U.S. Soccer outlines its five-pillar strategy, including 'accelerated initiatives'

U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone (far left) and CEO/Secretary General JT Batson (far right) with men's national team coach Gregg Berhalter and sporting director Matt Crocker.

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With hosting the 2026 Men's World Cup on the horizon, U.S. Soccer, the nation's soccer governing body, announced its wide-ranging "Strategic Vision."

It's built around five pillars driven by what U.S. Soccer describes as "core philosophies" such as “all soccer is soccer” and “scalability is key.”

The U.S. Soccer Strategic Vision spans supporting the grassroots game, the Safe Soccer Clearance Program, the further popularization of soccer in the USA, national team success, and raising money for those efforts.

U.S. Soccer runs 27 national teams: men’s and women’s, youth national teams, and extended national teams  (beach, CP, deaf, futsal and power pro).

The five pillars are:

1. Grow the game.
2. Foster best playing environments.
3. Develop winning teams.
4. Grow the soccer economy to fuel reinvestment.
5. Create a world-class organization.

The accelerated initiatives are: World Cup 2026 Legacy, Safe Soccer Clearance Program, Growing the Number of Referees, Democratizing Soccer Knowledge, Unified Sporting Strategy and Ecosystem Partnerships.

U.S. Soccer added to its web site a "Strategic Vision" section that will be updated as the initiatives progress, HERE

A letter to the U.S. Soccer community from President Cindy Parlow-Cone and JT Batson CEO/Secretary General opened with:

"The 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup will bring the biggest sporting event in history to our shores in less than three years. Opportunities like these are once-in-a-generation, which is why we are committed to working with all of you to use this moment to transform the game in our country forever and for the better. Together, we have an extraordinary opportunity to inspire millions of players, coaches, referees and fans of all ages. ...

"U.S. Soccer’s external engagement team will be reaching out to discuss what this means for you and to determine next steps to operationalize these goals. ..."

Among the accelerated initiatives, U.S. Soccer promises in the coming months to partner with the referee community to launch recruitment programs.

The "World Cup 2026 Legacy" aims to "engage national, regional and local stakeholders to drive grassroots participation, engage and cultivate a new generation of fans and unlock new funding to ensure that we make the most of this unprecedented opportunity."

Photo by Mike Woitalla
23 comments about "U.S. Soccer outlines its five-pillar strategy, including 'accelerated initiatives'".
  1. frank schoon, September 14, 2023 at 8 a.m.

    This whole plan says absolutely NOTHING!!! It's so general that even my cat could take credit to anything productive that the USSF accidently could do.  What has Cindy Cole done so far??? Has she ever talked about player development, etc.......I know she has spend time on making the numerous soccer committees having equal soccer representation....and other stuff on Administrative side of the equation.  

    "Create a World Class Organization'??? To do that ,I would get rid of these characters, first....

    "Develop Winning Teams"???? How 'bout first developing better players than the 'crappy' , insufficient technical players were consistently are producing.....

  2. R2 Dad replied, September 14, 2023 at 6:09 p.m.

    I'm sure it was an impressive Powerpoint deck!

  3. Ben Myers, September 14, 2023 at 9:21 a.m.

    The stated goals are hogwash.  Still more wash.  They whitewash the fact that the US is so lacking in player development and competent coaching.

  4. Kerry Solomon replied, September 14, 2023 at 1:10 p.m.

    I agree with Ben Myers.  The only way to have success is to have competent coaches from the top down. With GB, we don't have a competent coach at the top, so they are off to a poor start.

  5. Kerry Solomon replied, September 14, 2023 at 1:11 p.m.

    Also, players lack ball skills from the top down on both the USMNT & USWNT.  This is a sad state of affairs.

  6. "Roy Turner", September 14, 2023 at 9:38 a.m.

    If the federation is going to address player development at the senior national level first, once again that's ass backwards. Can't keep following a top-down process. It has to start at the ground floor.

  7. Ben Myers replied, September 14, 2023 at 12:26 p.m.

    I agree 1000% from what I have seen at the grassroots and less elite club play. Coaching U13 and U14 players, I sometimes have to undo poor habits and poor technique, either taught or ignored by unqualified coaches of the younger feeder teams.

  8. Miriam Hickey, September 14, 2023 at 11:01 a.m.

    US Soccer does not have any plans for #1 and 2 as players are in platforms outside of USSF control and cannot mandate initiatives that would achieve the set goals. Only initiatives for Referee and Coach development are under their control.

    #3 creating winning teams? 

    I can see the writing on the wall and the fastest, biggest, strongest players will be selected to represent the US at the youngest US national team levels so we can win?! Good thing Messi was not born in the US...

  9. Bob Ashpole, September 14, 2023 at 11:21 a.m.

    "Develop winning teams" They are telling the world that the way to grow the sport is to "develop winning teams". 

