Youth clubs are the organizational atoms of our soccer ecosystem. The same thing is true throughout the planet. Some youth clubs are just recreational, some are both recreational and competitive and some are just competitive. There are many misuses of the word “Academy” when we talk about youth soccer, but some clubs like to call their system an “Academy” also. Some call their recreational U-12 and below teams Academy some – mostly across the Atlantic – call their top-notch youth teams an Academy. Personally, I prefer the second one since the Academy has something to do with science and education. Cambridge Dictionary defines Academy as:
“an organization intended to protect and develop an art, science, language, etc., or a school that teaches a particular subject or trains people for a particular job” or “the part of a soccer club that trains young players who might one day become part of the first team”
The youth soccer system does not have universal definitions or applications, especially in our soccer culture youth soccer clubs are different in many ways than their counterparts in Europe.
In 2017, I wrote an article for Soccer America called “Thirteen Unique Applications” which identifies 13 areas which are unique to our soccer landscape. None of those 13-uniqueness referred to – except pay-to-play system – our youth club soccer system. It is time to include a look at our youth club system and compare it with its counterparts in Europe.
Although one of the 13 uniqueness mentioned in the above article is the Pay-to-Play system, that is not the only uniqueness in our youth soccer club system.
Since I lived most of my life in Europe, I know the European youth soccer system well and will talk about the European youth soccer club system only. In Europe, youth soccer clubs are mostly community clubs. They are clubs of a village or a small neighborhood in a city. The exceptions are professional clubs’ youth systems that are citywide, national and in even some cases global. The relation between the community and the club is very strong.
Those clubs are non-pay-to-play clubs. The city and/or the national government builds grassroots soccer facilities using taxpayers’ money. The clubs use these fields for training and playing without paying a cent. In some countries, the clubs pay for the referees and in some countries the federation pays the fee of the referees in league games. The community, through various methods like fund-raising events or sponsorship of local small businesses, pays for the rest of the expenses for the youth club.
All youth clubs are amateur clubs, usually having one team in each age group for both genders. All clubs do have an A team (adult team) playing in local leagues. Most coaches are volunteers, and, in most countries, they are obliged to have a grassroots coaching license. Therefore, the expenses of an amateur club in Europe are far less than youth soccer club in our country. There are no multiple teams in each age group, there are no travel teams/tournaments, no rental fees for fields, no high-paid coaches, no real organizational costs, no "real" insurance….
So, in essence the amateur clubs are real amateur clubs working with a shoestring budget. Since the parents do not pay for their kids to play soccer, they do not feel a sense of entitlement.
There are clubs in Europe that ask parents to pay for their kids to play. They are usually big professional clubs that are marketing their trademark through paid “football schools.” You can see those around the globe, including our soccer landscape. So far, I have never heard of any players who play in those “football schools” making into the club’s academy, but there might be a few exceptions. It is big business, and it does not focus on player or talent development although they claim it.
The amateur soccer clubs in Europe are legally also non-profit organizations like those in our soccer landscape. They are also run by boards like in this country. So their governance structures are similar at first sight. The major difference is that the ones in Europe are community clubs with a small expense budget to worry about. Whereas most of our youth soccer clubs have at least hundreds of players – who are consumers – and hundreds of parents – who are customers – to deal with. Youth sports in this country is worth “A $19.2 billion market in the US, means the youth sports market rivals the size of the $15 billion NFL.” The above quoted amount in 2019 is for all sports, but it is realistic to assume that youth soccer market is about $5-6 billion. So, any reasonably big youth soccer club is running a small business under the banner of non-profit organization 501 (C)(3). Unfortunately, most boards in our country do not realize this fact. There are some clubs which are owned by individuals in the USA, but they are very few and in between.
The board structures of youth soccer clubs in our country differ from those of in Europe. Since the European amateur clubs are very much community-oriented and some of them are decades old, there is a tradition of running those clubs. The boards are usually elected during AGMs (Annual General Meeting) and sometimes they are fiercely contested. Most board members are ex-players of the club and well-known figures of the community. They care deeply about their club and have a very high sense of belonging.
On the other hand, our non-profit clubs’ board mainly consists of parents whose kids play for the club. Their tenure is usually restricted to the tenure of their kids. As soon as their kids stop playing soccer their sense of belonging to the club ends. Hence, their role is very much transitional. This transitional nature of boards has a negative impact on the sustainability of the governance of clubs. Transitional members of the board are more likely to be transactional rather than transformational. For most board members, the future of the club is less important than their kids’ future.
