The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Future of U.S. soccer still looks uncertain

Originally Published October 26, 2006

The U.S. is always among the best in most of the major sports. This country has the world’s respect in their professional sports leagues, such as MLB, NBA NHL and the NFL. This country also produces some of the best and most talented athletes, but it is not enough to produce great soccer players.

There are many different solutions out there to help U.S. soccer improve its game, but the United States Soccer Federation has to find a long-term solution. And for that, we must look early into players’ careers, not later.

The poor results by the U.S. national soccer team in the 2006 FIFA World Cup raised questions as to what needs to be done to make American players as good as the rest of the world. Criticism on the players, coach and domestic league surged after the national team’s inability to win a game in the tournament.

Players such as Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley and the national team coach Bruce Arena were among those who drew the most criticism. Arena averted the blame from himself by telling the media that for the U.S. to challenge the best of teams in the soccer world, players must leave and play abroad in more talented leagues than our domestic league.

“(What Arena said) was a direct slap to the face of the youth stage,” said CSUN men’s soccer coach Terry Davila.

Major League Soccer, our professional soccer league, is not an elite league, such as the English Premier League or La Liga in Spain. Some players who aspire to play professionally do not think of MLS as their career goal, including some of the CSUN soccer players.

“Soccer hasn’t taken off here,” said Ryan Rossi, CSUN men’s soccer forward. “It’s not a main priority. Overseas, it would be a lot better. Here, you’re a regular person. Over there, everyone knows who you are. That’s what makes you want to play better.”

American players playing away from home is a popular solution, but it does not mean it is the correct one. Arena, the U.S. soccer team’s best coach in history, said players need to emigrate and play elsewhere. There were 12 players on the 23-man World Cup roster who played overseas in European leagues, and that team managed one point in three matches.

Having all of the best American players play outside of the country may help them improve their game, but it would also hurt the league here, which would then hurt the development of not only MLS, but young players as well.

“It’s a developing league,” said Michael Enfield, second-year midfielder and forward for the Los Angeles Galaxy. “It’s important that we develop our league too.”

With a lack of American star players, the league would then consider getting more foreign players to come to the league, which would hamper the development of young U.S. players because they would not have the chance to start playing at a young age, since there would be other players playing in what could have been their position.

The league was created in the mid-1990s, which still makes it a young league. The league, much like U.S. soccer, is still developing, and improving every year.

“The MLS is barely in its 11th season,” said Taylor Canel, CSUN midfielder. “People need to realize it’s a process and it takes time.”

College is a stepping stone toward one’s career, especially in sports. Players are drafted by professional teams based on their performance and development in college. College soccer players play less than 30 games each year, and additional summer leagues outside of college are optional and encouraged to the players for them to stay in shape and get more experience.

Our culture with many young adults’ goals of going to college and getting a degree may also be a factor in the lack of star athletes. A culture that has young adults making education their main priority is much different than that of other nations, said Paul Bravo, Los Angeles Galaxy assistant coach.

“I think over here, school comes first and is a factor,” said Sean Franklin, CSUN midfielder and defender. “Over there, soccer is the most important.”

“You got school and college,” Rossi said. “There are a lot of distractions.”

Professional soccer players play much more than 30 games each year, but college is not the level to teach players the essentials of the game. College is about elevating one’s game based on what they already know. The problem does not lie in the college system, but comes into play much earlier than that.

The youth system is key to a player’s development. There are many camps and academies around the world that specialize in teaching young players the basics and more.

There is no doubt that this country has great athletes, many greater than those in Europe and South America. In terms of fitness, the U.S. is up there. But they lack the technique of the English and Argentines, and do not have an ounce of the mystique of the Brazilians. Ronaldinho has played soccer his whole life, and developed his dribbling skill at a young age. We don’t need players to leave the country, add more games to the college system or a foreign coach to teach our players. The USSF just needs to work with the youth, and help them develop their game before it is too late. The basics are there, but the technique is not.

“(The USSF) has to stop being so result-driven,” Davila said. “We need to worry about the technical aspect of the game. We have the best athletes and resources, but we don’t have it. The Argentines, Holland and the French ? they got it.”

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