O.T. The Twellman doctrine for US Soccer

Submitted by victors2000 on July 16th, 2018 at 8:58 AM

World Cup is over, Vive La France. I'm not the biggest soccer guy but I really get into it for World Cup, it's so cool to have the world come together for this event. To see the celebrations of wins, especially the upsets. Heck, of goals scored; does any sport celebrate scoring like soccer does? As I viewed this world stage of games, players, and fans in the back of my mind this quiet echo sounded, "we're not here". It was as if the USMNT didn't exist even on the sidelines. Even more disappointing was that we weren't even missed; no one even cared enough to make a GIF of us not being there.

The guys and gals that are involved in soccer feel the pain even more. One of them, Taylor Twellman, created a doctrine for US soccer, which he expounds upon in the following clip

http://www.espn.com/video/clip?id=3566945

I don't know if you are a big Taylor fan but I really liked what he says. In 4 years I hope we can at least make the knockout round, in 8 years when Mexico, Canada, and the US co-host the World Cup it would be amazing if we could go further then that.

I really like soccer. The festival of it, the comraderie. I'd really like to have an MLS team in the state, preferably towards Ann Arbor or Detroit. What can we do to help the popularity of the sport? It's not much, but I bring this to the board. Honestly, this blog has some power in the world! Perhaps if we spread the word, it may provide some impetus for change. Thoughts?

Comments

pz

July 16th, 2018 at 9:30 AM ^

In other countries, Soccer/Futbol is basically the only sport. Kids are always playing and always have a ball at their feet so they develop a differential skill set.

In the US, soccer is one of many sports played by a lot of kids, with basketball, football, baseball, golf, swimming, track, etc. seasons eating into time that would otherwise be spent working on soccer skills.

Of course, this is probably just one of many factors and the population argument could theoretically help overcome multi-sport saturation - but based on that logic, China and India would win every competition in every sport, so I'm not really buying it.

Either way, I want to see the US field a competitive side in EVERY World Cup and major international tournament going forward!

TrueBlue2003

July 16th, 2018 at 11:12 AM ^

Genetic makeup? A few generations of soccer playing doesn't alter a populations genetic makeup.  That's not how evolution works.

BUT the fact that they have for a couple generations grown up watching, talking, living soccer means their athletes grow up with a ball at their feet much like a lot of kids in the US come out of the womb dribbling a basketball.

That level of knowledge and dedication is what it takes to have the skill to play at the highest levels.  We don't have enough athletes in the US living, eating, breathing soccer from a young age because being a professional soccer player is not what kids talk about on the playground, its not the sport they watch with their fathers, its not what they see people from their neighborhoods grow up to do. 

lhglrkwg

July 16th, 2018 at 9:57 AM ^

The answer will always be that soccer just isn't that popular in the U.S. Most everyone plays soccer as a kid, but it gets ditched for football, baseball, and basketball later on. Professional soccer (presumably the EPL) is probably competing for the 4th most popular professional sport in the US behind the NFL, NBA, and MLB. I'd guess it has eclipsed the NHL by now.

 

If the US cared about soccer like the rest of the world did, there's no reason to believe we wouldn't be one of the best in the world, but we - as an entire country - only really care about soccer every four years.

TrueBlue2003

July 17th, 2018 at 12:37 AM ^

The number of tickets sold was relatively small too. It was like 80,000.  That's not even enough to fill a big soccer stadium (which other countries do multiple times a day during their club seasons and which the US certainly doesn't with MLS).

Plus, any idea how many of those tickets were bought by Americans and for Americans?

There are over a million ex-Pat Brits living in the US.  That's a number a quarter the size of the entire Croatian population.  Huge numbers of immigrants from other countries too.

Besides, no one doubts that the World Cup is popular in America.  So is Olympic figure skating.  But they're both once-in-four-year novelties here.  There isn't the regular support and dedication necessary yet.

jg2112

July 16th, 2018 at 11:42 AM ^

You are wrong. There are over 4.2 million registered soccer players in this country. Also, it is the most popular sport for the almost 18 percent of the population with Latin or Hispanic heritage. That is nearly 50 million people.

