Category: United States

Success – A Documentary from Arch Rivals FC

Has a New York City charter school network discovered a new template for soccer development in America? Arch Rivals FC looks at an innovative, school-based soccer program at Success Academy in New York. For decades, soccer in America has been rooted in the suburbs. High costs for travel and club teams mean players from low-income backgrounds are often shut out. Success Academy’s program is bringing the game to neighborhoods where soccer has been missing.

Stories like these are why I have become so disgruntled when looking back at my younger playing days. I can’t even fathom how much money my parents spent on soccer clubs and the various fees accompanying those club experiences. I was one of four kids and even at a young age, I could tell what a strain it put on my parents. Fortunately, my parents had great jobs and they made it work so I could pursue my dream of playing soccer but if they hadn’t my soccer career would have probably stopped dead in its tracks. It’s confounding how a sport that can be played anywhere and has such a low barrier to entry equipment wise, can be such a hard sport to afford if you want to develop. There are many problems with soccer in America but I firmly believe that this is the first thing we need to solve before we can reach the next level on the international scene.

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On Promotion – Relegation: A Default Response to the Status Quo Crowd

By @k2thedubs

 

I’ve decided to write a clear and concise response to the seemingly endless conversations I have had on promotion – relegation. Rather than rehash the debate ad nauseum on each occasion, I will simply refer my interlocuters to this piece and refrain from engaging in a discussion until they address the question posed at this article’s conclusion.

The question regarding promotion – relegation is a philosophical question. Should the market be open with freedom of access to any interested clubs[1] who agree to move up or down based on the merit of their performance? Or should the market be closed with access to top-flight soccer restricted to a small subset of clubs selected for participation based on the discretion of a handful of bureaucrats of questionable motivations and expertise?

Full stop. That is a straightforward conceptual question that requires an answer. You either support an open system or a closed system.

If you side with an open system, great. Let’s discuss next steps and begin formulating an action plan for executing an integrated soccer pyramid.

If you side with a closed system, then I challenge you to explain why. I have yet to see a cogent rebuttal to the promotion – relegation argument, but I’m open ears and invite any contrarians to make the case.

I have found that the closed system crowd generally sidesteps the philosophical question at the heart of the matter and instead jumps ahead to posit some excuse(s) about the difficulty of implementing promotion – relegation.

That line of thinking is completely backwards. That is akin to opposing climate change and efforts to mitigate its effects due to perceived, whether actual or imagined, difficulty in enacting effective policies to thwart its impact (i.e. achieve the desired objective of the original question).

We must first come to an answer of the initial question – open or closed system or to intervene or ignore climate change. Then, once that question is answered, we can delve into the practical ramifications of that answer, irrespective of their level of difficulty.

For as long as I’ve been following soccer, the discussion has been flipped on its head with proponents of our closed system demanding justification for a shift to an open system. I do not accept this premise.

The rest of the world adheres to an open system, and examples of success can be observed in dozens of countries spanning diverse cultures, backgrounds, and geographies. We have no reason to expect we would not experience similar success if we would elect to follow this approach[2].

We are the exception, not the rule. We are the outlier, and our track record shows that our approach is unsuccessful and offers no evidence to refute the proven model used by the rest of the world[3].

We must reframe this conversation. Why should advocates of an open system have to justify their position? Instead, proponents of a closed system should explain why they perpetually choose to not adopt the best practices used by the rest of the world when we have repeatedly failed using our alternative method. Defaulting to the preservation of the status quo without sensible rationale is fallacious and insufficient, particularly when the status quo involves a prolonged history of discriminatory conduct.

I challenge the closed system crowd to provide a convincing explanation for maintaining our closed system, despite evidence of its ineffectiveness, and electing to not adopt (or initiate plans to adopt) an open system. Until I hear a persuasive counterargument against promotion – relegation I’m going to immediately suspend the conversation because, until that question is satisfactorily answered, there is no productive dialogue to be had.

Closed system crowd, the ball is in your court. Please present your case (remember to limit your response to the philosophical question). Any replies related to the implementation of promotion – relegation are invalid and will be dismissed.

 

Addendum

The replies have begun to roll in and I must say I’m thoroughly unimpressed. My prompt specifically requested responses to the philosophical question rather than excuses, but I have yet to see many follow that overture. Instead, I have seen all the typical stale excuses and have highlighted the most frequent offenders below.

  • Dearth of Resources / Infrastructure
  • Lack of Interest
  • Insufficient Money / Investment
  • Not the Right Timing
  • Partial Promotion – Relegation for lower divisions[4]

Each of these defenses has been effectively argued against so I will not spend any time regurgitating what has already been said.

There has been one argument that some have clung to which is worth debunking because it is particularly specious to the point of absurdity.