    Are they crazy or is it just me. That is a soccer business marketing plan tailored for the fans. It is not thinking about the sport at all. 

    No wonder they rehired Berhalter. He is cheap, his employment promotes MLS, and USSF doesn't want change.

    The fundamental development problem with emphasizing "winning" is that everyone can't win a match. The desire to win is a healthy atitude for the individual play, but it stinks as a primary goal of development coaches and people in charge of program. It stinks because it distracts from how success is obtained. Development coaches and program managers have to look and plan beyond the end of a match.

    I think Tony DiCicco's philosophy is the best: Play hard, play fair, play to win, have fun. Quite literally how you play is more important than match results. I believe, and I think Tony's thought was also, focusing on how you play leads to future success on the field. 

  10. Santiago 1314 replied, September 14, 2023 at 3:05 p.m.

    Disagree.... This is NATIONAL TEAM LEVEL...
    That is and SHOULD Be the Focus of the National Team Program...
    Nothing Draws more Players than BIGGER PAYCHECKS...
    Youth Players are Going to Choose SPORT, base on Clicks On the Internet... Butts in the Seats....and EYES on the Tele.!!!

    Those Sports that Accomplish THOSE Goals... Get BIGGER SPONSOR MONEY and can Pay BIGGER PAYCHECKS.!!!

    Just Look at College Football and NIL....
    TOP Players going to Choose ALABAMA or Vanderbilt.???
    They gonna Follow the Money.!!! The FAME,,,, The GLORY...

    It's the Same thing in Youth Sports... TOP Athletes are gonna eventually Choose the "Bright Lights" and WINNERS.!!!

  11. Bob Ashpole replied, September 14, 2023 at 11:16 p.m.

    Santi, I agree 100% with you as far as the senior team go. But that is not player development. Ultimately the best long term stategy for having a winning senior team is to develop better players. So development should be about player development, not about developing winning teams. The objective of developing winning teams is the primary distractor impeding player development in the US.

  12. Bob Ashpole replied, September 14, 2023 at 11:20 p.m.

    Santi, in baseball minor league managers are paid to send players to the majors. The focus is on individual players. No one cares how the team performs.

  13. Philip Carragher replied, September 15, 2023 at 11:06 a.m.

    Santi and Bob, I liked the approach I used as a middle school coach: we had two seasons, regular and playoffs. Regular season was to teach them how to play, playoffs to teach them how to win. Everyone played equal amounts during the regular season, all bets were off in the playoffs. These were two very different animals and both important parts of player development.

  14. Bob Ashpole replied, September 15, 2023 at 7:32 p.m.

    Phillip I don't think winning is bad. Your approach is great, however, your coaching objective is not to win games, but to teach the players how to win games. That objective is part of player development.

  15. Philip Carragher replied, September 16, 2023 at 11:47 a.m.

    Thanks Bob. An important distinction.

  16. humble 1, September 14, 2023 at 11:37 a.m.

    Contextual note: USSF is responsible only for the FIFA side of soccer.  Has nothing to say about the 50 State bodies that govern High Soccer, or any of the NCAA, NAIA, and numerous JAs, and College Club Soccer, which between them, have more facilities and players and resources than all that USSF contains.  This folks - is our free soccer platform.  Shouldn't they at least acknowledge that integrating and leveraging our free soccer program, one of the largest in the world, is key to 'growing the game'?  I would have put growing a world class organzation under another heading as the organzation exists to serve, nothing more, soccer players. Case in point - Argentina Football Association - AFA - who would single out their AFA as a world class oranization?  No one - not even Lionel Messi.  This is a joke.  For reference in English - go check out Australia's One Football Strategy 2022-2026 - simple focused - time bound.  Have a nice day.  

  17. humble 1 replied, September 14, 2023 at 11:48 a.m.

    I know this is done with all the best intentions - and I wish them all the best - but there are so many hurdles to leap. For me here in USA - USSF should focus like a laser on three things (1) more and better coachs, (2) more and better referees, and (3) opening closed leagues - thru pro/rel  to give a single pyramid in every state and major metro area - give a path.  ECNL and MLS Next - on the boys side - all these clubs should be playing one another in every state and major metro area - and the best USYS and US Club Soccer and AYSO teams should  have a path to playing them as well - in their metro areas.   This is enough - the rest - takes care of itself.  If you want to take a look at city and metro area that does a pretty good job - could be better - but has close to a single pyramid and has been producting players for over a decade - go to Dallas/Ft. Worth - take the time to understand - in detail - how - in spite of USSF - they have gotten themselves - close to - ECNL and MLS Next aside - below that - close to a single pyramid.  Their MLS Club is actually integrated into the local school system - as I write above - the kids go to public school and thier statium is shared with the local public HS system.  Take a look.  We can do it!     

