different.  I'm skeptical. My guess is that if US Soccer stays the course, in a few years, girls high school will be played by the girls that are not interested or capable of playing in the highest competitive environment.  There is no reason to believe that the girls are not as ambitious, competitive, and strategic as the boys.  Indeed, we know that they are.  Like the boys, once they understand the value proposition of the DA, that is once the elite girls cluster in the DA, the national team opportunities are centered around the DA, and college recruiting focuses on the DA, the elite girls will, just like the boys, ignore the club/high school option.  

    And now we come to the fundamental mistake of this article: the DA is not competing with high school soccer.  They serve two different purposes.  If you want competitive, elite, and the best quality of soccer, you play in the DA.  If you want to hang out with your classmates, be social, play multiple sports, you play club/high school.  Choice is good.

  17. frank schoon replied, April 21, 2018 at 5:58 p.m.

    GC, you have point, kids have a choice to go DA or not, and serious kids would be better off to join DA program, no problem there. Apparently some or not happy the way HS is treated which has nothing to do with pay for play situation,I agree. The problem  I have is your overestimation of the quality of training of what these kids are getting at a MLS DA programs as compared what they are getting at other DA programs or Club teams even or HS teams. Looking at an MLS game, none of these teams can't even build up an attack from the back decently, or at all and that's even taking into account MNT. The large amount of omnipresent square and backwards passes, is just a example of the poor positioning game in the build up.We bring in players from abroad nearing 40 come into the league and they still standout without foam on their mouth,so to speak, and make it look so simple.
    Crosses of the balls are just awful, in this league. Just now I'm watching the Red Bulls play Chicago Fire, today, and what do you see? ball loss after ball loss for they can't play high pressure and tight pressure soccer... technically flawed, passes are made to the wrong foot in relation to the opponent, passes made at the wrong time... just for starters.. With this in mind ,I question, WHO trains this talent at the DA programs. For example, are there any REAL technicians of the game, like we have at Ajax who can teach the kids the proper methods, demonstrate crossing the ball employing the instep or inside of the instep able to 'spoon' it or curve away from the goalie  ,head high and waist high, stationary and on the run, for I obviously don't  see it done in the MLS and if it is tried the ball ends up in the parking lot somewhere. Who is able to teach them to pass the ball with the outside of the foot in order to save time, a step taken, giving the opponent less time to react. Or how many actually hit a medium range pass with instep forgoing the inside of the foot slower pass. Are there any technicians to demonstrate accurately, on the run, 40yard diagonal pass able to land in someone's back pocket, so to speak, on the run. How many kids after being in the DA programs after a few years are able to shoot ,dribble, pass,receive with either foot...I've yet to see that...There is such a lack of creativeness or creative players coming out of the DA program or any of the other programs,  or let us say they look so programmed in what they have learned. None, I noticed, automatically don't even shield the ball the moment they begin to dribble. I can go on and on about all this stuff and yes, I agree on your main assertion but I'm not impressed of the quality of training this kids are getting at these DA programs.....

  18. s fatschel replied, April 22, 2018 at 8:46 a.m.

    Excellent comments GC. So the next question is why did the clubs leaving join in the first place? Any why do so many parents feel entitled to both DA and highschool?

  19. Bob Ashpole replied, April 22, 2018 at 4:23 p.m.

    GC, there are 2 problems I see with what you are saying. First you are generalizing about all DA clubs based on the best DA clubs. Second you are making the age old "snob appeal" sales pitch that is the specialty of "pay-to-play" clubs in youth sports generally, not exclusively soccer. 

    USSF is trying mightedly to make its DA the only path to college and professional ranks, but it is not the only path, nor is it available in every location. Coaches, not clubs, are important to player development initially. During the teen years there are other ways for players to play against tough competition. Girls can play against older boys. Boys can play in adult leagues. Then there is PDL and USL. And yes even high school and junior college can get players noticed.

    Clubs and coaches help, but they don't make "elite" players. Players do.

    Bottom line I agree with a lot of what you say, but take issue with the idea that any DA club is the best and only development choice for everyone everywhere. 

  20. frank schoon replied, April 22, 2018 at 4:49 p.m.

