I love soccer. I love the spacing, movement and artistry of the game. I love it’s drama, it’s heroes, it’s goats and the narrow difference between the two. I hate the philosophical, self-imposed persecution complex the game suffers in the U. S., and the strange discount on the importance of winning.
In snooty soccer circles, it seems as if winning and player development are mutually exclusive concepts. Reams of blogs and papers are generated on how to develop players through the youth ranks to the cusp of professionalism. Throughout these doctrines is a running theme that the emphasis of winning somehow impedes the developmental process. This is esoteric bullshit.
Teach players how to play the game. Build complete players. Put these players in competitive situations and they will develop at a rate comparable to any place in the world.
The process requires informed coaches adept at training players. It requires the identification of talented players, not simply based on physical stature and athleticism, but mental make up and technical quality. These players must be put in close competition with each other where winning matters, and with the full recognition that many of these players will not make the grade at a professional level, but that’s the cost of doing business.
The glue to this process is not tactical or technical doctrine, but money. European player development is fueled by professional clubs that identify and develop young talent without the high cost of the U.S. The golden generation of Columbian soccer, as seen in the 30 for 30 show “The Two Escobars” was fueled by drug money that poured into the clubs and kept talented players at home in a highly competitive situation, and the result was unprecedented.
The U.S. needs to accept that money, not doctrine will fuel it’s leap into the forefront of soccer, and that winning is a part of that formula at all levels.