Peter Vermes on what MLS needs to get right with new youth program and what's on front-burner for season's re-start

Peter Vermes, Sporting Kansas City's head coach and sporting director, came to the MLS club as technical director in 2006 after serving as the technical director at the Blue Valley Soccer Club in Kansas following his retirement as a player.

He has been involved in youth soccer a long time and believes that MLS must step carefully as it continues its player development efforts following the collapse of the Development Academy.

"The first step of U.S. Soccer announcing they won’t be a leader in that space is an important one," he said on a media conference call on Wednesday, "because nobody is investing more money into player development than MLS. For us to lead that space, it only makes sense. I also think that we have to be very careful. There were some really good things that came out of the DA, and there were also some things that were done poorly. Hopefully, we can learn from the things that were done poorly and expand upon them."

Vermes says the new league can't be just about the MLS academies.

"It’s about the non-MLS academies and standalone youth clubs," he said. "They also need guidance and assistance, not that they don’t have good directors in their clubs, but I think our country is due for a good leader in this space who works with all of the groups in a very collaborative manner. I don’t think that’s taken place in the way that it should have. There’s been too much dictation and at times unrealistic terms or standards set. It’s hard to expect certain clubs to pay for everything. It’s just not feasible. They have to generate too much revenue, which is not part of their model. There has to be a different way of laying this out."

Like others involved in player development around MLS, Vermes says international competition will be an important part of the youth programs the clubs adopt.

"I also think that MLS academies have to make sure that we continue to have challenging competitions that optimize the potential that we have within our clubs," he said. "That would also include international competition for some of your younger groups. I think it’s feasible, absolutely, but I also think MLS doesn’t have to be the fastest to the table with a plan. We have to be the group that comes to the table with the best plan. I don’t think we have to be quick in putting something together. It’s about quality and high-level competition for all of the groups, not just MLS academies."

Vermes believes MLS will come out stronger following the financial hit it will take because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

"We all know that this situation has affected the global economy," he said. "Sporting Kansas City and MLS are not immune to that. We do have something that we can at least hang our hat on. We have incredibly stable ownership groups in this league. I don’t think any of them ever got in for the short term. I think all of them got in for the long term. It’s like the stock market. If you look at the stock market over its history, there’s been times of downturn. But it always overcome that, surpass that and get stronger over time. I feel the same thing will happen with MLS. Regarding players, I think they are as motivated—if not more motivated—in that they want to get back on the field as soon as possible. I know there are negotiations between the league and players, but I’m not privy to those. I’m very confident we will navigate this environment, and I truly believe that at some point we’ll be stronger than ever."

Vermes says MLS is formulating plans for the resumption of training -- individual workouts, then small group trainings and eventually full-team training sessions -- and has discussed the idea of playing league games in a tournament format.

"There are some cities that are a lot more open than others," he said, "and some cities that will become open a lot more quickly than others. If you had to wait for all 26 cities to open up, you could be waiting for a long time. We’ve talked about the possibility of having [up to] four locations where you could aggregate a number of teams in each of those locations and then play games that would count towards league play. It would be more a tournament style, and as you’re doing that over a certain number of weeks, as other cities open up, you could start to go back to your home cities. It’s definitely something that’s on the front-burner at the moment and something that has a lot of legs about possible implementation. You also have to realize that you’d be moving mountains to make that happen. There would be a lot of logistics, so there are a lot of people behind the scenes looking to see if that could actually happen. I’d like to think it could."

Vermes notices things opening up in the Kansas City area as he jogs near his house.

"There’s a golf course close by and I’m amazed," he said. "The parking lot is completely full, the driving range is completely full and there are people on the putting greens chipping everywhere. Our environment is a little different compared to New York."

11 comments about "Peter Vermes on what MLS needs to get right with new youth program and what's on front-burner for season's re-start".
  1. Wallace Wade, April 30, 2020 at 9:43 a.m.

    Peter must not be aware that MLS wants to completely separate Independent Clubs from MLS Clubs. That's all part of this move. The fact that he's a MLS Head Coach and doesn't cope to this is comical

  2. frank schoon, April 30, 2020 at 10:44 a.m.

    As I started  reading the heading 'Peter Vermes on what the MLS needs to get right with the new youth development program...', I was expecting a  healthy criticism on our youth development and perhaps some solutions and suggestions with new ideas of what I have been expounding,at least, for we need to think a little more out of the box as far as youth development goes... But, alas, it was BS session saying absolutely nothing!

    <"there were also some things that were done poorly. Hopefully, we can learn from the things that were done poorly and expand upon them.">  What things were done poorly...can we be more specific...Why wasn't this asked?

    "It’s about quality and high-level competition for all of the groups, not just MLS academies." Blah, Blah....