Whatever the reason their kids are playing soccer for -- whether to socialize, to improve their character, to get a college scholarship or to play for the national team -- only a well-managed club can achieve those goals. Clubs should be focusing as much on player development as their own club development and planning for the future. A board which plans its own governance structure through the years can also plan the future of the club. Only those boards whose structures are sustainable can be transformational. Without planning the future, you cannot really serve your kids or the club. Those boards will be transactional and short-sighted. The “Curse of Short-Sighted Thinking” will be written on the epitaphs of such clubs.
This article was meant to identify a problem in the governance structure of our youth soccer clubs and not to propose solutions which could be the topic of another article. In order to make changes in a system, you need first to diagnose the problem.
Ahmet Guvener (email@example.com) is the former Secretary General and the Technical Director of Turkish FA. He was also the Head of Refereeing for the Turkish FA. He served as Panel member for the FIFA Panel of Referee Instructors and UEFA Referee Convention. He now lives and works in Georgetown, TX. He is one of the partners of The Game Planners.
I don't believe that the problem is in the governance structure of clubs. The core competencies for good governance are not dependent on whether or not the structure is for-profit or non-profit. The competencies are about implementation of those competencies. This includes whether (or not) people understand the unique roles and responsibilities of the three major components of a club: Governance, Coaching, and Operations. Those roles can be filled by volunteers or paid staff. The roles are the roles, and success lies in knowing which role any one of us is playing at any given time. Having clear roles and a decent plan/vision for a youth club organization is a foundational element of good governance for any organization.
Couldn't agree with you more. This article has some major flaws your response addresses. Identify the wrong or an incomplete problem and you solve nothing. It reminde me of the charlatans in the sport who make money trying to convince people parents are the problem with youth soccer.
Jim, I don't understand your comment because the only people making money in the sport are coaches (and club owners, who are/were coaches). Referees make a pittance--perhaps you're referring to consultants? And by the way, new parents are a problem because the leagues/clubs/coaches don't train them on proper sideline etiquette. Some of my worst matches with parents were at U8 & U10.
I belive we say the same thing from a different angle. You would agree that the succession of Boards is a critical success factor.
Ahmet, excellent article. Looking forward to your next installment. As you can see, you drew a lot of interest.
I've been involved in coaching for over four decades. Throughout that time I've served on various league boards and numerous club boards. It has been my experience that most programs are plagued by the opposite problem from what you describe.
I can't begin to count the number of situations I've found all around the country where programs have been run for decades by one or two people whose children and grandchildren have long moved on.
They refuse to cede control or make room for others in leadership. They operate under the principle of "wash, rinse, repeat." They have a system for everything and any suggested deviation is shot down with "We tried that once and it doesn't work", or "That's not the way "we" like to do things."
The most effective boards are those that bring long term experience, with new blood and independent thinking (no previous or current family members in the program) and all board members are elected for no more than two consecutive terms of three years. They can cycle off and run again in three years, if they so desire.
These are good governance practices, universally appreciated, which I've applied on the more than thirty nonprofit and for profit boards on which I've served in my career.
Well said, Mr. Paglia!
Jim, you are spot on. But both problems exist; many people are just there while there kids are there (but if they have multiple kids, that could be a decade or more). But the bigger problem is the one you cite, people who have been there forever, and have all the power (and drive away people who challenge them).
Poor Mr. Guvner making blanket observaqtions without the data to support them. In reality, youth soccer in the United States is like the old wild west. Thee are multiple national organizatons with multiple purposes, sometimes ill-deinfed, and a mass of state and local organizaions with diverse and often foncliting purposes, serving in all, a market with different interests. Youth, from pre-kindergarden up though at lleast high school have an array of reasons for participating in soccer.--- ranging from parents, when the kids are young, deciding they should play for this or tht reason to middle and high schoolers aspiring to play professionally or at least obtain scholarships to defray college expenses, with everything in between. Some local organizations are clubs; others are not. Some are organized "for the kids;" others focus, consciously or not, on the interests of the adults. Understanding and describing all the different variations and abstracting from them one or more models that best accommodate the array of interests of youth at different ages and differnent stages of mental and physical development would require a publication of almost encyclopedic length.
