Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Developing Winners Or Developing Players?

Something I'm going to explore in my Press-Enterprise column for Wednesday is this topic: if the purpose of the U.S. youth national teams is to develop players, then the Under-23's failure to qualify for the Olympics is bad but not catostrophic.

If this was the senior team who had failed to beat Canada and El Salvador at home in a tournament, then I would say that would be catostrophic. But the aim of the youth national teams is simple - to develop players. Right? Am I right in saying/thinking this? Maybe it shouldn't be, maybe that should be a key part of MLS and maybe US Soccer shouldn't necessarily concern themselves with youth development, but that's the reality. MLS is not yet producing a high number of young talents; sure, clubs are continually taking a more proactive approach to youth development but US Soccer still has to take a load of this responsibility.

Now, these players aren't exactly the same as the U-17s or even the U-20s. At 22 or 23 years of age, players should be well on their way towards a professional career. Soccer age is younger, so a player who is 26, 27, maybe 28 should be at their prime and by 30, 31, 32 it's time to start thinking about life after soccer.

Still, the biggest opportunity lost for this squad was not that they won't get to contend for a gold medal in London (because honestly, a medal would always have been a bit of a miracle) but that these players, this group will not have had the exposure or the chance to play in a major tournament. The soccer part of the Olympics is not necessarily a major tournament but the Olympics themselves, yeah, they're pretty major. And being a part of that would only have helped the development of players like Terrence Boyd, Juan Agudelo, Joe Corona, Brek Shea, Freddy Adu... etc.

Anyway, that's something I'm kicking around this morning. I'll post the finished product here after it runs in the paper.

1 comment:

Ramiro said...

I agree. Considering the player personnel available and head coach, the USA's failure to qualify for the Olympics is bad but not a catastrophe.

The US youth setup is the best its ever been, with more American-raised players playing overseas in more prestigious leagues than ever before. But this group was not entirely present for the Olympic qualifying tournament. Therefore, I have to disagree and say that US Soccer is doing a great job of youth development. But maybe something has to be said about the development of our coaches. US coaches don't necessarily come from a long lineage of soccer.

MLS still does not have the financial capacity to take on youth development head on. MLS will eventually play a huge role in youth development, but US Soccer/NASL/USL will always have a role as well.