    Bob, you're right on that....can you imagine when you watch this video what damage it could do to the AD program and the club, if kids could come out everyday and play against players of all ages and better. This is perfect. They wouid learn so much more because is so much like street soccer. Kids
    I agree with you on this "snob appeal" garbage...
    The Black Soccer Culture No One Knew Existed - YouTube


  21. Forever Blue, April 21, 2018 at 5:10 p.m.

    Interesting article. However, like most other disussions on this topic, the argument is skewed to prove one position versus looing at the problem comprehensively. 
    Let me say, that I think Banning HS soccer is a heavy handed approach especially since we are still trying to grow rhe sport in the US nd high school athletic is the key to growing any sport in this country. It brings in the local community and gives rhe the opportunity to understand and appreciate the sport which is still sorely lacking. You cant grow the sport with occasional friendlies all over the nation that are only pulling the club soccer community. To gow the sport, you need HS soccer to thrive, and at a pretty decent level. As mentioned above, US Soccer cna invest in providing a min level certification to HS coaches to help close the  gap in quality and training. 
    Now for the players, I’ve had daughters play HS and ECNL as well as a son play varsity as a freshman before going full DA. Both enjoyed the experience. However, there is definitley an issue with playing a 10’month season  and inserting a HS season in the middle without a break. HS typically plays  2 games a week and train 4 days a week. Sometimes 2 a days. That’s a lot of soccer. And inevitably at lest 1-2 players end up with season ending injuries from the HS season. Let’s not even discuss the different levels of play and rules of the game from region to region. Some regions try to take a break in the season for HS soccer but then what happens when your division or league includes teams in different regions with different HS seasons. Managing it is a nightmare. What ECNL does is ask the different local divisions to manage it as they please. Which is in essence punting the responsibility to the clubs and coaches. So we have one org punting and another banning, both of which are not ideal. What I’m saying is that it’s not as straight forward as just making a decision to allow or not allow HS soccer. It’s goignto take lots of creative management and cooperation. I know i didn’t provide any solutions but hope I laid out some of the complications of the argument. 

  22. R2 Dad, April 21, 2018 at 11:59 p.m.

    If USSF were smart--which it's not, and responsive to the needs of its constiuents--which it isn't, we wouldn't be in this predicament. But none of you USSF voters wanted change, remember?

  23. John Soares, April 22, 2018 at 5:58 a.m.

    RIGHT ON, MIKE!!!

  24. Tony Biscaia, April 22, 2018 at 7:49 a.m.

    Great article and some very good comments too.  I'll just add that as a 13 year old non-english speaking teenager when my famlily emigrated to USA in the mid 60's, club soccer was a foundation that was a natural fit for me as it was sponsored by people that spoke my language and made it possible to have your own cleats and uniform.  It also helped greatly in social life after I was enlisted as the "American football" kicker in an era when toe poking was the norm, and me being one of the first "soccer style" kickers amazed everyone by kicking off into the end zone and punting 50+ yards at a mere 135 lbs.

    It  didn't hurt much in social life either, as suddenly everyone seemed to want to be my friend "Hey Superfoot!"

    In those days, soccer was still considered a sissy sport but I didn't care because it's who I was and what I liked to do.  It didn't help that you couldn't play soccer on the semi-non-existent varsity soccer squad back then, because of some obscure High School rule that you "can't play two sports in the same season."  It also meant that a lot of very good athletes who played hockey or basketball couldn't play soccer too, is that rule still in effect I wonder?  So I had to give up my High School soccer career based on the fact that there were no scholarships available for soccer, but good prospects for fooball.  It was all part of a good education, in sports and life in general.

  25. Right Winger, April 22, 2018 at noon

    US Soccer has no legitimate argument that can justify preventing kids from playing HS Soccer.  Note the word "kids".  That is exactly what we are dealing with here kids.  

    Everybody screams about poor coaching and too much physical training at the high school level. Kind of ironic when there are teams going to tournaments and playing two games a day. 

    Concerning HS coaching.  I can take you to places in this country where high school coaching is equal to or better than the coaching at the DA level.  I can also take you to DA clubs across the country where coaches with all kind of licensed pedigrees do a lousy job.  

    Until US Soccer gets their act together they shouldn't be dictating directives to HS athletics or anyone else.

    why should a kid have to make a decision that prevents him/her from participating with their HS?  Participating in HS activities whether it be the book club or soccer is also a valuable SOCIAL EXPERIENCE that will stay with them for the rest of their life.

    Why prevent a kid from experiencing FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS.  I come from a part of the country where HS soccer is a winter sport running parallel with football(the weird ball type) and you find almost as many fans, some of them the same fans at both games.

