Earnie Stewart on the Chicago policy, coaching vacancies, staying in touch with young players and the Development Academy

Most of U.S. Soccer's board of directors meeting on Friday in Chicago did not concentrate on the technical side of the game.

Sure, there were presentations on the men's and women's and extended national teams and the growing coaching program, but much of the three-hour open session was devoted to the business of operating the federation. And that included, most significantly, how the mounting cost of the federation's legal fights is impacting the current bottom line and how the federation is responding to workplace issues published in the scathing Glassdoor reviews critical of management in June.

But afterward, in a session U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro, U.S. Soccer sporting director Earnie Stewart and U.S. women's national team general manager Kate Markgraf held with a small group of reporters from national publications and then in individual questions from Soccer America to Stewart, attention turned to soccer-specific questions.

Many of them have in the news recently, including U.S. Soccer's policy requiring youth national team coaches to move to Chicago, the many youth national team coaching vacancies in both the boys and girls programs, the impact of those vacancies on communication with players and upheaval in U.S. Soccer's Development Academy.

Here are the topics and responses from Stewart.

One of the prevailing themes of the board meeting was how U.S. Soccer will respond to the need to find more office space for its growing staff and how inadequate Soccer House, its home on Chicago's South Loop, is to handle its existing staff, let alone take in more staff.

With those challenges, Stewart was asked why the federation then requires national youth team coaches to work out of Chicago.

EARNIE STEWART: “In my mind, it’s unbelievable that our coaches are not together all the time. It’s one thing to have formal conversations with each other, and these days you can do everything by the computer and wifi. Yes, we can connect with everyone. But we’ve now seen with myself, Kate with the coaches internally, apart from the formal meetings, when you go to the coffee machine — and I know it sounds very simple — you’re talking about soccer once again. The formal ones? Yes, you can organize them, but it is not ideal because you can only organize them at the moment someone is free.

"What we're trying to do for the future when we talk about identity and style of play, it goes way further than that. I know of no single club in the world that has success, that has coaches scattered all over the place. In my view, if you really want to create an identity and style of play, you need people together to talk about it. Is it ideal that we don’t have fields outside? I get it, except it’s the next best thing. And being prepared for the moment when we talk about new office space or a new training center, we need to be ready for that. It's not only about today. We're projecting for the future.

"We have our sports performance part, that's winning today but building for tomorrow, which is our sport development part. When we talk about where do we put our money to win today, that's in our teams, that's in our programming, that's in our coaches making sure they are aligned in the thought process of getting results. It's high performance, it's analytics. Then we have the sport development part, building for the future. That's coaching educations, that's talent ID, that's all those things combined. It's not easy, winning today but building for tomorrow. For all these things, having all the coaches in Soccer House is in my mind crucial."

Cordeiro said the plan is to open a national training center or multiple training centers at regional sites. He mentioned all the European soccer federations he visited in 2018 -- on the United 2026 bid campaign -- and how amazed he was by the facilities even the tiny federations have -- thanks to funding UEFA provides.

Cordeiro said "in a perfect world" that is what U.S. Soccer wants but it doesn't yet have the funding to build a national training center and that's a "project for the coming year or so."

In the meantime, U.S. Soccer lost its last two chief soccer officers and last two Development Academy heads, and the youth national coaching vacancies remain, on both the boys and girls side.

On Saturday, Stewart presented a plan to the board for his two departments -- sports performance and sports development -- and he said "some of these roles will be filled very shortly." That includes a new men's general manager who will also oversee the youth national teams. Stewart said the federation has an agreement for one youth national team coach but it needs "to be sure he is eligible to work" and the other coaching positions will be filled in "a very short period of time."

On the Chicago policy, Cordeiro said "nothing is perfect and maybe it should have been phased in" when it was announced in 2018.

Dave van den Bergh, a longtime national youth team coach on the boys side based in Texas, told the Wall Street Journal that the Chicago policy was the reason why he left the federation this summer and joined the New England Revolution.

Stewart was again asked why some of the youth national team coaching positions had been open so long, one since late 2017. He not only defended the hiring policy but seemed incredulous to the notion that it should be any other way.

EARNIE STEWART: “The one thing I still don’t understand is that there is this concept that people don’t want to move to Chicago. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not true — I’ve never heard it to straight to me in the conversations I’ve had. I think it’s unbelievable that it’s a question if they should move to one place. I come from a place in Holland where if they have to bike 30 minutes they're moving already.

