Can This Tournament Help Fix US Soccer?

US Soccer

US Soccer History

It’s no secret the United States has a long way to go as a football nation. When we missed the World Cup in 2010. The backlash and the outrage were enormous but so was the call for change. So much of what we need to fix has to start at the base of youth development and so much of what we need to do to improve can be seen right here. We’re at the inaugural ICC futures tournament with better days ahead for U.S. soccer are taking roots. Eight of the top European academies, eight MLS academies, and eight all-star teams have convened in Orlando, Florida. For a chance to compete and learn in a truly professional environment. For any soccer player in the U.S.

That aspires to become a professional ICC Futures is the opportunity of a lifetime. It was something we’d been talking about for about a year and a half to start doing something on the youth side that would have an impact and help player development here in the US. There are 24 teams and eight groups of three teams. I wanted to have one team from each category in each group so we have a team from Europe. An MLS team and an All-Star Team. Our players never in their lives they would think that they would come to something like this. To play against a team like that. It’s been a great experience. We actually got to play against Celtic. That was a good game kind of a blow but it’s the experience that you want to play against the best. But it’s not just for the players.

US Soccer Feature Hopes

This tournament gives a chance for coaches to learn from some of the world’s best. Better coaches equal better players and a better environment. So having an opportunity like this event to watch some of the best talks some of the coaches are very important. These players are very impressionable and if they’re able to see and sense from some of the best in the world at this age it gives them targets and it also allows us to understand where we are in our process. It’s a good experience knowing how the other team plays and now we know where we are compared to them.

Some of the European teams, we’ve learned playing against them. We learn what they have done right, with the groups and their teams. We want these young players to be treated like they would if they were professional players and put them into situations where they’re playing in front of people. It’s being filmed, they’re doing interviews they’re getting a feel for what life will be if they hopefully continue on the path towards being a professional soccer player.

To make sense of just how big an opportunity this tournament is for players in the U.S. we only have to look back a short while. The academy system in the U.S. is only 10 or 11 years old 2007 right, that’s when it first started? You imagine a tournament like this 10 20 years ago? Not in a million years not and it wasn’t even on my radar. To see something like this and to see Arsenal here, and to see Chelsea here and Celtic here. It’s unbelievable. I’m on my way to watch Illinois Allstars play against European giants Tottenham Hotspur.

These Illinois players are some of the most talented in the country and yet many of them can’t find a club or academy that helps them grow in a professional environment. But now they’re about to play against one of the most famous academies in the world. And just like that Illinois goes up, just go to show the quality there is in these All-Star teams. I think the expectation going into the tournament was that the European teams would dominate especially against the All-Star teams that would struggle a bit.

But it just hasn’t been the case. I think that the difference in quality isn’t as big as we had thought. Coming into this tournament, I said okay Arsenal, Chelsea FC, these guys are gonna blow these guys away. It hasn’t happened. It hasn’t happened. Penalty to Spurs saved by the Illinois All-Star keeper. After an hour our game still tied at 1 so we are entering penalties let’s see how the Illinois team can hold up against Spurs.a

Illinois falls to Spurs in penalties but they did take them to the limit. They showed what they’re made of they showed their talent and it shows what this tournament is about and how much these players can showcase themselves on such a big stage. While ICC Futures is the perfect representation of what is possible in youth development. This level of soccer just isn’t the norm yet in this country. What you think is the big difference between the European academies and these American academies and American teams. Obviously the length of time, many European academies have been around for such a long time. It’s a very new concept in the US and it’s going to take a while to catch up. Many of the coaches I saw in my time were coaching from an American football standpoint you are starting now to see coaches in coach know from a soccer standpoint which is a completely different animal altogether.

I think there were some fundamental differences in terms of possible facilities, the environment in general. But I do think in those areas that we’re making great strides. Another amazing aspect of this tournament and possibly the most important is that none of the teams or players have to pay a dime to be here. While so many players are priced out of the game in this country, ICC wants to make sure that if you’re good enough you’re given an opportunity.

Our Issues

The issue is the cost of soccer in the US. Our kids can’t afford to be in an academy program because of the cost. There’s a lot of great talent out there. We just have to find it and it’s got to be affordable for them. Some of these academy teams are expensive are to play in or are maybe not nearby and so their not able to make that drive to one of these academies. We paid for all the travel and hotels and food and Puma provided all the uniforms and the shoes for all the players on the All-Star teams. We partnered with Rakuten as well, and between Rakuten and Puma, they really made this possible. The idea here with the All-Star teams is at the age of 14 there’s a lot of kids now players who are on a pathway to professional soccer with the MLS development academies.

But there are also good quality players in every state who are not playing at that level and it gives a chance for those players to be seen. You can see ICC Futures is like nothing we’ve ever had in this country before. These players and coaches spent the week in Orlando competing with some of the most talented U 14 players in the world. The United States is still growing as a football nation, but Futures signals a clear step in the right direction. In the second part of this two doc series, we’re gonna get into the action and examine what’s happening on the field at ICC Futures.

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