You have accurately described the confusing and confused nature of youth soccer in the United States. They are all supposed to serve the kids' soccer and personal development, but often do not, most often because the needs of someone else must be met first, either parents or the leaders of the club. These dispersed and not-cooperating interests among grassroots, competitive club, school teams, college teams, and the various national youth soccer organizations make for the mess that is US soccer today, reflected pretty accurately in our professional and national teams. (Yes, the USWNT has had its glory days, but they may be past, as European countries and others catch up.) At least there has been an inkling of cooperation in the last couple of years between US Youth Soccer and United Soccer Coaches. I think that is where Mr Guvener is headed with his next installment.
Youth soccer has only one problem, adults.
I think more emphasis needs to be to embrace our admittedly unique-in-the world soccer culture, and finding the probably inevitable, multiple "best practices" for board and club governance/operations. Comparisons to the rest of the world is certainly vital information to have. More vital, IMO, is understanding "that ain't us." Let's focus on us, and what can work best for the American soccer landscape- flaws and all...
I disagree on two major points. 1. The assumption that US culture is unique. 2. The assumption that USSF "culture" is US soccer culture.
Our soccer history is one of diversity. There has always been wide variations in different areas of the country largely due to different demographics. St. Louis and Danbury, Connecticut, are examples. Then consider that there are over 60 million Hispanic US citizens. Because of where I was born, I did not have the opportunity to play organized soccer until I was in my mid-30s. I never played in a USSF sanctioned match until I was in my 60s, but I have played in 100s of adult organized matches in non-USSF leagues.
Bob is 100% spot on here - HS soccer is big all over the country hundreds of thousands of players, thousands of coaches - it is 100% outside of USSF and FIFA. I do not know the numbers but I am pretty sure that from U14 to U18 for girls and boys - HS soccer is as large or larger in gross numbers of players than club soccer. HS soccer taken in the aggregate at the state level is certainly, without queston the largest largest youth league U14-U19 in every state. Whether this is good or bad - is another question - it however outside the scope of Mr. Guveners topic - which is club youth soccer.
Club soccer in US is rotten. The good clubs are the exception. Why? What we call youth soccer here, is really not youth soccer. USYS, USCS, AYSO, these organzation have YOUTH in the name, but they are really administrative entiries that register youth players and administer youth leagues and youth tournaments. They do not develop players. All three so called youth organzations require that clubs that particpate have many teams and fields - id - that they are large. REQUIRE. Mr. Govener, if you are not, you should familiarize yourself with these rules. Down the road from Austin in Houston, in 2016, a group of clubs left the USYS league here, for a lot of reasons, but the main one was that USYS was allowing small clubs in, thru broker clubs. These clubs parents would pay $250/yr and the team had a parent coach. This was bad for business - if they are paying 250 and you 2500 and they beat your pants off - does not cumpute. In 2016 a good number of 'legacy' clubs left and started a USCS league, ok they had a lot number of reasons for doing this, but, they did not let in 'broker' clubs. Shut them out. This is the 'usctx . org' league in Houston. It is what I call - country club soccer. Now they have ECNL and ECRL. More 'country club soccer' More requirements to be big. More of barrier to entry from small local clubs. *next post - the other problem*
*next post* the dirty little secret that everyone knows about club soccer in the US. I've already established that the USSF endorsed so called 'Youth' organziations enforce barriers to entry for small clubs in their leagues and tournaments above. Now I will give you the real ugly side of youth soccer. These so called 501c3's that are supposed to be non-profits - many - most - the exceptions are the good ones - most - are fun as annuities - for the folks that control them. In my town - there are basically four clubs. Each is a 501c3. Three are controled by people that pay themselves $250K per year, they each have a minion or two, they call them DC's, that they pay something less than half what they take, these guys, the DC's pull up to the complex in nice new european cars. The controllers, those you never see. There is zero transparency for 3 of the 4 501c3's in town. You can look them up on 'guidestar <.> com' and you will see only two names usually one is a lawyer. The 4th club in our town is one that is in the class described above - by Mr. Paglia - controlled by an individual - that is very static - not dynamic - and very protective of the status quo. This is not the optimal strucutre to develop players. Large clubs, disguised as non-profits, operated as annuities, with little or no oversight. That large clubs are required - but USYS, USCS and AYSO - and de facto - by USSF - is the problem. Have a nice day.
A wake up call now and then is a good thing. Thank you.
How was it run a 120 years ago? How did youth development begin and expand?