If you added up viewing numbers, tickets sold per event, etc., soccer is likely the 2nd or 3rd most popular of the now "big 5" sports in America.

lhglrkwg

July 16th, 2018 at 11:55 AM ^

I'm actually not wrong. I'm exactly right. Soccer is the 4th most popular spectator sport in the US.

What does the 4.2 million registered soccer players have to do with it? We all know a ton of kids play soccer when they're young. Nothing surprising about that. We all know that kids in this country (largely) do not grow up playing backyard soccer or dreaming of being a professional soccer player.

canzior

July 16th, 2018 at 12:27 PM ^

Just so you know, basketball is more popular in the US for Latin or Hispanic children than soccer. I know that may be difficult to believe but it's true despite race-based assumptions. Not pointing fingers, because I didn't believe it either. 

Soccer is quickly becoming only accessible to the elite, $100k and above families.  There are a lot of stories written about this, and stats on Twitter. Most point to cost, basically a lot of middle to upper class kids with money playing soccer here. Where it hurts is when you have a good athlete who prefers to be an average defensive back or an average point guard, instead of potentially an elite soccer player. 

US soccer also has no identity on the field, no real team philosophy...."think Red Wings being a puck possession team in the late 90's."  

 

stephenrjking

July 16th, 2018 at 6:27 PM ^

Where it hurts is when you have a good athlete who prefers to be an average defensive back or an average point guard, instead of potentially an elite soccer player.

 

This response doesn't have much to do with most of your post, but this point is something continually fail to understand about athletic success across sports:

A star basketball player would not be a star soccer player if he played soccer. A star soccer player would not be a star baseball player if they played that sport instead.

True excellence in a sport requires a combination of high quality and high quantity training, and innate abilities that cannot be trained. Some of those skills are more obvious than others (speed is obvious, the ability to process multiple peripheral events quickly in a way that translates to making reads as a QB not so obvious) but they do matter.

Lebron James wouldn't be an elite soccer player if he played soccer, and constant repetition of this point aside probably not a particularly notable football player, either. He's one of the greatest basketball players of all time because he works hard and because he is born to be one.

The elite, Messi/Ronaldo-level soccer players in the USA aren't playing basketball for Duke or Football for Alabama. They're playing single-A baseball in Beloit and Division II basketball in New Hampshire and backup TE in the Sun Belt and beer league hockey in Westland. 

TrueBlue2003

July 16th, 2018 at 8:03 PM ^

Soooo, you agree with his point, correct?  Because it is absolutely 100% spot on.

There are kids in the America that could be the next Messi and Ronaldo but they're wasting their time playing the wrong sports because all their friends are and it's culturally not cool to play soccer/ (and only highly lucrative overseas where role models aren't as accessible).  It might get them a scholarship in the Sun Belt in football or basketball but they could have been a megastar in soccer.

MGlobules

July 16th, 2018 at 12:12 PM ^

That will always be the lazy answer, anyway. Croatia was in the final with a population of five million people. Soccer can succeed here, yet youth participation is, in fact, down (as widely reported during the last week). Soccer here is a sport for the well-to-do, and even our shrinking middle class struggles to pay for it. It's about making the game attractive, and US soccer is associated with elitism, alas, in much the way tennis is. I say this as the father of a talented fourteen-year-old daughter who will play college soccer and adores the game. The people who took it upon themselves to sell the game in this country have failed. They're making money off of the game and I'm not sure they care.

truferblue22

July 16th, 2018 at 10:28 AM ^

I don't care for this argument. You know how many countries in the world have more than 4 million people??! Why aren't we asking where they are? Why aren't THEY further than Croatia?

One of the US' biggest problems is that we are so large. Scouting on such a grand scale comes with many challenges. The other is cultural (incl. pay-to-play). Soccer is a sport played by everyone, everywhere; except the whole of the US. In the US it's a sport for the rich, suburban kids instead of everyone, like most other places. Imagine if basketball was inaccessible to the inner-city kids. Sure there would still be plenty of talent, but nowhere near as much. VERY simply put, this is what soccer in the US is.