"I realize that times have changed and in a lot of companies, people get to work at home these days, I don't see that in companies where you have to interact with each other every day. I don't think that's possible, especially when you consider what we want to do with style of play, the vertical alignment of all our teams, in our high-performance environments.

"I think it's unbelievable that its even a question whether it’s necessary. High-performance sports is making choices -- it's as simple as it is. Do we want to be comfortable? Katy can relate to that. I can relate to that. High performance is painful.”

In the meantime, the U.S. U-20  men's national team did not play in the October or November windows, after Tab Ramos, its head coach for the previous four two-year cycles, stepped down, and the U.S. U-15 and U-16 teams have been coached by part-time coaches.

One of the concerns has been that no one is available to talk with players or follow up with them and their families as had been the case with full-time coaches, like Ramos with players on his most recent team that finished sixth at the 2019 U-20 World Cup. The father of one of those players, Uly Llanez, tweeted last week: "As a parent all we ask for is a follow up on this development and just simple phone to the player to tell that his development is reviewed."

EARNIE STEWART: "My whole thing with this. I don't understand the thought process behind it. He has been in our program, like a lot of other kids in our program.

"I'll take Sergino Dest as a perfect storm. Sergino Dest was someone who played in our under-17s, under-20s and then went to our full national team. So he has like this perfect pathway. However, in some instances, there are kids in their development path that are not selected. That doesn't mean they are not part of the program, that they are not spoken to, or anything like that.

"We always hear, 'There is no trust. They haven't been spoken to.' That is never the case. I don't want to defend ourselves. I know what we are doing on a daily basis. We have coaches traveling the world to see players. The best example is Sergino Dest. When we saw Sergino Dest [at Ajax in October], we saw other players as well. And this happens with all of our players.

"And I am not trying to make the difference between dual nationals and American nationals. Gio Reyna or Alex Mendez or Ulysses. For me, it doesn't make a difference. They are U.S. national team players and they need to have the feeling that they are looked after. But they are always moments that a player doesn't get selected, does not play or gets injured. It looks a bit negative, but it doesn't mean players are out of our sight."

Twelve years after the start of the Development Academy on the boys side, dissatisfaction with the program has grown, while the girls program, launched in 2016, splintered the girls landscape.

Has U.S. Soccer bit off more than it can chew in running the DA? Stewart doesn't share that view.

EARNIE STEWART: "Not at all. I am not going to call it being concerned about something, but we need to look at our youth landscape and we have all sorts of different pyramids and are not yet in a situation where we have a pyramid that has the best play against the best. That is my concern.

"Who runs the Development Academy? I want to create one big pyramid on the boys' side and on the girls' side. And we all need to work together. That's kind of what I miss. And so the things I worry about is creating that structure, that apart from coaching, that you have coaching education, you have the performance environments, you have standards and certifications.

"That's why Brazil is so great, because they play in the favela, on the field right next to it, and you get to play with the best players. And that for us is something I think about everyday, creating that, not so much the structure and organizing [the DA]. I want us creating one big pyramid where we get the best playing the best and everything trickles up."

"The top of the pyramid is so easy. The bottom of the pyramid? That is the hard part. If you need to organize that, then the country becomes very big. And creating a structure is what the technical committee together with those working on the Youth Task Force are thinking about every day -- but it is never the top of pyramid. The DA itself, running that is not going to be a problem. When it's broader on the bottom, that's where it becomes more difficult because the country becomes very, very big. However, I believe that it is possible, and I am committed to that every single day."

30 comments about "Earnie Stewart on the Chicago policy, coaching vacancies, staying in touch with young players and the Development Academy".
  1. Arnold Ramirez, December 9, 2019 at 1:37 p.m.

    I can't believe Earnie Stewart's comments about having the coaches living in Chicago. There are many countries like Holland that are small but in a country like the US it is absurd. There is no way top US coaches are going to move to Chicago. As Joe Fraga stated move the Federation to New York and leave the Soccer house as a museum.
    No wonder so many top coaches left the Federation.  It must be a very toxic environment there.

  2. Peter Bechtold replied, December 9, 2019 at 2:45 p.m.

    At a minimum: Why not move to Frisco,TX. Is that not where we now have the Soccer Hall of Fame and a cornucopia of fields ?
    Or what about the training grounds in SoCal which have been used successfully before?

  3. Peter Bechtold replied, December 9, 2019 at 2:45 p.m.

    At a minimum: Why not move to Frisco,TX. Is that not where we now have the Soccer Hall of Fame and a cornucopia of fields ?
    Or what about the training grounds in SoCal which have been used successfully before?