To those who argue that it’s unfair to open the market because MLS owners have invested money to buy into a closed market, I urge you to consider the flaws in that logic. The notion that MLS owners have a credible gripe about fairness is quite ironic since the primary basis of their investment was the artificial scarcity and anti-competitiveness permitted by USSF legislation, which marginalizes all but a select few communities.

I’ve yet to see an MLS owner advocate for an open system, which illustrates that they have no problem investing in and benefiting from a closed system (to the detriment of many others who are less fortunate), but are ready to cry foul when the rules shift to a more just and equitable structure. Oh, the hypocrisy. This is like a drug cartel complaining about the prospect of heighted competition and less favorable business dynamics when a new Chief of Police comes to power and terminates their pre-existing bribery arrangements.

Second, if the perceived “unfairness” related to the dilution of their investment (it must be stated that this is a practical ramification of the philosophical question) is the main impediment, then we can figure out a solution. The prospect of a difficult policy solution does not validate the persistence of a rigged system. I think a simple remedy is to offer a buy-out, to make whole at the cost of their investment, to any MLS owner(s) who desire to forego their investment in an open system.

I would expect few[5], if any, MLS owners would be interested in reneging on their investment because they understand the potential of an open system, which is incredibly telling in and of itself. In terms of the buy-out, I would suggest the remaining MLS owners pony up to reimburse their colleagues who desire to leave. They can use proceeds from the handsome profits they have accumulated over their years of monopolistic advantage.  Seems like that problem is resolved.

Third, in terms of unfairness, these owners enjoy a massive structural advantage from their many years of participation in the first division. Every MLS franchise would have an enormous head start, some for more than two decades, over the rest of American soccer clubs. If they are so afraid of being dethroned by the existence of fair and open competition, that, again, reveals so much.

Ultimately, if you find that your sympathies lie with the plight of monopolists’ losing their institutionalized advantage over the empowerment and sanctioning of opportunity to the public at large, I urge you to reexamine your beliefs.

 

 

[1] Provided they comply with any established prerequisites and standards.

[2] I’m going to pre-empt a tired argument that some may be contemplating. None of the mainstream American sports are comparable to soccer because they are not sports that exist in a global, borderless ecosystem that involves regular international competition (for results, players, resources, tactics, strategies, etc…).

American sports are akin to the utilities industry, as they are largely uncompetitive (globally) and quasi-monopolistic, and they cannot be compared to truly open marketplaces as their underlying dynamics are different. The comparable for American soccer is not the NFL, MLB, or NBA whose competitive ecosystems are either entirely or largely confined to the U.S. The comparable is other domestic soccer systems in countries across the world who virtually all utilize promotion – relegation.

[3] Contrary to the myth that MLS peddles, I have, as have many others, disputed their notion of progress at length in the following pieces – here, here, here, and here.

[4] This violates the central tenet of the philosophical question. You either support an open system or not. There is no gray area.

[5] MLS owners may pretend this is not the case for the time-being because it is in their best interest (and conversely, the worst interest of US Soccer as a whole) to preserve their monopoly, but, if push came to shove and promotion-relegation was on the precipice of implementation, I challenge you to identify any owner who would willingly accept a buy-out at cost and relinquish their opportunity at massive capital appreciation in the open market. We cannot let the monopolists’ self-serving objections dictate policy for the entirety of our country.

 

High School Soccer Vs. US Soccer Development Academy

From Goal Nation:

Brandon Quaranta, Director of Coaching for Baltimore Celtic SC and McDonogh High School Varsity Boys Soccer Head Coach, shares his thoughts on the overlapping world of High School and Academy.  This is a debate — or discussion — which flairs up and makes everyone question what is really best for America’s elite youth soccer players …. And, whose decision should it be?

This debate will take awhile to be resolved and it is a real shame. As a player who once played both club and high school soccer I am a firm believer that both have their benefits. While I understand that high school soccer isn’t as developed and the competition is below the quality of club soccer I do not believe that makes it useless. There’s a bond and level of camaraderie that one gets from playing high school sports that they can’t get from club sports. Most of these players won’t end up in the professional ranks and of the few who do many won’t be successful. Therefore, for those players sport experiences are just as important as the training they received. In that regard the experiences they would gain from playing high school soccer are worth their weight in gold. It is not fair to take that completely away from them. There must be a way to compromise so that these players can receive the superior training of their club teams without completely giving up on high school soccer. I hope for the sake of america’s youth that a compromise is reached sooner rather than later because I feel for those players who are being deprived of high school soccer.

Click the hyperlink above to read the entire article. Brandon offers a very unique point of view on this issue.

USWNT for Club and Country (Video)

The fast-approaching Women’s World Cup has kept the WNT players tremendously busy around the USA and the world, but they are looking forward to the chance to turn out for their NWSL clubs and play a handful of games before the final stretch run to Canada.

