Why Do American Men Suck At Soccer?

September 22, 2019

No other sport in the world garners international
attention like soccer does, but as an American who
grew up playing soccer, I’ve always wondered why the US men’s team kinda just sucked, at least compared to the rest of the world. For the first time in nearly 30 years, the US men’s team has failed
to qualify for the World Cup. That is a huge embarrassment, but on the flip side, the US
women’s team has been great, winning multiple world
cups and Olympic medals. So, why isn’t this the
case with US men’s soccer? The US is the third largest
country in the world. It’s not that there isn’t talent, it’s that we’re terrible at
spotting it and cultivating it. Basically, there isn’t enough diversity in our elite players. We severely limit our talent
pool in a number of ways. I think one of the things that limits it is pay-to-play, I mean it’s a problem. Noah Davis has reported on soccer for ESPN and Bleacher Report. So pay-to-play is this idea that to be a part of your local club, you have to pay for a spot on the team. In Europe, most of the clubs are free and so you don’t have to pay. The way that those clubs make money is that their professional
team, or their men’s team makes money and that, you know, that pays for the youth clubs, and you need money to
pay-to-play in the US. So, if your family is low income, you don’t have that great of a chance of excelling in the US. Meanwhile, some of soccer’s biggest stars like Renaldo, Zlatan
Ibrahimovic, and Neymar all come from poverty, but Manny, school soccer is free. Why can’t kids just play there? Well, they can and do, but that’s actually another
reason why US Soccer is falling behind. US schools don’t invest in their teams as much European Soccer
Clubs, so as a result, the path of your typical US player is much different than in Europe. The soccer ecosystem in the US is not as fully developed as it is in another European Country. In European countries,
there are a lot more clubs, at a lot of different levels, and England has, I mean, they have 20 different levels of clubs all different professionalisms. Some are amateur, some are professional. So, in England, if a player is good, he’ll play for his local club, but that club will also
have an adult team, so you can kind of, you
go up the food chain in a much more natural progression than you do in the US. To get to the NBA, NFL and MLB, players have to beat out
thousands and thousands of others. Soccer competition is tough, but your chances are a lot better. That’s because there is a
huge disparity in popularity. So, some American athletes that would’ve been great at soccer, may opt for a more popular sport. Another reason US soccer
culture isn’t that big is because we lack coaching
and scouting talent. Even if there’s an amazing kid, it takes a good scout to find him, and a good coach to train him. – I do think that one thing
when you look at the US that people discount is just
the sheer size of the country and if you have an
emerging soccer culture, and you don’t have, you
know, a ton of scouts, and a ton of teams, it’s
very hard to find talent. It’s just like the sheer size
of the US makes it difficult to scout and to find the best players just because you know,
they’re all over the place. – Clint Dempsey, one of
the US’s greatest strikers of all time is from a
remote town in Texas. Growing up, his parents
had to drive him to Dallas for soccer practice. That’s a six hour round trip every day. A deeper scouting pool
would have allowed Dempsey to be found a lot easier, along with a ton of other
players who couldn’t travel. Meanwhile, Iceland has fewer
than 350,000 residents. It’s easier to find the
30 best soccer players in countries that are a
fraction of the size of ours. So, if we wanna get better, the US Soccer Federation has
to develop a better system. It can’t be the case that
potential stars aren’t found because they can’t afford to play or that they’re just overlooked entirely.

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