  26. frank schoon replied, April 22, 2018 at 12:55 p.m.

    RW, It's called control. Little by little the USSF wants to control everything. It began with coaching licenses which I don't have and for good reason. By having a coaching license organizations involved with USSF can exlude those who don't want to pay up and play their game. The next step involving exclusion was the DA program. This is what happened in Holland before licensing was mandatory it began to exclude professional players after having played many years not being able to coach and train kids, due to not having a license. Retired pro players didn't want to go back to Coaching School to hear some nitwit who played at the level of Joe's Pizza Hut how the play or how to teach to make crosses...It was rather insulting. In effect what happened in Holland many people with low level playing experience went on to get a license while the real soccer players were playing for a living. Cruyff stated in his days before the coaching licenses , the kids were being trained by the better soccer players who played on the first team of Ajax. So much real lost knowledge about the game has gone by the wayside in teaching kids like the finer aspects of skills and techniques and game know-how because it is all about having license regardless of playing experience. As a result we produce players who are programmed, robotic and lack creativeness. This is why Cruyff stated the licensing system only has done harm to development of the youth.
    I can't wait till 'street soccer' becomes so big that kids rather would play that venue than for some club. ...See this video
    The Black Soccer Culture No One Knew Existed - YouTube
    Once people get hooked like this and becomes big the USSF and DA control will be highly diminished, for then coaches will be hanging around places like this  begging to play for a club...
    This reminds me of the street soccer day that I grew up in, not necessarily the facilities but wanting to play and learn.

  27. Forever Blue replied, April 23, 2018 at 12:49 p.m.

    US soccer does not say they cannot participate. In HS soccer. They say you can’t do both at the same time. Hard to play 2 high school games during the week and then expect to play a quality DA game over the weekend. Plus it multiplies the potential of injury.  The problem is the DA schedule does not take a break to accommodate the high school seasons. So essentially you have to make a choice. Most DA coaches are not going to keep someone on the roster that is absent for 2-3 months for HS soccer.  

    Regarding the quality of soccer, US soccer tries to mandate the licenses and coaching philosophy to try and close the gaps between clubs. The disparity is very evident in Ecnl and 10x worse in HS. There are certain clubs and programs that are heads and shoulders above others and continue to be. Though i do agree that license don’t necessarily mean good coaches. Also  agree that tryingit control all aspects of development is not only futile but leads to an uncreative and bland style that already plagues the current US teams. 

  28. humble 1, April 22, 2018 at 1:13 p.m.

    Lot's of good comments above. Adding my 2c...try to keep it succinct...AND ONE...let's not forget ... US Soccer has not just degraded HS's but also Colleges.  I do not like the use of word 'elite' and 'soccer' together.  Soccer is the utimate peoples sport.  'Elite' soccer players never win anything.  It's the usually the fighters and scrappers that also have some talent that win.  Notice the fight and scrap missing in US Men's soccer recently? Dunno about you, but i have.  All the 'free'-'ways' to soccer need to be encouraged and supported.  Look at this.  US Soccer bans HS soccer for 'elite' players in DA.  But how much have they actually invested in the DA?  Look those numbers up and you will be surprised how small they are (relative to the infrastructure and resources HS's have).  Of course we all know they sit on a mountain of cash, which makes the paltry spend on DA (among other things) even more confounding.  Since the pivot away from HS, for men, the US failed to quality for two Olympic cycles and the last world cup.  Perhaps this correlation is not causation, but for sure, it's alarming.  Couple an unproven youth development program with MLS teams and academies stacked with non-US talent (in fact many of our CONCACAF neighbors young players and developing nicely here) and now you've degraded HS and College soccer - so what do the boys do that don't make the 'ELITE' DA?  Maybe they quit the sport?  Do we not now see that in U13, odly right after U12 DA begins?  Again, correlation is not causation, but seriously?  And what if your 'ELITE' DA does not produce the goods?  All the U15 and U17 etc, performances are they really worth anything if those youth do not qual for Olympics?  My take is US Soccer never acheives the dream with the 'elite' 'select' approach they currently have.  Only when soccer is structured to leverage HS and College infrasturce and resources and becomes a community sport will it lead to the US trully becoming an 'elite' soccer nation. 

  29. G C, April 22, 2018 at 10:30 p.m.

    Frank: I don't disagree with what your comments.  I don't distinguish between MLS DA and non-MLS DA and I think all the DAs have a way to go in terms of techmical training.  My point is that the DAs are better than high school and that the DA market and the club/high school markets are two differerent markets serving two different populatiions.