  4. frank schoon, December 9, 2019 at 1:48 p.m.

    <"U.S. Soccer's board of directors meeting on Friday in Chicago did not concentrate on the technical side of the game.">   HAVE THEY EVER!!!!

    So to be able to hang around the 'water cooler' at the Soccer House is conducive to creating a style of soccer to play. As far as I know the dutch KNVB soccer school was set up mid to late '60s in Holland. Now it takes years to develop a style and doesn't come about from a KNVB proclamation in the type of style to play. The style Holland plays basically come about by two people, Rinus Michels and Johan Cruyff, who had similar views on soccer, and had success with Ajax and not by a bunch a guys with a coaching license standing around the water cooler forced to live in Al Capone town....

    I can just imagine hanging around a bunch of guys of nobodies everyday who employ all the same classroom soccer jargon as taught at these licensed coach courses, who have absolute nothing to offer the world of soccer. I'd blow my brains out to be around these people everyday at the Soccer House, what a diversity of thought with this crew. The best thing is for these coaches is to move and spread out and get away from this stale air posed at the Soccer House...You learn more hanging a soccer pub all day than at the Soccer House for there  you'll be introduced to more ideas, and issues than otherwise and that 'stale' environment....

    I'm done with Earney, Cruzeiro, and the rest of that crew there  trying to insult my intelligence.

  5. Peter Bechtold replied, December 9, 2019 at 2:47 p.m.

    Hi Frank S.:
    Remember what Winston Churchill said about the USA ? " You can count on the Americans to eventually do the right thing, AFTER they have tried everything else before."

  6. frank schoon replied, December 9, 2019 at 3:21 p.m.

    Yup, Peter, we just don't know how long we're on this road as yet...

  7. David Ruder replied, December 9, 2019 at 5:46 p.m.

    how the mounting cost of the federation's legal fights is impacting the current bottom line and how the federation is responding to workplace issues.     For those of us who are still around and have been supporting USS for the last 70-80 years have never seen "workplace issues before". To play for the USS team was and is an honor not another paycheck, as this new social order demands from this misplaced and non-exiting gender inequality complaint. USS soccer has welcomed women's soccer with open arms, unlike any other world sport, and has received nothing but high kicks in the face.  Its time to separate, and get back to soccer business.

  8. Bob Ashpole replied, December 9, 2019 at 10:26 p.m.

    David, the federal judge already rejected USSF arguments in the decision on class certification. Cordeiro, himself, prior to winning the election admitted the discrimination and said it needed to be corrected immediately without waiting for the next CBA negotiation. He also stated that he was for equal support and facilities for the women's program. USSF did start a women's DA program until after the first gender discrimination case was filed.

    The way corporate executives look at litigation is, that as long as the legal fees are less than the interest USSF is collecting on the money in the bank, it is cheaper to litigate than comply with the law. The other consideration is if they have to borrow to pay the judgment, then they compare the legal costs to the interest rate that they would pay on the debt. Judgement interest doesn't start usually until a judgment is entered, so there is motivation to continue to litigate rather than obey the law.

  9. Wallace Wade, December 9, 2019 at 2:51 p.m.

    Tone deaf, clueless 

  10. Albert Harris, December 9, 2019 at 4:05 p.m.

    I don't pretend to the depth of knowledge that some of the posters and columnists here have. I'm just a fan of US soccer, but even I can smell the corporate BS in these so-called answers to legitimate questions. Not to mention the overwhelming arrogance. The whole tone from Stewart is appalling. 

  11. Bill Dooley, December 9, 2019 at 4:51 p.m.

    The whistling past the graveyard in Stewart's comments is loud enough to wake up its inhabitants.

  12. Ben Myers, December 9, 2019 at 5:06 p.m.

    I am struggling to think of the right adjective to apply to what Stewart mouthed.  Defensive?  Gag!  He does not get it.

    Seems more logical to have national coaches living not too far from a central national training complex somewhere in a warm climate.  But is that putting the horse before the cart?  I guess that USSF has no idea how to raise funds, either.  USSF is a train-wreck, even worse than I had imagined.

  13. beautiful game, December 9, 2019 at 5:41 p.m.

    Mr. Stewart doing the usual song & dance routine. He's a perfect fit to USSF culture of 'Waiting for Godot'.

  14. Ben Myers replied, December 9, 2019 at 6:42 p.m.

    I bet Earnie can do a soft shoe and sing "Melancholy Baby".