Who else is super excited for the women’s World Cup? In all honesty the women’s World Cup is one of the few sporting events featuring women that I tune into. I don’t want to be sexist but without nationalism attached to a women’s competition I just can’t get excited for it. Maybe that’s the solution to the lower viewership numbers of the WPSL. They need to make every game between teams filled with players from only one country so people can attach their national allegiance to one of the clubs. BAM! That idea just made the WPSL profitable. I’ll be awaiting my check in the mail.

Introducing Christian Pulisic

When Joe Gyau was brought into Borussia Dortmund’s academy there was a lot of excitement.

Although there have been several US players who have played abroad over the past few decades, there have been very few who started on elite teams in Europe. Despite their troubles this year, Borussia Dortmund is regarded as one of the elite teams in Europe, and its academy is credited with churning out a multitude of talented players.
When American teenager Christian Pulisic was offered the opportunity to also join the Borussia Dortmund’s academy, it seemed only natural that he jumped at the chance, even though he had to leave his family and friends for a strange new life in the industrial city of Dortmund.

Christian Pulisic was born in 1998 to Mark and Kelley Pulisic in Hershey, Pennsylvania. His soccer genes can be attributed to his parents, who both played and later coached soccer at George Mason University in Virginia. His dad was also a professional indoor soccer star with the Harrisburg Heat. Christian himself gained some professional experience. albeit at a lesser level. Prior to joining Dortmund’s academy he played for the USL PRO Harrisburg City Islanders. He has also gained some valuable experience playing during various trials at several different academies across Europe. Chelsea and Barcelona were just two of the clubs that offered him trials, making it clear that there was no shortage of choices once Christian decided he wanted to train in Europe.

While growing up, Christian was blessed with a wealth of experiences. During his formative years his dad coached him, always pushing him to challenge himself. As Christian’s career progressed, he left his father’s team for the PA Classics and then joined the U-17 residency program in Bradenton, Florida. In Florida’s program he became the youngest player in the program. Later he was fortunate to have one of the most important experiences in his young career. In 2005-2006 he and his family lived in England, where soccer is an integral part of the nation’s culture. This year abroad deepened Christian’s love for the game and prepared him for life in Dortmund, where he once again lives and plays in a soccer-obsessed culture.

Playing for  U-17 USYT Christian Pulisic typically occupies the number 10 role. It takes a unique player to occupy this position. A player in the number 10 role has to be able to set-up attacks; he also needs the scoring prowess to finish in front of the net. This takes a special type of talent.

At 5’5 and 120 pounds, Christian is not a particularly impressive physical specimen. However, players such as Lionel Messi have proven that players do not have to fit a certain physical mold in order to be effective. Also, because he is only 16, Christian has plenty of time to grow and develop. And he will, with the help of his trainers at Borussia Dortmund.

American soccer fans are always looking for the next soccer prodigy. The weight this expectation puts on the shoulders of talented players such as Christian can ultimately derail their careers. Therefore, it is important to note that Christian Pulisic, although very talented, is not necessarily the number 10 America is looking for now that Landon Donovan has retired. Young American players have notoriously had a tough time being the fish out of water at foreign academies. And the extra element of the German language barrier only adds to the struggle that Christian will face at Borussia Dortmund’s academy. There is a big positive here, though, and that is that Christian recognizes the need to travel abroad in order to achieve his full potential. At the present time, soccer academies in the US are just not good enough to provide the exceptional training developing players require.

While playing in America, Christian was most likely the best player on all of his club teams. At Borussia Dortmund, he is just another talented youngster looking to prove himself.  With the quality coaching staff and emphasis on youth that Dortmund’s academy provides, Christian has a solid chance to reach his potential. Although he has many years before he can even think about starting for the first team, rest assured that the training staff at the academy will do their best to get him there. And, if in the end he fails to make the first team, it is very likely that the training he receives will be good enough land him on another European squad.

It will be several more years before Christian Pulisic factors into the USMNT. While he will surely get a few call-ups here and there from Jurgen Klinsman, he has a lot to prove in his career before he becomes an integral part of the team. Borussia Dortmund is a world-class team with a world-class academy, so although Christian Pulisic will get the best training money can buy, he will also face extremely stiff competition for a first team spot. If he breaks into the first-team at Borussia Dortmund, then he could arguably be the best player on the USMNT. However, if he gets sold to a lesser Bundesliga or EPL club, he can still be an important player for the USMNT, although there is no guarantee.

Because he is so young, Christian Pulisic has the opportunity to spend the next few years playing in the midst of excellent competition. At Borussia Dortmund, he is on the right path so far. And, if he is lucky to make it onto the first team and his career falls under the tutelage of Jurgen Klopp, then the sky is the limit. The American soccer fans that have watched him closely certainly hope Borussia Dortmund’s academy will help him fulfill his potential.