TrueBlue2003

July 16th, 2018 at 11:35 AM ^

That pay-to-play excuse is wrong.  You don't have to pay to play soccer.  Soccer is the most accessible sport in the world.  That's why it's so popular on every continent, rich or poor.  Literally anyone can kick around a ball of socks.

If soccer were a rich man's sport, it'd be dominated by rich countries the way hockey and golf are.  But it's not.  It is a sport in which a relatively poor eastern European country like Croatia can beat the rich countries or a very poor country like Uruguay can as well.

Poor kids just don't play soccer in the US because culturally football and basketball are what's popular in poor communities.  It's as simple as that.  Those are the sports their parents played. Those are the sports their parents know (and thus can give free instruction to their kids).  Those are the sports poor kids see people like them use to find a way out of poverty and make millions.  They could be playing soccer easily from a resources perspective.  A soccer ball costs the same as a basketball or football.  They just aren't even aware of it, are not encouraged to play it, and aren't instructed to play it and it a parental/cultural thing.

Aspyr

July 16th, 2018 at 11:54 AM ^

The point is not that it is expensive to buy a soccer ball but to the cost to participate in the travel leagues etc where you will get actual coaching and play against the best.

Close to where I live there is a large soccer complex but they will kick you off if you are not practicing for or playing in a league.

Whereas the equipment is cheaper than hockey or lacrosse the expense to actually get the practice and training you need to be elite is similar.

 

TrueBlue2003

July 16th, 2018 at 6:43 PM ^

Well, you're mistaking the cause and effect.  It is only expensive because it is unpopular here in the US.  Unpopularity is the root cause. And as such it is expensive to get the few serious soccer players together in one place (since they have to travel) to play one another and get good instruction.  But it wouldn't be that way if it were more popular.

The practice and training to become an elite young soccer player can (and almost necessarily has to) be done in the backyard or on the playground like it is in a huge number of other countries with (typically) dad or uncle or the neighbors teaching kids the basic fundamentals and encouraging them to be highly engaged.

That doesn't happen in the US because most kids are doing other things. You wouldn't need that large soccer complex to practice soccer if a bunch of kids in your neighborhood wanted to play soccer in the streets all day.  And if there were a bunch of kids playing in the streets in every community and those communities supported their HS soccer teams like they do their football and basketball teams, they'd be able to hire better coaches, etc.  It all comes back to popularity.

BUT yes, the only way to accelerate the cultural shift and get kids to consider soccer as an option is to put resources into complexes and academies to bring kids together and get them instruction (like MLS teams are starting to do) but they wouldn't be necessary if the sport were a lot more popular. 

Basketball doesn't require nearly as much travel or resources because you can get in a pickup game or find a competent dad in every school and community in America (and it is a downright obsession in many).  And conversely, that's not the case with basketball in other countries.

TrueBlue2003

July 16th, 2018 at 6:56 PM ^

Citing the number of participants in youth soccer leagues is, as was pointed out earlier, misleading because those are kids whose parents signed them up to add the 12th activity to their week (along with the piano lessons, diving lessons, voice lessons, math camp, etc).

Those kids aren't going home and juggling for hours on end in the backyard.  They're either not that interested or they have boy scouts followed by sailing lessons and don't even have time.

The kids that can and will go to the playground to play a sport all day long are mostly playing basketball in America.

 

mgobaran

July 16th, 2018 at 3:19 PM ^

The USSF employs something like 8 full-time scouts. No seriously, it might be closer to 12 now. But that is insane to me. 

Pay to play limits access to high level training to only those who have the means. 

And as Brian stated in the main post, only recently has our MLS teams been strong enough to field youth squads. There are only 24 MLS teams to cover the United States though. Croatia has 10 teams in their first division. Compare that back to Michigan, that would be like Michigan having 20 professional soccer teams running youth squads & developing talent. Extrapolate that across the lower 49, and we are finally reaching the talent pool in the same way Croatia does. 

jmblue

July 16th, 2018 at 3:43 PM ^

The problem is that we don't really understand how to form elite soccer players in this country.  

