Saturday, March 13, 2010

Ask a Scout - The State of the Union

Dallas Cup is one of the most renowned youth tournaments in the world. A big part of Dallas Cup’s reputation is the talent that has been discovered through the years coming out of this tournament. It’s is a golden opportunity for College and Pro scouts to see a wide variety of players playing against a diverse range of soccer. This year a Professional Scout has kindly accepted our request to anonymously pen articles for the Dallas Cup. Our first installment of “Ask a Scout” is we wanted his opinion on the state of soccer in the US.

Ask a Scout - The State of the Union

I think US Soccer has come a very long way in a very short time. It’s clear to see by the number of players heading overseas to European clubs that the standard of play is getting better and better. I think awareness is a huge factor and the fact that Fox Soccer Channel and ESPN2 are now showing soccer on the weekends and during the week is huge. Kids need inspiration in the form of superstars, and I think it’s helped greatly that rising young stars in the US can watch the world’s best players play every week on television.

When you take a look at the US National Team, you can see a big difference. Although the US National team had a rather disappointing World Cup in Germany in 2006, they did very well in 2002 and shown very brightly at the Confederations Cup in 2009. Only time will tell if the national team can compete at the same level as they did at the Confederations Cup regularly. It is very good to see that the team’s core players all play their trade abroad in very competitive leagues. I don’t have anything against MLS, but in order for our national team to get better and better, the players that make up the team need to be playing at the highest level they can. We have a number of players playing in England, France, Italy, and Germany, which are known as some of the best leagues in the world. A good number of other players are making a living in Scandinavia and are also playing at a very high level.

There are pros and cons to everything, though. With all the top players virtually fleeing the US for greener pastures abroad, MLS has a tough time retaining the best talent in the US. Making a sport grow in a country that doesn’t regard that sport very highly is tough if its own league isn’t as exciting as it could be. As a player, you want to help your sport and do all you can for it in your country, but you also want to look out for yourself and your career as well. Any professional athlete will tell you that they are seeking the highest competition available to them, and will leave home if they have to in order to find it.

One of the brighter spots of US Soccer has to be the implementation of a Developmental Academy within the top clubs throughout the country. The Federation has helped regulate the amount of training and content that goes into the training, which has helped greatly. I don’t think we will see a massive difference in the short term, but as more and more players spending more hours on the pitch getting quality football education, then the quality can only get better. Geographically, our country makes it tough to have ultra competitive matches every weekend for the country’s best players, but the Academy system has looked to solve the problem. There are rumors that a U14 Regional Academy system is going to be put into place soon, and I think that shows that the work the Federation has done with the 16’s and 18’s is proving effective. I hope that the clubs that aren’t in the Academy aren’t completely put off the map by the Federation. There are still a number of good players that either can’t afford an Academy team or don’t reside close enough to a team to play for them. These players shouldn’t be looked down upon for any reason, and I hope that something has been put into place to make sure that these boys get a chance in the National Teams as well.

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