    S Fatchel: I think you ask the right questions and I don't have answers to those.  I can only tell you about my experience.  When our son was invited to join a DA team five years ago we turned it down.  We didn't see the value; we didn't want the commute; and the director of soccer for our club told us that the DA was not worth it and that our kid (then in 8th grade) would miss out on high school soccer, which we all were looking forward to.  He was invited again the following year, but this time were were better educated;  We recognized that high school ball was mostly crappy and if he wanted to play serious soccer, DA was the way to go.  We were so happy we made that choice (and he will be playing division I soccer next year in college).One last point Development Academy soccer is very expensive for the clubs, more expensive than club soccer.  And there is pressure on the clubs to subsidize DA soccer, whereas they can charge more for club soccer and there is no pressure at all to subsidize it.

  30. frank schoon replied, April 22, 2018 at 10:47 p.m.

    GC, I'm glad you're happy with how things  worked out for you and your son and I hope he will have  a great and fun experience playing college ball. 

  31. s fatschel replied, April 23, 2018 at 8:12 a.m.

    I think this topic actually comes down to parents wanting both DA and high school. ...and being frustrated by tough choices.  Regarding expense we have a USL academy team which does a dozen tournaments a year and will set you back $10k per year. It's how they fund the pro team. The DA I was involved with is actually less, as they bus kids and offered partial scholarships. I need to say that DA  club extremely commited to kids who kept with it. I just hope we don't go back 15 years where the most important thing was collecting got-soccer points. 

  32. s fatschel replied, April 23, 2018 at 8:12 a.m.

    I think this topic actually comes down to parents wanting both DA and high school. ...and being frustrated by tough choices.  Regarding expense we have a USL academy team which does a dozen tournaments a year and will set you back $10k per year. It's how they fund the pro team. The DA I was involved with is actually less, as they bus kids and offered partial scholarships. I need to say that DA  club extremely commited to kids who kept with it. I just hope we don't go back 15 years where the most important thing was collecting got-soccer points. 

  33. Gary Allen, April 23, 2018 at 8:54 a.m.

    US Soccer went astray many years ago.  It gave little credence to the dramatic sea change that people like Tom Fleck and Ron Quinn brought in with the National Youth License.  Tom's and Ron's focus shifted from creating "elite" teams with supposed purposeful training sessions to one centered on developing players' decisionmaking and technical improvment by creating environments where the players solved problems themselves without the coach deciding exactly how they should play, or always playing in aritificial drill-like situations.  This was anathema to the adult-prescribed direction fomented by the DA, etc.  It meant playing with and against many types of players, which fosters and requires different types of decisions in every player.  This is one thing high school offered.  Sure, there are younger and older players, some more skilled than others in high school, but this is exactly what the American player needs--the opportunities to adapt to the environment around him or her -- to play different roles depending on the palyers around him or her.  The important point missed by US Soccer is that it is the process that is important, not the immediate results.  US Soccer has been so focused on resluts at each age that it never allows for the inefficient, but necessary, growth created by playing in many environments and making one's own decisions.  What we have produced with our supposed "right" training environments are players who have a mediocre level of efficiency, but without guile, or the ability to quickly adjust and take advantage of whatever happens in front of them.  This type of creativity will never be obtained exclusively through purposeful training environments and games where each player always plays the same rolewith the same players.

  34. frank schoon replied, April 23, 2018 at 10:05 a.m.

    Gary, very good. The US did go astray but so did so many other countries like Holland. (see my explanation to RW, right above). The USSF basically followed what Europeans do in the set up of things. Of course, it has become a moneymaker for those who run the DA programs. Cruyff and Rinus Michells both stated the greatest training grounds for developing soccer players was "street soccer". Street soccer(pickup games) consistent of one, youth of different ages playing together,two you learned the game from watching and playing against better players, three, by playing a lot of pickup soccer you learn automatically game situations and how to solve problems because they repeat themselves, four, the players become technicall and tactically savvy, five everything you learn is learned in game situations, in other words , in the most natural manner, and sixth kids were free to experiment and be creative and individualistic thus building their confidence as a player without a coach telling "you can't do this or that", "pass the ball,  don' dribble" 
    What has taken place of free style pickup games ,we have licensed coaches, DA programs,CONTROL, CONTROL, CONTROL, which as a result hurt the development of the youth.
    The answer to all this is to create an environment of free style soccer, PICKUP,soccer.(see video)
    The Black Soccer Culture No One Knew Existed - YouTube.  
    Once kids find a place to go to play pickup games and have fun, it becomes muscle memory to them, just like I experienced it in Amsterdam. It will shock the systerm for why bother joining a club, or DA program, or HS or the USSF. You will begin to see all kinds of coaches loitering around these pickup games places asking ,BEGGING to play for their team. The USSF will never support 'pickup soccer' because they realize the loss of money involved to groups who are earning a good dollar in the process. 
    I hope Atlanta will become an example of how it should be done