If you grew up playing pickup sports in your neighborhood, that is how. Informal, unorganized, playing with neighbors and relatives. While some players were paid long ago, they had day jobs. Professional soccer really didn't get going anywhere until about 60 years ago. Organized youth socccer as we know it today, didn't start until the 1960s. In the US AYSO was a trailblazer in California (if I remember correctly). This snowballed in the US until there was a sea of children playing organized soccer every weekend. It really wasn't about athlete development though. It was the Little League syndrome. Cute little kids dressed up in uniforms playing like adults. The professional clubs would recruit the best kids from the neighborhoods and some had youth development programs.
The problem was there were millions of kids playing in the US and only a relatively few adults that had actually played soccer at any level to coach them. So we had a lot kids taught wrong. Wrong rules, wrong tactics, wrong techniques. The youth soccer surge was fueled by Title IX. We had thousands of adults who planned to pay for their girl's college with scholarships. Very unrealistic and they would typical pay thousands and thousands of dollars for a chance to get on a good travel team. I am talking about parents of 8 year old girls who entire objective was to have their little girl earn a college scholarship. Not have fun. Not learn to play or train. An emphasis on cut-throat competition and winning meaningless matches.
That is still the problem today. Parents are paying for a dream, some of them living vacariously, and pay-to-play is selling them that dream. Soccer is not unique. This same problem appears in other youth sports as well.
Mr. Govener describes correctly how it is organzed in Turkey. I have a friend from Hungary who has explained in detail how it is there. My son has played in Uruguay, so I know how it is there. What ties the three together are three key features. 1.Small. 2.Community. 3.Club. First, #3. Our soccer clubs are not really clubs. A club, as we all know it is a place you are a member, churches are sort of clubs. Most soccer clubs today, you are only a member so long as you pay for your child to play. They do not have a mechanism to engage you as a member after your child is no longer playing. Pay. My son trained for a month in one of the top academies in Uruguay - they have no mechanism to accept payment from players - we paid with soccer balls. So youth development started as clubs here too, but because of the USSF allowed their minions parading as Youth Organizations to put up barriers to entry into leagues with the team and field size requirements it is very difficult to find games if you are a small club. I know I have started one and my son participates in another now, three teams, all boys. This is not easy. The first one had to grow and is now the 5th club in our town, our club is run by a grizzly vet of college and club soccer, few like him exist. *Community Next*
Community. Soccer clubs 120 years ago, had to be community based, right, it was horse and buggy time. It remains this way ex-USA, but here, the requirements of the so-called Youth Soccer Organziations - of field and team size - push the youth game beyond community boundries. When you enter your child in soccer as I did, not knowing the sport you learn your options. They are limited. You find a club in your area, but not your community. When we visited Uruguay before my son turned 14, he trained with a friend, at his 'community' club. The club only needed 1/2 a pitch and they trained and had home games on it - all the way thru U14. They played in a league against other community clubs in their area. They never every travelled far. Ever. It is the same in Uruguay and Turkey, I am sure, there are no long trips thru U13. All community based. Here I was driving over an hour for games and overnight tournaments, though I did my best to avoid. Uruguayans laughed about this. It is how it was there - here - not. *Small Next*
Small. Pretty much explained it above. 1/2 a full size soccer pitch is all you need for a community club. U6 to U13. In Hungary, Uruguay, Turkey I supose also, at U14 the academies begin. They are free. Those that don't play academy can play rec or in HS. Community clubs can have a U6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 team, or can combine, they spilt time to train. They play usually 2 games a week. It is so simple. Of course - they have the advantage - that soccer is the main sport. Still the metro area where I live is larger than all of Uruguay in population and for girls and boys - we have maybe more youth players - maybe even boys. We have the numbers in many of our metro areas. Us parents literally drive by games on the way to our games. Madness it is. What I describe in these posts are teh real barriers to youth soccer development in the USA. This is our foundation. It is rotten. Rotten. It can be fixed - start by opening the youth game up to small clubs - by not allowing size requirements for leagues sanctioned by USSF. Make it happen!
The so called Youth Organizations and the Youth Clubs that finance them will fight such a change touth and nail. This is their livelihood. The is the lifeblood of their 501c3 annuity. They live a good life from this. The thousands of coaches abused by the minion DCs, paid peanuts, know I speak the truth. They are many, many Americans coaches with the best intentions, and latino's and Hungarian's and other Eurpopeans and South Amercan's chewed up and spit out by the clown DCs who only see Johnny and Susy as $3K, on a team of 20 - $60K, ten teams, $600K, 20 teams, $1.2M. The big dogs of youth soccer know very well what the small clubs will do. They will upset the apple cart. We will need a real ground swell do make this happen. I am not confident. Hopeful not confident. Until it changes - you will not see the 'system' produce players - they will all come thru a bespoke path - one that can be learned from - but not necessarily repeated. One big Bottleneck, a ball and chain on youth soccer, the behemoth clubs.