    'bout this juicy mouthwatering quote,   "  I think our country is due for a good leader in this space who works with all of the groups in a very collaborative manner." I can't wait to get to see this new program get started.  Peter Vermes should be head of our new DA program impetus ,after all this sounds exciting.

    I can't wait for our new DA program, it sounds promising....to fail not to succeed,though....It looks like it's the same ole , same ole stuff....Well , at least I'm looking for Coronavirus to blow over......

  3. frank schoon replied, April 30, 2020 at 10:47 a.m.

    I would recommend Earney Stewart to head DA program, for he's done such a great job in his previous assignment for the USSF....

  4. Guy Walling, April 30, 2020 at 11:57 a.m.

    Why shouldn't we wait for all 26 cities to open up first before resuming the season? If people continue to die of this virus in just one city, what makes a person think the other 25 cities are immune? To order any professional athlete or meat packaging worker for that matter, back to work before ordering testing, offering an effective treatment, or developing a vaccine is just narcissistically heartless. The MLS should be using this time to work on a viable youth development plan for all clubs, not just their own, if they want all of us to look to them as the soccer guru! And this youth development plan must take place after we have every youth soccer player tested and administered a vaccine. Without a vaccine available, it's like playing Russian roulette with our youth as well as our professional athletes!

  5. R2 Dad replied, April 30, 2020 at 12:51 p.m.

    Not sure what will be done, but your suggested course of action would mean an entire year or more without sports. I live in California, where there is an enormous population of homeless who will provide a fertile breeding pool for this virus going forward. There will be deaths every month for the next couple of years, just in California. The prospect of a vaccination looks poor at this moment. I hope I'm wrong, but we appear to be a long way off from meeting all the conditions you mention. We can't put our lives on hold much longer. This is not polio, a fixed target we can eradicate within our borders. COVID19 is now a resident here.

  6. Santiago 1314 replied, May 1, 2020 at 9:27 p.m.

    @ Guy...Humm.???.. Got posted Below some how.??? 99.9% of Youth(and I would Venture, 100% of Healty Soccer Playing Youth are NOT going to die from WuFlu),,, Let's get this country Going again.!!! Quarantine is for the UnHEALTHY.... NOT THE HEALTHY.!!!... did I miss the Story of Pro Soccer Player dying from WuFlu.???

  7. Kevin Leahy, April 30, 2020 at 1:10 p.m.

    Clubs like Kansas City will need non MLS clubs to survive with a youth program. The teams will need competition that is not a plane ride away.

  8. Michael MacFaden, April 30, 2020 at 1:51 p.m.

    https://www.cbsnews.com/news/coronavirus-vaccine-september-oxford-university/

  9. R2 Dad replied, April 30, 2020 at 3:05 p.m.

    "high degree of confidence"? So, maybe 25% (probability of .25)? 5 months is a long time...hope they're on the right track.

  10. humble 1, April 30, 2020 at 1:58 p.m.

    Very little stated.  A strong indicator that there is lot of politicing going on behind scenes with the mysterious MLS League.  Politics in soccer is like curruption in economies - it's what brings their level down from optimal.  Don't have high hopes for what comes out of MLS as they have a huge barriers to overcome in the relative geographic isolation of many of their teams and the lack of consensus among owners on the necesity for academies and their relavence to the overall MLS mission.  The good news is that on the boys side - they have kind of backed into the ECNL being the top level league for U11 to U14.  In all likelihood, in whatever form MLS Academies take they will start no earlier than U14 and probably U15.  The real hope for improved youth academies from U14 on up is the USL which has a much broader footprint.  USL released their Academy blue print last year, little speed bump with the pandemic, and now the DA over the cliff, so some adjustment will be necessary, but fingers crossed the USL folks are hard at work and don't let the MLS take their eye off the ball.  The other unmentioned impact for boys and girls is, dare I say it, HS ball.  A lot of HS teams will welcome back DA players.  The only piece we need to figure out is free/pick-up play.  For me, pay-to-play clubs will never really push this - they will try and hijack it - like they do with futsal - but utimately their mission - like never before - is on adding and retaining players and increasing revenue per player.  So probably it will fall on every day folks, kids, parents especially to get out and roll ball wherever you can find a pitch.  I see this a lot with adults in my area, but less so with youth.  Keep it going!        

  11. Santiago 1314, May 1, 2020 at 9:24 p.m.

    99.9% of Youth(and I would Venture, 100% of Healty Soccer Playing Youth are NOT going to die from WuFlu),,, Let's get this country Going again.!!! Quarantine is for the UnHEALTHY.... NOT THE HEALTHY.!!!... did I miss the Story of Pro Soccer Player dying from WuFlu.???

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