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Soccer in America - The disconnect between the youth level and the professional level is called "college" - and it paints a bleak fututre

Most of the American youth soccer clubs don't have a senior team. Their focus seems to be on developing youth players from the ages of 7-18. Some youth clubs are very well established in their respective communities, in their region and some are well known across the nation. But where are their respective senior teams? Some clubs have semi-professional (senior) teams in the USL leagues but most clubs don't have a viable option for their players once they turn 18-19.

Why is this? Well the biggest reason is college soccer - it's the American way. Start off as a young boy or girl playing recreational soccer, maybe you join a traveling club and then once you start high school you join the school team - you get to represent. After finishing high school you want to represent your college playing the sport you love.

But what is the problem with that?

Well, in terms of player development and elite soccer, playing college soccer is unwise. In general you will get 12 weeks or 4 months of competitive soccer per year. Furthermore, your college coach is not particularly interested in developing you as a player, he/she is more interested in winning otherwise they might lose their job. So during the rests of the year a college player will need to find senior clubs in a local leagues to play for in order to keep up with his/hers training - which rarely offers high level of development nor full year training. As an example, PDL play their games May through July, which means that a college player would have to find a third option to play for during Nov-April.

So three different teams in a year - that is not organized player development.

So to sum up:

Players that goes through the American soccer system will most likely play recreation, travel or club soccer up until high school or at most until the age of 18 then they might play college and amateur soccer until 21-22. But their already fragmented and thus low quality development will more or less end by the age of 17-18.

Closing Statement from Ronnie Emmanoulakis

The question is not what we as coaches want, the question is what the kids want and deserve. We need a system that provides kids with every possible opportunity to reach their dreams. As a soccer community we will only benefit from doing that.

  • Aug 31 2013: The United States system is young compared to the European systems. We do not have the same development programs that Europe and other places have developed. And yes, college plays a part in that. Is it the best system? Probably not for developing soccer. But for the US it is what we have and it works for what we want right now.