Humble1, thank you again. Good insights.
Humble has a bunch of good observations and insights above about how the youth system operates and how it's lodged into our communities. We all see how these entrenched clubs primary concern is how to manage the churn of players, parents and coaches without actually doing much development at all. There are exceptions and excellent coaches out there, but making a living in youth soccer forces coaches to 1) toil away at low(er) wages at an existing club, then 2) try to strike out with their own club, then 3) try to manage their own churn. This is the wild west of youth soccer that USSF can't/won't do anything about. Other than licensing coaches (which has done little), what can USSF do to change this dynamic? To my thinking, rationalizing the soccer pyramid would be the logical place to start, but USSF seems reticent to tackle that problem as they appear joined at the hip with MLS values/priorities. How does the pyramid get "fixed" without pro/rel? The amount of interest, eyeballs and investment dollars going overseas into pro/rel football (e.g. Wrexham, Chelsea, United, AC Milan, Arsenal, Lorient, Aston Villa, Crystal Palace, Marseille,Leeds, West Ham, Liverpool, Fulham, Atalanta, Spezia, Millwall, Parma, Fiorentina, Burnley, Roma, Lyon, toulouse, Genoa, Mallorca, Venezia, Caen, Le Havre, Bournemouth, et al) tells me USSF/MLS have overplayed their hand. Many US fans whine Why aren't more americans supporting MLS clubs? I think the answer is simple: USSF has chased them away. Maybe it's time Congress takes youth soccer away from USSF, since they refuse to integrate it into the pyramid and they've done nothing with it in over 100 years. Licensing coaches has done little the past 40 years to improve the quality of players--it's still down to the player and their parents to shepherd them through our disfunctional system(s) that refuse to provide value.
Thanks R2. I do not blame MLS. Rather thank them. They will never support Pro/Rel. Why? Because they own league and control the teams. They are not clubs, they are a franchise operation, they do not own the franchises, but they do control them, thru their rules. NYCFC is owned by the same group that owns Man City, but, NYCFC cannot spend as they wish and wash it with 'marketing budget', the rules they abide by are not FIFA rules, or CONCACAF or even USSF, they are MLS rules and they are hard coded in the franchise agreement they signed when they bought the club. What is good about MLS is that they brought soccer to the USA before we were ready. The did it TOP DOWN. Normally soccer grows from the BOTTOM UP. In the bottom us grass roots process, clubs, are rooted in their community. John Henry cannot move Liverpool to Manchester, but MLS can move San Jose to Houston, then start a new club a decade later in San Jose. Thanks to MLS, it's investers and all the folks toiling away behind the scenes and on the pitch we have league before we would have if we'd grown it from the grass roots. This is good. I go to MLS games often and the stadiums are very nice. But comes with MLS baggage. There is churn where grass roots soccer meets MLS. This is what we are sorting out. All good. No complaints here, except, USSF please remove barriers to entry in league play for small clubs, and invest in coaches and referees to the maximum. My son, is 17, were he a 23 year old, he would not have had the opportunities to play that has has as a 17 year old. The Academy leauge he plays in did not exist 5 years ago. In fact, not one of the three top boys academies in the country existed before 2018, when there was just boys DA. Great example of the rate of change. In spite of the top down approach, the grass roots is growing, fast. Long way to go. Thanks again. Keep it going!
Great comments. Good luck with your 17 YO. Curious if he is pro/college/other track. Keep us posted, it's always good to hear the paths of our youth players and what they think of it all. They are the future of the sport.
17 YO is on track to play in college, that is the current focus. Keeping it simple. Marathon, not sprint. Every step of the way, if he can impact the game, and do cool stuff on and off the ball, next door stays open. Young man is gifted student-athlete. As parents, we are respsonsible to develop both the student and the athlete. Thankful for college soccer here as he will get the opportuntity to do both. At some point, he will decide, if he wants to take the next step. When/if he does, he has two offers, not contracts, but chances, one in South America, the other in Europe.