First published in First Touch

Matt Besler vs The MeUndies Soccer Babes

Here’s Matt Besler’s recent advertisement for MeUndies and it has all the ingredients for commercial success: sports and attractive females in underwear. I had never heard of this underwear company until today but rest assured after this commercial I won’t forget them. The best part about this commercial is it has something for everyone. The guys get to see cute girls in underwear and the girls get to see a good looking soccer player in underwear. It’s a win-win for everybody.

It’s Time For USMNT To Get Carter-Vickers

A lot has been made recently of DeAndre Yedlin’s move from the Seattle Sounders to Tottenham Hotspur. However, many US soccer fans might not be aware that there has already been a US national team defensive prospect on Tottenham for a few years now. His name is Cameron Carter-Vickers, and this 17-year-old is one of the most impressive central defensive prospects in the US youth system. 

However, the problem is that he is also an impressive central defensive prospect in the English youth system. Therefore, the longer he goes uncapped for the USA, the more time England has to realize his skill and take up the option.

Cameron Carter-Vickers was born and raised in Southend, England, the son of an American father, Howard Carter, and an English mother.  At the age of 11 he joined the Tottenham academy and has remained there ever since. The athleticism he has displayed thus far for Tottenham reminds many of his athletically talented father, a former professional basketball player who was a member of LSU’s Final Four team in 1981 and played in the NBA for the Denver Nuggets. Although Cameron Carter-Vickers grew up playing both basketball and soccer, he decided to stay with the sport of soccer and the skills he learned playing both sports have definitely helped him as a player. When his parents later separated, Cameron stayed in England, maintaining a connection to his adopted homeland through annual visits to his father’s home in Baton Rouge, Lousiana.

Carter-Vickers stands at 6’1 and weighs a solid 190 pounds. His height and strength give him the power to fend off defenders and dominate in aerial battles, which is why he has excelled as a central defender. It helps that Tottenham has the pedigree to successfully develop central defenders who have been trained by their academy. Sol Campbell and Ledley King are examples of Tottenham-trained defenders who enjoyed very successful careers as center backs in the Premier League. Therefore, it is safe to say that Tottenham is one of the better academies for Cameron to train in so that he can become the best central defender he can be. Recently, he signed a two-year contract that will keep him at White Hart Lane until 2016. He has plenty of time at Tottenham to continue his development.

As is the case with most dual-nationals, US Soccer needs to reach out early and often if it hopes to secure key players’ allegiance before another FA comes calling. So far US Soccer has done so. During a tournament at IMG Academy in December 2013, while he was playing for Tottenham’s youth academy team. US Scouts noticed that Cameron was eligible for a US passport . U-18 head coach Javier Perez reached out to Cameron and Tottenham about his availability. Soon after, Cameron acquired an American passport and made his debut for the U-18 squad. By October 2014 he was being called into the U-23 camp and starting against Brazil. Despite the obvious interest from the US he still has no caps that tie him to US soccer so his long-term international future remains up for grabs

There is a lot of upside to Cameron Carter-Vickers. At age 17 he is one of the youngest players on the U-20 US Youth National team, and he has already solidified himself as one of their two first-choice center backs. The sky is the limit for him as long as he gets the time he needs in order to develop. At a club of Tottenham’s size there is always the concern that Cameron will have trouble breaking into the first team. Although this concern is very real, during his time at Southampton Tottenham’s head coach Mauricio Pochettino has shown that he believes in giving youth players from the academy a chance with the first team. After a few years, when Cameron Carter-Vickers reaches the point when he can challenge for a first-team spot, he will surely get a chance, assuming Mauricio is still there. If not, the Tottenham academy will have prepared him well for a career on another Premier League or Championship team.

When asked which country he would like to represent, he has stated his desire to play for the USMNT. However, his rapid progress has not gone unnoticed by the England media. Although the English FA has made no overtures, there is no guarantee that there is not one coming in the future.  Under Jurgen Klinsman, the current USMNT coaching regime has had much success in luring dual nationals to play for the US, but the failure to convince Giuseppe Rossi and Neven Subotic still haunts US Soccer. There is much hope that Cameron Carter-Vickers will not join that sobering list.

Even though he is still young, it is imperative that Cameron get capped as soon as possible. If he performs well at the U-20 World Cup in New Zealand this summer, it is safe to assume that England FA could decide to make him a primary target. Therefore, with a dual-national player of Carter-Vickers’ caliber, the USMNT needs to make its move, striking while the iron is heating up, instead of once it is scalding hot. By that point it might be too late.

First Published in First Touch