Is the United States Youth System Finally Paying Off?
In comparison to the world leaders in international soccer the United States youth system is exceptionally behind. Sides like FC Barcelona of Spain established their world-renowned academy, La Masia, in 1979. For decades, academies like La Masia have propelled European and South American sides to World Cup victories.
It wasn’t until 2007 that the U.S. Soccer Federation created the U.S. Soccer Developmental Academy. Struggling to compete against the elite sides of the world, the Academy finally provided a new game plan for U.S. Soccer.
It drew from the philosophies of the Europeans & South Americans where they focused heavily on developing a players technical skills. With more emphasis on training and less on the amount of games played, the Academy looked to sharpen and heighten on the field player IQ’s.
Since its inception, the Academy system has done exactly what it set out to do; create a larger pool of top-level players from which U.S. Youth International coaches could choose from. This multi-leveled development has led to less players slipping through the cracks and has paved the way for former academy stars like Gyasi Zardes, DeAndre Yedlin and Jordan Morris to make their Men’s National Team debuts. However, while the talent is there, the consistent results for U.S. Youth side has not been.
After failing to qualify for two consecutive Olympic games in 2012 and 2016 the future of U.S. Soccer looked rather grim. Fortunately, U.S. Soccer Federation remained un-wavered. They would regroup and reassess but never veered away from their game plan which was to not only to compete with the best sides but to defeat them.
It is now 2017 and the U-20 U.S. side has qualified for the World Cup taking place in Korea Republic, but they have now booked their place into the Quarter Finals of the tournament with a 6-0 defeat of New Zealand.
With standout players like 17 year-old Josh Sargent coming through the academy and making a difference for the U-20’s, it is a reminder that we must continue evolving our youth system. That is why in February of 2017 the USSDA added 17 new clubs for the upcoming season. This is the type of commitment it will take for U.S. Soccer to continue building on its promising future.