IMHO, as an "old timer/old school-type" my experience with the youth scene goes back to the late 60s and into the early '70's. I've seen that, and have had some very detrimental experiences as well as many moewe wonderful ones. Let me explain: Being from the East Bay area (East Oakland) my experience with ANY youth group was solely centered on the community/ethnic clubs (not many then due to lack of playing space.) My only and sole experience was centered while in college (Merrit College and CSU Hayward), but this changed drastically when I moved to attend UCLA graduate school. By then, much to my surprise, not too far from home the then fledgling ayso was begat, and it was some years later when I first got my feet 'really "wet" with this youth group, whose moto was (and still is?) "everyone plays, no matter what. Meanwhile, the other youth soccer organizations, the formerly California Youth Soccer Association-Soth began to flex its wings. Literally hundreds of youth leagues permeated the L.A. and surrounding areas, and many, did not want to affiliate not so much with ayso, or the unaffiliated clubs.
There was, sadly,a lot of antagonism that emanated from both sides, the "everyone plays" leagues, the affiliated/non-affiliated leagues, that it took ayso literally until the late 70's early '80's to attempt and venture out of its geographical "safe space" and go into the "East side of L.A.!" I know this because a very good friend was recruited to go to the East side and attempt to start an ayso enclave, which eventually and sadly failed. The local other CYSA-S also tried to get the "ethnic youth leagues" to affiliate, but all for naught. I know because I also tried and went to those league meetings, and even went so far as to ranslate the CYSA-S Constitution and Bylaws, and yes, amigos, all for naught. Mistrust all around, from the Board of Directors of both groups, and outright discrimination. I think you might get my drift?
Well, enough of that historical vignette, tough it is important to note that ayso grew expnentially, so much that when I attended a US Soccer AGM, ayso threatened to take US Soccer to court if it was not granted full affiliation to US Soccer, I kid you not - and wouldn't you know it, they were granted full affiliation - if memory serv es correctly, this was during the 80's.
And the beat goes on, so PLAY ON!
I forgot to mention that I also served as a CYSA-S District Committioner for seven years, representing a good portion of Los Angeles County, until they, the CYSA- BoD decided to reduce the number of district from ten to six, the majority and power of the organization shifted to the Orange county area, eschewing the vast Los Angeles/Latino areas. For those who may not know, some years ago, the adult organization known as Cal South was subsummed and made part of CYSA-S, now known simply as CSA, and from what I've been told, a well known soccer man, Terry Fisher was/is the CEO of this now vast soccer organization.
Thanks Ric. Caused me to take a closer look at CA. Cal South is a US Youth Soccer (USYS) affiliate - Cal North is the other. This is the same structure found in the USYS affiliates in Texas - North Texas, South Texas. I don't know, but I guess in CA, same as TX, 10 teams, 10 pitches to be in their leagues. Clear barrier to entry. I was chatting with a friend recently, MLS Next rearanging chairs on the deck in our city, cancel one club, giving to another. His U17 player was at two clubs his entire career. One is one of the behemoth clubs, 10 pitchs, 40+ teams, $2M+ revenue. The other, up-and-comer, probably with well above 10 teams, maybe on 20, <$1M in revenue. One in US Club Soccer framework, other in USYS South Texas. The two clubs are in the same community. 10 minute drive max, between complexes, never have they played one-another in league play. Never. This nuts. Nuts. Until we fix this - does not matter how kind or good or qualified the leaders of this broken system are - the system is broken. You cannot identify the top players in your community if they do not play one-another - period - end of story - hard stop. Talent ID always starts in the community.
And the road to talent id in youth soccer - goes - gerally speaking to U14. Then you hit academy. I have seen with my own eyes kids playing in South America - in their youth system - never traveling beyond a tight range. Playing in a single pyramid with pro/rel - where goals and other stats are published for all to see - go to the tip of the pyramid at U12 - look for the top scorers - there - you find your future strikers - go to the top of the pyramid at 12 - find the teams with the most clean sheets - there you find your defenders and keepers. This is what their academies do. So simple. USSF needs to be leading states for form localized structures that are similar. What I describe above is the urban configuration in city that systematically produces world class players. One of the players from that urban context is a starting CB for Barca. That same country has a rural pipeline - one of their rural players - is the young staring striker for Liverpool. The City Group owns a team in that rural environment, they are missing so much talent with their urban net, that they are building a rural academy structure as I write, it may be in production, with the intention to compete for the talent coming out of their rural context. All this rest on top of a single pyramid system, where youth do not travel until they join academies at U14. The id all the talent in the youth systems and in the Academies it is cultivated and developed. We need USSF to be leading us the a single pyramid structure in every state, in their major mets and their rural contexts. This is the way. Have a nice day.
edit - City Group owns a team and academy in the urban context - not the rural - that is the one under construction. Excuse my ramble. Have nice day.