We have plenty of kids that want to play, and they are athletic enough.  But the coaching model we use for other sports doesn't work for soccer.  You can pick up basketball at 13-14 and become awesome, but for soccer you've got to start really early, and thoroughly develop your skills at a young age.  

Like with birds learning to sing, learning to be really skilled with your feet needs to be accomplished during a critical period.  If you miss that period, you can't become a world-class player.  In Europe, the top players all join the youth sections of pro clubs when they're really young.  We're not quite comfortable with that idea here, and it's a handicap.

TrueBlue2003

July 17th, 2018 at 1:12 AM ^

Agree with your first two paragraphs, except that you can't pick up a basketball at age 13-14 and be good unless you're about 6'6 or taller.

Which brings me to my next point: Soccer is a sport for which being really, really skilled is necessary because it's a more skill dependent sport than football or basketball.  You have to be incredibly skilled to be a good soccer player.  You can't get by being really tall or really large and athletic with a couple years of skill building like you can in basketball and football.

So you almost necessarily have to start young and put in a ton of hours to get as skilled as you need to be to be a really good soccer player.  It's highly advantageous to start young to get the hours in, moreso than that being some "special" developmental period for the skills required.  

Crash

July 16th, 2018 at 9:25 AM ^

There's a reason his first part was the first part.  It's the most important one.  Hope Solo is right.  Pay to play is the biggest thing holding us back.  I've played my whole life, but never had to experience how expensive it is to play at even a mediocre level until I signed up my 6 year old daughter for travel soccer this summer.  $1600 for a year.  That's way too much money for the majority of the people from whom we generally find our most talented athletes.

Aspyr

July 16th, 2018 at 10:03 AM ^

Poorer countries can be successful provided there is the infrastructure in place as well as the ability for anyone to play. Look at some of the poorer latin american countries with baseball - pro teams have invested money in places like DR and Venezuela so that anyone can play creating a larger talent pool.

NowTameInThe603

July 16th, 2018 at 10:36 AM ^

I get that my retort was focused on money but what I was trying to say is that whatever the cost, a little or a lot, people will play soccer if they want to.

The problem is with interest. The problem is that a young kid has no way of being influenced to play soccer unless they are raised in a soccer family. They might play it on the playground but they wont dream of winning the MLS cup. They will dream of hitting a walk off, throwing the game winning touchdown, hitting a buzzer beater or scoring the OT game winning goal in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

truferblue22

July 16th, 2018 at 10:35 AM ^

I don't think you understand what he's saying. Hockey (while I love it), is EXTREMELY inaccessible. Only first-world countries are any good at the sport. 

When it comes to countries having less money producing good players, that's exactly it. Our poor kids can't afford to play it in this country because it's inaccessible to them. In other countries, the kids are found, signed and PAID by professional clubs when they're little. In this country that's not how it works (with the exception of a few MLS clubs doing good work in their communities). There's also the issue of the NCAA -- obviously kids would be rendered ineligible for college  soccer (not that NCAA helps soccer in this country whatsoever) but parents would probably still be afraid to let their kids get paid a few bucks and miss out on the chance at a scholarship. 

jg2112

July 16th, 2018 at 11:47 AM ^

A large part of the problem is this idea that "the best athletes" don't want to play soccer.

What person looks at Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Luca Modric or Harry Kane and says hey, the US cannot produce athletes like that?

Soccer is played in the mind and with your first touch of the ball. That's why Americans have had such a tough time accepting it as a sport. If you don't have a good first touch by the age of 10, you'll never catch up no matter how good of an athlete you are. 

NowTameInThe603

July 16th, 2018 at 12:27 PM ^

I am finding out how sensitive soccer people are. Its not like you are naming guys who are not athletic and there are plenty of other soccer players that you can say are the best athletes in their country.