  15. Ric Fonseca, December 9, 2019 at 7:02 p.m.

    I am completely aghast having read this article.  For all intents and purposes my "initiation" to US Soccer goes back to the late '60s while in college and living in Okland, and then making a move to Los Angeles for graduate school, and even more so when I got into the managing/coaching life.  So one can say that I've seen this, done that, and have been the perennial optimist, but I will not beat a drum nor a moribund horse.  Oh, and yes, I've also done the move thing, i.e. getting a job in Los Angeles, but required to move to Chicago in '74.  Granted ,y job was with a community-based education related organization, and ironically my work place was on the 1300 Southside of Chicago, not too far from the current Soccer House.
    As to the article, I read it three times just to make sure that I understood what Mr. Stweart has to say, and Mr. Cordeiro's comments, and Lord Save me, this is why I started this by saying that I am aghast!  OK, so where mr. Stewart hails from is a small country perhaps even Texas is larger (but Texas is a veritiable part of the US Federation) yet it does have and boasts of a somewhat organized soccer organization, affiliated to US Soccer.  BUT, Mr. Stewart, please you're comparing apples and oranges; and Mr. C's comments about having seen those other European associations being better and perhaps more cohesively organized, another comparison of apples and oranges.  In this case, one can say that "size does matter...!"
    And I will continue to be optimistic, but for how much longer I cannot say.  But I will say to Messrs. C and S, come on now, smell the coffee and spread out accross the width and breadth of this wonderful country, do not be, for goodness sakes, be so paroichial that you're also willing to not smell the beautiful roses.  Or as Anson Dorrance was quoted as saying in a recent SA article, let's take the issue and topic to MSNBC and have Rachel Maddow to an "expose" about what's happening.  PLAY ON!!!

  16. James Madison, December 9, 2019 at 9:03 p.m.

    1.  Wow! How deefensive can a person get!!  Chicago may be in the middle of the country, but doesn't Stewart appreciate how cold and snowy the winters are and how hot and muggy the summers are.  My son works remotely for the Cook County Health Department from our home in Menlo Park, CA, and, with the aid of face-to-face computer technology and one week in Chicago every month, the interpersonal relationships function as effectively as if he were there full time.

    2.  As for the legal costs, some, as in the NASL case, are unavoidable.  Others can be limited by taking reasonable settlement positions, either in direct negotiations or in mediation.

    Jim Madison

  17. Bob Ashpole, December 9, 2019 at 10:53 p.m.

    I read it twice. Earnie uses Brazil, with its 26 state leagues, as an example of a country achieving success through having only one giant pyramid of competition. Duh?

    Why does Brazil have state leagues? Because of it immense geography. They prefer playing to traveling.

    Earnie knows this. Does he think we don't know it too?

  18. humble 1 replied, December 13, 2019 at 10:52 a.m.

    Bob, I am not so sure he does.  Favela's are why Brazil is great?  Are you kidding?  Yes, there is street soccer in Brazil, but not all Brazil talent comes from the street, there is a complex soccer organization on top of the worlds number one producer of soccer talent.  It would be helpful if members of US Soccer did understand how it works, but I don't think they understand Mexico let alone Brazil.   

  19. Goal Goal, December 9, 2019 at 11:12 p.m.

    Incredible!  Earnie is so out of touch.  We have identified the enemy and the enemy is us.

    BS IS BS any way you cut it.

  20. Gary Levitt, December 10, 2019 at 9:32 a.m.

    I am not close enough to the Federation and its programs to make suggestions or offer up solutions.  Hearing the negative connotations of 'toxic environment' and "all coaches living in Chicago" makes me wonder what corrective actions are in place to attract and retain the best talent to lead and work within the Federation. At a baseline, if all of the coaching staff did live in the same city, would training grounds like the one designed and built for Atlanta United not provide the best of both worlds?  The scenario to me is to establish a National Training Center in a warmer weather climate, in a area of the country that can attract and retain the best staff for the Federation.. and go from there.  

  21. Philip Carragher, December 10, 2019 at 11:30 a.m.

    I'm worried that we've been given the heads-up that the Federation will focus on building a training/administration site rather than fixing player development. I see this often in the US athletic community, solutions to helping kids in sports zeros in on the "hardware" rather than the "software". We have fields, we have buildings and basketball courts (for futsal) but we don't have good player development programming. This isn't rocket science. The fastest route to soccer gaining respect is to put resources into the communities with families that watch good international soccer and play pickup with mom and dad and the kids in the neighborhood. They're born with the software. These kids don't need to be overcoached like the suburban kids I see. I don't see us convincing the suburbanites to, as a group, to begin watching good soccer (and then maybe playing neighborhood ball) so (inadequate) overcoaching will continue until our national team begins to win against the big boys. Then the suburban folks will watch.

