Everyone involved in US Soccer is reeling after the United States’ U23 men’s soccer team failed to qualify for the Toyko Olympics on Sunday after losing to Honduras 2-1. As a result, the above video is making its rounds in soccer parenting and coaching social media groups.
The question is, will US youth soccer get to this level? Are we already at this level in certain areas of the country- and if so, what is the disconnect? If not, what do we need to do as a nation to get there?
Pundits from around the country are weighing in on the state of US Soccer. One of the more controversial statements came from Mario Carrillo, a former assistant coach with the Mexican national team.
“I think they were very arrogant,” said Carrillo on Sunday’s edition of Futbol Picante on ESPN Deportes. “You should never miss out on the Olympics. The level of play at a tournament like that is very important [to prepare] for the World Cup.”
Some argue that, while the U.S. men missing out on the Olympics is certainly discouraging, there were several mitigating circumstances that didn’t work in their favor. As written in Brian Straus of Sports Illustrated
Take a group in preseason form that hadn’t had the chance to play meaningful games together, bring them into the heat and altitude of Guadalajara for games against opponents well into their own club seasons, and hope they jell quickly enough to succeed. That was Kreis’s assignment—manufacture results under adversity—and he and his charges ultimately weren’t up to the challenge. Their failure isn’t as much an indictment of the program as it was in 2012 or ’15. The overall trajectory remains good. It’s still a massive disappointment, however, as this generation of players now will miss out on a chance to test themselves in a meaningful tournament on the global stage.
As the dad of two sons going through the US soccer system, I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Firstly, US Soccer has not figured out how to use the large sums of money available in soccer properly. This goes to pay-to-play scholarships, infrastructure spending on soccer fields and free play areas, coaching support and broadening the popularity of the sport. At the local level, the industry has become an unregulated dogfight over who gets their little piece of the pie with too many clubs claiming “elite” training status.
Add to that the fact that there is no home-grown coaching system so everyone who couldn’t make it as a coach elsewhere in the world comes here to live their coaching dreams with great success – regardless of their ability. There needs to be a farm system of some sort. Lots of community “semi-pro” soccer teams like Canada does with hockey.
Also, while there is a lot of work that needs to be done, there are many pros coming out of the college system. Build something under MLS and limit non-US players while making it attractive for the best of the best foreigners to come. Right now there is little coordination between Club U19 and Nat’l Team/ MLS/ pro elsewhere. That huge gap with nothing creates a huge development gap. So our “experts” are usually more worried about how to monetize (valid so they can live) rather than coaching. They have to take in huge numbers of kids they know have no shot to make money to live. What do you think?