AND the best athletes decide young what sport they will play. Save your first touch "you dont know soccer" opinion for the sidelines of your kids soccer practice.

 

MGoBender

July 16th, 2018 at 2:21 PM ^

He's right.  What Americans common refer to as "athleticism" isn't nearly as important as having insane foot skills by an early age.  Seriously: What good does a 44" vertical do you in soccer?  In small instances, of course it is an advantage.  But it's much more important to have those elite ball skills. 

Same thing with hockey, really.  Of course the best hockey players in the world are amazing athletes.  But you can be an amazing hockey player without being a 6'8" genetic freak that can leap over small buildings 

Roanman

July 16th, 2018 at 10:06 AM ^

Here's a difference when it comes to soccer. Very few dad's that know the game. Club football is largely run by dads, as is little league baseball. Club basketball, particularly at the elite level is a different animal all together, particularly at the highest levels where clubs get support from sponsors and are able to recruit and extend financial support for the best players.

A very high percentage of soccer coaches are earning the majority of their living at soccer. They aren't getting rich at it and they ain't giving it back. I think volleyball runs about the same way, but I'm not sure.

In your particular case, $1,600 is peanuts, probably just represents the costs of "club and coaching" and doesn't even begin to scratch the surface when you consider the cost of indoor practice facilities field costs and tournaments. All my kid's played club soccer at the highest level they were capable of. Every team we were part of had some kids playing at reduced fees and of course every team has it's mooches who typically club hopped every other year or so because they had run up a bill they had no intention of paying.

Our National team's problems when it comes to our available athletic talent have far more to do with alternatives. Kids here have beau coup sports to chose from if they want to play a sport. We chose soccer for my kids because of genetics, my wife is short, and I can't jump. 

Development is an issue in the sense that there is no real American style of play. The Olympic Development Program at the high school level is about chasing wins as opposed to developing players. This is also more true than not at the club level, despite the fact that club owners and coaches will all deny that allegation. Buy em a drink though and they'll all tell you that if you don't win, your best kids move to a different club. Or at the ODP level if you don't kick ass at regionals most years, they just move on to a different guy. So what happens is that if a guy has a stud kid that you can't handle, they'll play long ball to him in the hope that he catches you one on on, drives over your isolated defender and gets his shot. Guys who don't have the stud kid claim to be coaching the right way, but if you see them with multiple teams, the truth mostly comes out. There are some clubs that want to possess, but they are few and far between.

Soccer is still very much nascent and rising, steadily and mightily. I like Twellman ok, but his little rant is mostly empty platitudes. He want's the gig at the top of US soccer and is campaigning for it. Our recent problems are mostly about crap coaches making dumbass personnel decisions that were followed by dumbass strategic and tactical decisions. 

TrueBlue2003

July 16th, 2018 at 11:44 AM ^

HAHAHAHAHA.  One statement in this entire thing sums it all up: "We chose soccer for my kids because of genetics, my wife is short, and I can't jump."

In other words, rich people that are bad athletes have their kids play soccer in the US because they can make the team over other rich, mediocre athletes because the good athletes play football and basketball.

Until the good athletes are kicking soccer balls around starting at age 2 they way they spend hours and hours playing basketball at the playground, the US isn't going to be elite at soccer.  And that won't change until poor kids and poor cultures know and value soccer they way they do football and basketball.

That won't happen naturally so it'd have to be helped along with significant investments.

NowTameInThe603

July 16th, 2018 at 9:35 AM ^

We have the best sport leagues in the world... except soccer. Why would I invest any emotion and time into an inferior product (MLS) when I can watch better leagues (BPL, Seria A, La Liga) rather easily. 

My idea is try to do what the NFL is about to do in Europe and Mexico... 

Have a BPL team here in the states. New York being the obvious choice. They would need special scheduling but it is not inconceivable for the team to go home/away week to week. 

ih8losing

July 16th, 2018 at 10:29 AM ^

listened to AAFC on the Michigan Insider this morning with Sam and they brought up one of them many items that should be addressed to increase competitiveness in the sport - different levels with relegation and promotion taking place every year. It's counter to the structure of all other major leagues in the US but I see it as being beneficial to help with growth of the sport. To put things in perspective, Portugal is a country very comparable to the State of Michigan (population about 10million).