  18. Bob Ashpole replied, September 14, 2023 at 1:59 p.m.

    Humble 1, your approach leads to more and better quality opportunites for players to develop. (Ditto for coaches and officials too.)

    Why would anyone do otherwise? Anyone that cared about the sport that is.

  19. Ben Myers, September 14, 2023 at 12:39 p.m.

    In reply and in support of humble 1: Although the USSF web site seems to be almost 100% about the national teams, US Youth Soccer is a subsidiary of USSF.  So is MLS with its MLS Next and other youth soccer operations.  So why can't USSF lean on US Youth Soccer and MLS to make some changes that benefit player development?  

    Your example is an excellent one.  Provide a single pyramid in every state and major metro area - give a path.  This ECNL and MLS Next travel of hundreds of miles to play an in-league opponent is a waste of time and money and for what?

    As for NCAA, NAIA, and state high school sports associations, and college club soccer, yes, they are organizations independent of USSF.  So what?  Negotiate!  Talk about the issues and try to find solutions. Find a common ground. 

    We are not talking rocket science here, just good, hard work focused on the issue of how to develop soccer players best. 

    Use Dallas/Fort Worth as a role model for how to do it in other metro areas. 

  20. Robert Wilson, September 14, 2023 at 4:56 p.m.

    Interesting comments here.  Some very constructive ideas.  But we need to face reality -- "US Youth Soccer is a subsidiary of USSF.  So is MLS. . . ."  This statement is false.  USSF is a subsidiary of MLS.  Don Garber is the de facto head of the entire football pyramid in the USA.  There is no way to get around that fact.  And it is that fact that has generated this entire exchange of ideas.  

  21. humble 1 replied, September 15, 2023 at 12:57 p.m.

    Robert, yes, that aspect of the sport is beyond opaque, it's murky, but it is a 501c3 so, if you can to look, you can.  I sense that some, nay, many, like it this way.  For the record - US Youth Soccer (USYS) - runs youth leagues - so does US Club Soccer and so does American Youth Soccer Organziation (AYSO), MLS Next, is also techincally a youth league, run by MLS. The competitor of MLS Next, ECNL boys and girls, is run by US Club Soccer.  All of these fall under the 'youth' branch of USSF.  These are all members of the youth side of USSF.  They are - closed leagues.  Try and move your player from USYS to US Club Soccer in the middle of a season - or from one club to another inside one of those 'youth' organization - and you will be introduced to their dark 'closed' side.  The reistance  you meet are barriers to your money leaving one club for another or one youth context to another - plain and simple.  When I first rolled into soccer - via my son - around 2010 - Sunil Gulati and Chuck Blazer were at the pinacle of their power at CONCACAF and USSF respectively, along with Don Garber.  None of those three were soccer players or coaches in their professional careers (or in their youth, I believe).  (Not broaching Soccer United Marketing (SUM) here - whole other can of worms) it still exists, but it's contract with USSF ended in 2022, still Don Garber is it's CEO as well as the Commisioner of the MLS, and, he is in his 13th term on the USSF Board of Directors as a Pro Council Representative.  A visit to the USSF website to find their mission statement - in 2010 - returned nothing, at the end of 2010 the 501c3 was sitting on over over $80 million in assets.  That was 2010 friends - and the SAT on that treasure until real soccer people took over - helped unravel all the mess - and it was paid out in lawsuits.  They never expected to have to pay it out and they invested in our youth, coaches or referees!  I ask pragmatic questions, operational questions, in the hopes that something sticks.  We can and should be doing much more for our youth with the resources we have.  I am actually ok with the folks we have USSF today - still we need to keep asking questions and hold them accountable.  Not rocket science - but murky waters - yes they are.  This mission statement - far too complex - and - murky - do not like.  We need a mission that is Simple and Time-bound. This is soccer after all - just a ball and a pitch.  Don't over complicate it.  Thank you.  

  22. humble 1 replied, September 15, 2023 at 1:01 p.m.

    self-correction "They never expected to have to pay it out and they [NEVER] invested in our youth, coaches or referees!" [THE 10S OF MILLIONS THEY SAT ON FOR OVER A DECADE]

  23. humble 1 replied, September 15, 2023 at 1:44 p.m.

    Very exciting the news about USSF HQ and Training Center in Atlanta.  Another data point showing - this leadership - actually leading.  City of Chicago choice to not bid on WC in 2018 - while being home of USSF - was the low point of the prior USSF leadership and put on display their disconnect from their community on top of the sport.  Ivory tower.  This move - to Atlanta with the backing of Mr. Blank - this - is powerful.  I am not big fan of the Mission statement - but it's implementation is far more important than the words - and this move from Chicago to Atlanta - long time coming.  Brilliant.   

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