The real problem is that we are not good enough.
We aren’t good enough YET, and the reason behind that is that we aren’t maximizing our potential for youth and professional development.
On the youth side, we have a nation that is fragmented by the organizations it can join. Whether its US Youth Soccer, US Club Soccer, AYSO, there is an organization out there that will cater to what you want. A clear, unified initiative for youth development is severely lacking where many organizations cater towards profit maximization compared to maximizing development. With US Soccer’s recent initiatives towards smaller numbers, field sizes, age placements for teams, some initiatives are being rolled out but it is still an uphill battle when the battle cry from angry parents continues to be that “we will take our kid somewhere else then.”
Talent is consistently falling through the cracks in a nation that is gripped by pay to play and $700 uniforms. The Academy format, both with ECNL and the USSDA, on the women’s and men’s side continue to charge exorbitant amounts of money for their product which in turn sees both programs cater to a very specific subset of American children. Some programs luckily subsidize their costs for all players, but when you see MLS teams who are still charging thousands of dollars for players to join their academy or pre-academy, you have to wonder who we’re disenfranchising from the system.
At the youth level, we are not maximizing our potential for youth development and this has caused huge problems both for our domestic league and our national team.
The professional side may be even worse.
Klinsmann has caught the ire of Don Garber and pretty much anyone who is paid by MLS due to his comments that we want our players to play at higher levels, i.e. top European leagues, compared to MLS. Most argue, scream, and throw a tantrum accusing Klinsmann of hurting the game domestically, but fail to see that our own domestic league continues to hurt the game more than we can imagine.
We have a system in place where you have to BUY your way in to Major League Soccer for the price of $100 million or more. When LAFC was beginning to form, it was alleged that more than 5 separate investment groups had the capacity to pay that $100 Million franchise fee, but what happens? 1 group is chosen, and it begs the question of what happens to the other groups who are ready to invest that kind of money in soccer in the United States?
We have a system in the United States where we are comfortable with a monopoly on what we consider 1st Division within our professional leagues and refuse access to other teams unless they have a lot of cash (see $100 million or more). Open access creates real competition and drives innovation, forcing teams to compete differently based on their financial means and resources. A closed system allows teams to continue getting draft picks or having players thrown at them by the league for manufactured parity. We are a league that loves parity, but forget that parity breeds mediocrity. Why in the world are we surprised then when that mediocrity spreads to the national team.
We have a system in place in which we over-spend for players due to their marketability. The top ten earners in MLS account for 35.5% of the entire LEAGUE payroll. Kaka currently earns $7.1 million dollars with Orlando City. His teammate, Luke Boden, earns $75,000. That’s almost 100X less. Let that sink in. No one is arguing that Kaka shouldn’t earn more than Luke Boden, but we are beginning to enter into a crisis in which a wage bubble is occurring that will inevitably break the system.
MLS, often arguing that it isn’t the NASL of old, has a wage bill which tells a different story. Instead of paying $7.1 million dollars for one player, imagine if the league decided on paying $700,000 for ten players who are of better quality than the majority of MLS. Ten great, but old, players don’t help improve a league as much as 50 good, younger players. One helps ticket sales, the other helps improve the quality of the competition on a more comprehensive level
USA: MLS: 8, Premier League: 2, Bundesliga: 1
Mexico: Liga MX: 3, Portuguese Primeira Liga: 2, Dutch Eridivisie: 2, La Liga: 1, Serie A: 1, Bundesliga: 1, Premier League: 1.
This season’s first week of Champions League play saw 7 Mexican National Team players compete. How many for the United States National Team? 0. How can there be an argument that our players are better suited by receiving huge paychecks to compete in a league that won’t maximize their own development? How can people yell at Klinsmann for asking players to try and compete at higher levels to help their own growth as a player which in turn helps the ability of the national team?
This article has gone in ten different directions because there are ten different problems facing the US National Team, and almost all of them are deeper than just surface level. It is EASY to just say it’s Klinsmann’s fault and assume that all these problems go away once a new manager comes in. It’s easy, but also extremely foolish.
We have eaten up a narrative that Klinsmann is bad, anyone that raises points against MLS is bad, and anyone that argues that US Soccer isn’t in an ideal position is bad. Let’s try and have a more balanced approach, and appreciate that while Klinsmann may not be best suited for his position as head coach, he isn’t the main problem.
- Paul Cammarata
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