The main league in Portugal has 18 teams, eighteen! And yes, most of them average 5-10k people in the stands per game. And that is just the first division, most countries have 2 professional divisions and 2-3 of amateur teams below that. 

Soccer will never be #1 in USA as it is in other countries around the world, and that is just fine but the potential to grow is still tremendous, just imagine a top division with 20-24 teams, and a secondary "feeder" division with another 20 or so teams. 

As for the cost... in other countries, there are no travel teams, it's either a group of friends playing in local leagues or it's club based soccer (where the top players are being developed) very similar to a minor league system. Example here - https://www.slbenfica.pt/en-us/futebol/formacao - Benfica has u13 u15, u17 and u19 programs. 

ok... that was a long post

truferblue22

July 16th, 2018 at 10:45 AM ^

Also, I don't think your MLS argument holds up. Sure there's better football available, but it's far away. Supporting your local club (if you have one), will pay big dividends to the sport in the future, here (not that you owe anything to soccer; I understand you're exercising your rights as a consumer to watch what you please). By that same token, the EPL owes America nothing, either -- why would they care about the development of soccer in the US? They only care that we consume their product (and we already do).

But what I'm getting at is (I assume) you choose college football over NFL -- thus you're choosing the inferior product (whatever your reasons may be). I watch EPL all the time, but I don't have a "club" per se. I'm literally thousands of miles away and don't feel connected to any particular team. For some, MLS provides that local club -- that connection to the game.  

NowTameInThe603

July 16th, 2018 at 11:38 AM ^

I do prefer college football over the NFL. Huge difference than what you are arguing. College football is the second best place in the world to watch football. These players go on to star in the NFL.

Is the MLS even in the top 15-20 leagues in the world????? That is an embarrassing talent gap. I barely follow the MLS but my local team is the NE revs. Couple things I noticed that tell me how talent deficient the MLS is. The had the #1 overall pick years back, Andrew Farrell, resulted in 0 excitement. Yup he is a defender but as #1 pick you would think there would be some star power. Secondly, Diego Fagundez was signed as a 17? 18? yr old and I remember the hype. He is actually talented and I would hear is name come up. However when he was first signed the hype was built around him being so good that he would attract euro clubs. Not to be.

truferblue22

July 16th, 2018 at 12:04 PM ^

#1 picks in the MLS draft are irrelevant because that's only one of many ways a player can come to MLS. The best players DO NOT play NCAA soccer. Also, MLS players on designated player contracts can make way more money in MLS than they would in a smaller european league (which is what MLS is on par with). Hence a guy like Fagundez being a lifetime MLSer. I'm absolutely not saying MLS is on par with La Liga, but it is light-years ahead of where it was even just 5 years ago, let alone 10 or 20. As the talent grows, the clubs will get bigger and (hopefully) the league will let the clubs become their own entity. If that happens it will one day be a top league. Again, I know you don't care about that until/unless it happens, and I can totally appreciate that -- I'm just trying to make a point that it's not as "garbage" as some people think it is. Especially if it continues to grow at the same rate it has been (and the league actually, eventually allows teams to operate independently -- this is the thing that worries me the most). 

mgobaran

July 16th, 2018 at 3:38 PM ^

Not to mention you can't just give a US team preferential treatment. Sure the logistics works fine for EPL teams, but what about the EFL Championship? What about EFL league 1, League 2? An American based team couldn't survive financially to field a competitive enough team to rise to the top. 

victors2000

July 16th, 2018 at 2:10 PM ^

I like this idea! The worst parts would be the logistics and fee to join; how much would it cost to purchase a franchise in that league these days? Does anyone know how PBL would feel about this? Being a part of a genuine football league would make supporting said clubs with passion a lot more natural. We could start with one or two clubs then gradually add more.