  35. s fatschel, April 23, 2018 at 11:56 a.m.

    Is that possible in today's youth culture, school demands and suburban distances?  What about winter months?   If not futsal like DA has, what does that program look like?

  36. frank schoon replied, April 23, 2018 at 12:14 p.m.

    S Fatschel, It has nothing to do with distances. The  point is that you can paly pickup soccer anywhere but what it takes though is to get it started, the feeling of wanting to go and play. The idea needs to be nourished. For example back in '73, I began with a bunch of HS kids during the summer every evening from 6-8 to meet at a small field. It was like clockwork even college kids began to show up, and it was fun for it was a social thing too. This is why it  would be great for the USSF to support and advertise, "play pick soccer", nurture it...and like with anything it will grow.
    Winter months, play basketball, or find a gym or join an indoor league...come on ..it's not that difficult...This is what I did grown up in Holland or how do you think kids in poor neighborhoods in France cities played...

  37. s fatschel, April 23, 2018 at 1:14 p.m.

    In many US suburban neighborhoods there are handful of soccer players. The others are playing baseball, lacrosse, football, you name it.  So somehow soccer kids must get to central location.  Also as of just last week snow is gone in the north east. So again a gym and parents driving is needed for 4--5 months.  The US has different constraints then Holland or the back streets of brazil. It's a good idea and would be happy if pay to play was gone, but I think when you try to implement you get back to the system we have now.  

  38. frank schoon replied, April 23, 2018 at 1:35 p.m.

    S Fatschel, you don't need streets and one thing the US has is space which you don't need much of...all you need is the willingness to play. I played  a lot of one on one, two on two...there is so many possibilties, it's unreal. Only thing is to establish a culture. In my neighborhood I have some latino kids kicking a ball around in the community are right outside of my backdoor ,then other kids join. You never grew up in the era of street soccer or pickup soccer so you don't connect so quickly to similarities we have here which only have to be nurtured and seeded. That video blew me away, although are a bit extravagant, it is the perfect starting point to create  a feeling of playing. Look at how youth soccer got started and what we have....it just needed to get nurtured..

  39. s fatschel, April 23, 2018 at 3:02 p.m.

    I played street soccer as a kid and still play pick up every week as an adult.  But as a parent I have seen this culture unfortunately does not exist in US suburban areas with kids. 

  40. frank schoon replied, April 23, 2018 at 4:02 p.m.

    That's my point, it needs to nurtured in the beginning and it will blossom...Don't you find if funny that an organization like the USSF has never mentioned 'pickup soccer", unbelievable. If they were interested in the growth of soccer they should back it in every which way

  41. s fatschel, April 23, 2018 at 6:34 p.m.

    Ok but what does the total program look like? What ages?  How many days a week? Instead of DA or ecnl/highschool . How does USSF help? 

  42. frank schoon replied, April 23, 2018 at 8:13 p.m.

    Again ,you have not experienced the real 'street soccer' , the subculture. You immediately think of structure  and organization. You miss the simplicity of it. It was never organized, other than what the kids made of it. We as kids played 25 to 30 a week pickup soccer,some spend fewer hours. All ages play together and there was always an area you go to after school to play with a group of kids, they just showed. As you get better, you think about joining a club and try out, in my case, it was Ajax of Amsterdam. Of course there was plenty of clubs but Ajax was the elite. So when a kid makes a club he gets training and plays, but still you play predominately pick up soccer in the streets for that is where you really learn the game. Read Johan Cruyff's book 'My turn' he'll explain it.  The soccer clubs had it much easier for the kids already knew how to play and had skills, unlike today. Or If you were by yourself let us say we would kick a ball against the wall, or call on a friend to play one on one, where we employed the barred sewers opposite each other as goals. We played with any kind of ball, any size, usually a tennis ball,  wore shoes you went church with....we didn't wear sneaker just dress shoes. There is a great video on Youtube of Johan Cruyff playing street soccer wearing a sweater and tweet jacket and street shoes. As you get older you begin with to play with more older players who likewise play club ball and thereby learning higher aspects of the game. THis is what is wrong with the youth soccer today, No Pickup and no Mixed Ages, instead you're place in a age group with stifles your learning and your development. Although you might play for a club , 80% of the time you still spend playing pick up ball. On saturdays we spend easily 6hours playing street...we never heard of "burn out" like kids today for never really have learned the beauty of the game.  NEXT POST