  22. Kevin Leahy, December 10, 2019 at 12:54 p.m.

    ES talks of the pyramid but, it is built from the bottom not the top. Player development is this vast country's biggest issue. The youth battleground needs to be fixed. Still believe that playing style is more an issue of what talent is available. It is never a good sign that we lose quality players and coaches to Mexico. It case Earnie didn't know they, are our biggest rival. Mexico probably finds that laughable. Why does the national team program do most of its training in warm weather climates but, expect the coaches to live in Chicago? This federation will come tumbling down one way or the other unless there are some drastic changes. Who out there isn't worried about qualifying for 2022?

  23. Goal Goal, December 10, 2019 at 1:03 p.m.

    I am curious and don't have a clue.  What type of salary does a Stewart or Cardeiro make and what is the salary of lets say a U!7 National Team coach.  Anyone know.

  24. Ginger Peeler, December 10, 2019 at 1:14 p.m.

    Ernie tosses a "word salad" for us that supposedly explains everything. Note how important that pyramid is to him?  In a previous interview he stressed the importance of an organization/flow chart that he'd been diligently creating. As if, when finished, it would be plain for all to see the solution to all of our US Soccer Federation's problems. Obviously the pyramid he's working on will be the finishing touch. ....Eh! We're doomed!

  25. Alfred Randall replied, December 10, 2019 at 9:40 p.m.

    I have read some articles that have indicated Jay Berhalters salary in the $750,000 range a bit above as I remember but I do not recall the exact amount. This whole mess might be about protecting ones salary/job. That piece came out when during the uproar over Greg Berhalter’s hiring.  I don’t have a clue what he makes but I'd submit a swag at $250,000-350,000. I believe if Stewert was working under different management he may do a good job but under J. Berhalter’s throne the ‘good job’ thing will not happen. As far as I can tell I believe the Carlos Cordeiro position is unpaid.

  26. humble 1 replied, December 13, 2019 at 11:06 a.m.

    Alfred, you are spot on, it's about the money, they don't have much to show for it on the men's side, women are downright frugal, but far more productive, but there is tons of money on the mens side and very little to show for it.  Just look up how much they got the late Chuck Blazer for giving himself, before he was given a year to 'clean-up' his offices in Trump Tower, which was surely just the tip of the iceburg.  Of course, Blazer was in CONCACAF, but their budget pales when you look at the MLS SUMA USSF behemoth and USSF sitting on over $100M in the bank.  The benchmark was Klinsman, who was at above $2.5M/yr, which incedentally they just finished paying recently and he is now - note - back to work :-)   This was a big consideration for Tata Martino - now in Mexico - to move here - the US MNT job and it's potential pay.  He probably had his sights on that spot and that number.  Burhalter's figure will be based on that - it is a big secret but rest assured it will be 7 not 6 figs for sure, after all, Arena's was at nearly $900K.

  27. Inter 76, December 10, 2019 at 4:48 p.m.

    Well, IMO Ernie is in over his head. Brazil has played soccer since the 1890s. Brazil is pretty much one sport country as are many countries in the World. Here we have so many competing sports it is difficult to attract the interest and development of players. Every time I go by a playground and see young people playing basketball, I think, "why can't this be futsal or pickup soccer of some sort?" As was suggested in a book years ago about replacing Little League with playground baseball by just dropping off the bats, balls and gloves and let the kids learn to play, is how I learned with my friends. 

    I certainly don't have the solution but making coaches move to Chicago is assinine to me. I like the idea of a Southern location where there could be year round development. Brazil is fortunate to have this type of climate. Although it can get nippy in Rio Grande do Sul in their winter. 

    I know Pele's old Club, FC Santos, would like to do an exchange program for their youth Club. It would be difficult because of the Seasonal differences but who knows. 

    So Ernie good luck with your water cooler pyramid. With today's technology communications are not a problem. Creating interest in our younger children and their willingness to play pick up soccer as a development tool, is. The favela kids have an advantage as pickup is one way to forget where one is. And dream big.

  28. frank schoon replied, December 10, 2019 at 5:31 p.m.

    From one Frank to another Frank, well said...

  29. Goal Goal replied, December 11, 2019 at 9:45 a.m.

    You are both very Frank in your comments!

  30. Goal Goal, December 11, 2019 at 9:47 a.m.

    Regional Offices?  Great idea more people more money more havoc more BS.   This isn't Walgreens this is soccer.

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