We are training the wrong kids. Period.
Youth soccer is a multi-billion dollar industry in the U.S. and those who run it (US Soccer, Youth Soccer Club Directors, MLS / NASL / USL pro teams, & independent player development organizations like Coerver) INTENTIONALLY target the parents and players who can most AFFORD the RISING COSTS of training and “opportunities” they offer. They do NOT target the kids who are most likely to take advantage of (and can most BENEFIT from) a career in professional athletics.
So, what we end up with in professional soccer is the best-of-the-best of those could afford the fees… aaannd stuck with it.
Only in America
A parent of two “competitive” youth soccer players can expect to spend about $15,000 to $20,0000 annually on club fees, coaching fees, tournament fees, transportation costs, hotel rooms and soccer camps. Multiply those costs by 1/3 of the total number of soccer players in the United States (assuming the other 2/3 are “recreational” players), and you get 1.5 to 2 billion dollars. That does NOT include the equipment that is needed to participate. When you include cleats, shin guards, balls, uniforms, accessories, tickets to pro games to “inspire” our little rich kids to play professional (or collegiate) soccer, those costs can double.
When you include ALL of the other “recreational” youth players of the game, that number reaches over 5 billion dollars.
In the majority of European nations however, soccer (and sport in general) is not a privilege of the rich and middle-class. Instead, it is seen by those of lower socio-economic demographics as a way OUT of their bad situation.
Our kids are already out of the ghetto, so what could possibly compel them to want to work hard for a wage the is equal or less than a much less strenuous profession? (Read more here: The Truth About Professional Soccer)
If you look at any competitive club soccer team, you will see a sideline of over-achieving parents, trying to out-perform their parental peers through their children’s achievements on the field. The parking lots are full of Cadillacs, Mercedes’, Land Rovers and Teslas. The players are wearing $300 cleats and equally expensive kits and carrying matching bags. Anyone looking from 20,000 feet, would assume they were watching a pro team arrive to the field…
until the game starts.
The Women’s Game
American soccer fans like to think that the men will one day equal the success of the American Women’s National Team, but American female athletes have a distinct advantage over their universal counterparts, as the United States offers women and girls many more athletic opportunities that – legally and culturally – are not available in other countries. This means that when our girls hit the field, the reason they win is because the competition is very, VERY limited.
Even France, who historically gives us some great competition, is fielding a team of women who are constantly battling cultural resistance to women playing sports. As the country continues to become even more religiously conservative, France will become even less of a competitor on the world stage of women’s soccer. Britain, too. That also goes for Germany. Brazil and most other countries in South America have never fully embraced women’s soccer, and many of the countries on the continent don’t field a women’s team at all.
Increased Competition for the MNT
On the other hand, the competition for the men continues to increase, as South American and Central American clubs continue to improve their youth development programs, build better facilities for their youth programs, and begin paying their professional players livable wages.
So, the good news is that while the men will actually get worse over the next few decades, the Women’s National Team will continue to dominate for many decades to come.