  43. frank schoon replied, April 23, 2018 at 8:13 p.m.

    I always carried 2 tennis balls with me in case of a quick pick up game. The other tennis ball was for back up in case there was loose running dog around( no leash laws in those days,  it happened often in Amsterdam). On certain days I would travel to different neighborhoods to play pickup soccer in order to hone my skills against different competition, you didn't want to get stale. It was like the old west in those days, gunslingers coming into your neighborhood testing out the better player. Remember the best player always chose the teams, therefore you want to remain top dog. There is so much a player learns on his own playing against better older, smarter players that club soccer doesn't give you.....This is what I mean by pickup,  a culture, where it becomes automatic for kids to kick a ball around. Soccer has grown by leaps and bounds in the past 50 years but now we have to begin to create and nurture a need to play pickup. Because right now as soon as club season is over you don't see a kid out there playing only to wait for the next season to start. That's not good for we will never develop talent and is why we haven't produced a talent after 50years, even law the law of average has failed us.

  44. frank schoon replied, April 23, 2018 at 10:07 p.m.

    S. Fatschel, the USSF can help by making aware of how pickup games are important to one's develoment, advertise it, show and tell about how the greats of soccer learned playing pick up. Tell the coaches to talk about it to their players ....there are so many ways to begin to educate it to kids. After the season in the summer time the club should, leave a certain fields open (AstroTurf) for pick up between ages 12-16. Another field for other ages,whatever. Have an adult volunteer to sit there and watch. The possibilities are boundless

  45. Bill Johnson, April 23, 2018 at 9:14 p.m.

    My son played high school and club in Florida not for an academy team.When we went to IMG tourneys in Bradenton agaist ODP composite teams we held our own and beat thenm. The main reason my son wanted to play high school soccer: it was fun, not a job like academy teams. We still got to quarterfinals in State leasgue plyoffs, and in high school.  Although we weren't loaded like some development and academy level teams who recruit and pay for elite players or charge other players outrageous sums, we played together as a club team for five years, making lasting friendships. My son has gone on to club soccer at UFL where they made national semis, and he has fun while studying to be an engineer. If they want palyers from US to be good, then the MLS needs to pick players at 15 and train them like the EPL or La LIga. The ODP and academies are a joke.

  46. frank schoon replied, April 23, 2018 at 9:40 p.m.

    Not surprised, Bill....way to go!

  47. s fatschel replied, April 25, 2018 at 8:52 a.m.

    Frank you did not  read my question because you are too busy making assumptions. . I said what does the total program look like. In other words street  plus club. After all this topic is on DA and high school. You say at least 20 hours pick up.  Do you expect another 10 to 12 with a club or high school?   Currently kids can barely manage 10 hours per week total. That's because of academic pressures or jobs. That's for good reason. There are better more fullfilling careers than (maybe) playing in the USL or then only having the skills to coach soccer.

  48. Joseph Pratt, April 24, 2018 at noon

    Great article, Mike, I couldn’t agree more. The environment at club games is sterile and cold. At high school games the kids actually really care, both those playing and those watching. I think you make an excellent point about how the USSF could have chosen to work with high schools, rather than against them. As Dan Woog himself (see above) once said, allowing kids to play high school soccer for 2 1/2 months each year is not going to cost the US the World Cup. 

  49. Soccer Bloke, July 9, 2018 at 2:13 p.m.

    But the schools need to work wth clubs, and rationalize their programs, and improve their coaching and the style of play they encourage their kids to play. I used work with prominent (but non DA) club and we spent the first weeks the spring having kids un-learn the long ball tactics instilled by high school programs.

    As one club coach put to me "if your center half, with no oppenent within 15 yards of him is still going to wack the ball as far up the field as he can, you have no right to complain if palyers with higher ambitions choose a different envronment."

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