After Tuesday night’s debacle, many fans, media and those within the sport demanding changes within US Soccer. Even the American Outlaws made a statement demanding Bruce Arena and Sunil Gulati step down as manager and president respectively.
We can argue whether or not it was actually their fault but as the AO pointed out, “The buck stops with them,” and they should take responsibility.
Arena wasn’t likely to stay in charge of the team if the United States had qualified for 2018 so he’s likely out. As far as Gulati goes, unless he resigns (which I doubt), he would need to be voted out in an election. The next election is set for 2018 and unlike the previous three times, Gulati will be challenged for the presidency. Some bids have already come in and before Tuesday night, it would have appeared that Gulati would win. But now we’re in a new era and Gulati’s position may be at its weakest since being elected in 2006.
Since Tuesday, I have seen many call for Gulati’s head and some have given suggestions on who should be his successor. After thinking about it, I got the idea that maybe I should run for USSF President.
Obviously, in the real world, I have no chance. But in an imaginary, idealistic world, why not? US Soccer and its fans need someone who represents them, not officials in Zurich. They need someone who identifies with fans and makes decisions based on how it improves the sport in this country and not people’s pockets. And while I haven’t played professionally or have been a soccer administrator, it hasn’t really stopped other people from outside of soccer from becoming President so a lack of experience seems kind of moot at this point.
But more importantly, US Soccer needs change and that change starts at the youth level. I am all for getting rid of the “pay for play” youth soccer system that chokes away the avenues for all kids to be able to play youth soccer and therefore lose out on that next big superstar just because their family can’t afford it. But at the same time, “pay for play” is likely here to stay because it’s so entrenched in our American system so how do we work around that and improve?
For one thing, US Soccer has been bragging about this $100 million surplus they have obtained and while this isn’t as sexy as a brand new headquarters in Los Angeles, I would spend a portion of the money on making it free to take coaching classes and obtain licenses and hire more scouts.
It can be argued that US players now are more talented than they ever were but the problem is a lack of talented coaches throughout the country. Sure, there are some great coaches but many are still simply volunteer parents who do it because nobody else wants to. And while those people should be commended and there’s a pretty good chance that nobody is going to be the next big star, that doesn’t mean every kid shouldn’t deserve a licensed and trained soccer coach.
Because many either aren’t being paid that much or not at all, they aren’t bothering to pay money to undergo US Soccer’s coaching program. US Soccer has eight licenses one must undergo if they want to be a top level manager. Obviously, not everyone strives or even can be that so each level corresponds with a certain age group.
The first level, Level F, is designed for coaches of 5-8 year olds which is more focused on teaching kids the basics. That costs $25 and is online only. Level E is for 9-12 year olds and that is up to $150 but also requires you to travel and consists of a three-day course. Granted, programs are done at various times throughout the United States, but you’re asking for a major time and financial commitment to someone who may be doing this and not getting paid a dime. At least the time commitment is worth it if the coach is adequately trained.
For most, some form of a Level F, E or D license is suitable for coaching youth soccer up to 14 years of age and younger. And taking those three courses would cost $325 and a total of 56-60 hours of work. If you were to go through the entire course to get your A license, would cost a little over $9,000 total.
And while this would prevent some coaches to be better trained, this doesn’t really much of an effect on US Soccer’s “bottom line.” In their end of year 2016 statements (which can be downloaded here), it cost US Soccer a total of $3,489,835 and raised $1,169,968 in revenue as a result of the coaching program. It should be noted that in that year, US Soccer reported a net asset increase (because they are a non-profit) of $14,921,638. $3.5 million is a drop in the bucket compared So if I had my hands on that $100 million surplus, I would make sure coaching classes were free because of the importance of actually having trained coaches to coach our future players.
There should also be more scouts and US Soccer needs to make sure they have enough scouts to adequately be able to cover every corner of the United States as well as a couple scouts for American talent elsewhere in the world. Give each scout an area that is their jurisdiction and their job is to scout every youth soccer tournament within their jurisdiction to find future talent.
Christian Pulisic is from Hershey, Pennsylvania. I grew up near Hershey and played soccer in central PA when I was a kid. Scouts weren’t coming to this area and chances are, we might have lost out on Pulisic if his father wasn’t a pro player himself and was able to open the doors to get Christian to where he needed to be to be the star he currently is. My area where I grew up wasn’t seen and probably still isn’t seen as a hotbed for potential soccer talent but this area has produced former MLS pro Bobby Warshaw and former USMNT star and current DC United manager Ben Olsen. And chances are, there are more talented people in this area just waiting to be discovered.
Everyone wants to say there aren’t any Christian Pulisic’s out there in the United States, I’m here to tell you there are. But under this current system, finding a Christian Pulisic, who had the right kind of coaching and was able to be discovered among the millions and millions of players, that too many people fall through the cracks and that person in Omaha, Nebraska who may have actually been more talented than Christian Pulisic, may have never even been noticed and is working retail or something.
Youth development is the name of the game and as much as MLS deserves credit for investing more and more each year, it’s still not good enough. You can maybe list 1/3 of MLS teams who have a great academy structure and are producing talent not only for the USMNT or the youth teams but for their teams as well. For the other 2/3 of MLS, their academies are either terrible or are nonexistent and that is unacceptable.
My solution, every MLS team must have an academy system and structure that at least goes down to the U15 level. With MLS becoming more and more profitable and new teams investing hundreds of millions in expansion fees, every team can spare the money to create their own academy system and not only help themselves but also help their country. And not to leave our Canadian friends in the cold, the three Canadian teams should do the same for Canada. Because developing Canadian talent also helps MLS and they’re in this as much as the United States is.
There are many other things that a future USSF President would have to deal with but this is a start. I know I’m not going to ever be elected but a person can dream. We all can only hope that whoever winds up taking over (or if Gulati is re-elected) that they look back and keep all the great things Gulati and crew has put together over the past decade while at the same time look back and learn from their past mistakes and make changes accordingly. It’s going to be a time of change whether we like it or not and need to make them now. The Women’s World Cup is just a little over a year and a half away.