Cody is a new online writer. His work often focuses on sports theory, sports management, and analysis.
The U.S. Soccer Problem
We all know that the United States is not recognized on a global level for soccer. Although we have improved throughout the years, we are not regarded as a major international powerhouse, such as Brazil or Spain. As a nation, we don’t showcase our soccer ability (not because we don’t have the talent to do so, but because our youth are not given the opportunity).
The United States of America has all of the essential tools to emerge as a world player in soccer. Considering the U.S. is the offspring of the British, one would think the U.S. has the potential to equal or even surpass their father nation when it comes to soccer. Furthermore, what’s unique about the U.S. is that it is inhabited by civilians made up of many different nationalities and ethnicities. Additionally, the United States spends an enormous amount of money on its soccer program. All of this begs the question, why are we so bad?
To uncover the reason behind the U.S. soccer mess, one must look at why we produce the inadequate players that grace the pitch. Maybe those U.S. national team squads don’t consist of the most talented and hard-working players, but the players that were given the best opportunities as a child. The minority groups in the inner cities may show an unbreakable passion for soccer, but their family might not have the money to send their child to a soccer camp to improve upon their skills. Likewise, an upper-class family will sign their kid up for a camp just to keep their kid busy. Soccer is a beautiful game because you don’t need to spend hundreds on golf clubs; all you need is a ball. Kids in Brazil have access to spaces where they can practice soccer.
This is contradictory to the United States as we have basketball courts instead. Obtaining a soccer ball is not difficult. It’s challenging, however, to find the will to play soccer in the midst of other, more popular, sports such as basketball or football. If soccer fields had been built instead of basketball courts, soccer in the U.S. would see a noticeable improvement. Two of the best players in the world, Messi and Ronaldo, started off poor early in their lives and rose to greatness through soccer. Surely the U.S. has little Messis and Ronaldos walking in the streets of the inner cities just waiting for their opportunity to prove themselves. The problem is that they will never get the opportunity to showcase their skills.
As the popularity of soccer continues to grow in the U.S., the cost of enrolling your child in a soccer camp rises as well. Enrolling a child in a soccer program may cost anywhere from $800 to $1500 per week. Equipment isn’t cheap either. This exposes the U.S. soccer problem. Some of the most passionate kids may not receive a fair shot to make it to the professional level based on their economic class.
If the U.S. wants to make an impact on the international soccer community, it can be done by giving all 70 million children equal opportunities that don’t depend on their parent’s economic status.
© 2018 Cody Piunno
Gerardo Zepeda on April 07, 2020:
I feel like the only reason why pay to play works in the women's soccer side is because the US has a head start in women's sports (specially soccer) development. With more and more European teams establishing women soccer teams of their own and creating a system for women, the time may come when the United States may not be on top of the women's soccer world.
To play competitive soccer around the world always costs money. However, the problem in the US is that it costs too much money. One might argue that competitive clubs may offer financial aid for players who cannot pay the fees, but doing so will miss the overall point: the expensiveness of soccer automatically makes it an exclusive sport, one that leaves out players that may otherwise (in most other countries, at least) have a chance at developing their talent and become professionals. If US soccer truly wanted to develop soccer as successfully as the Germanys, Spains, or Brazils, then pay to play would be one aspect of the game they would begin to change.
However, I don't think that is going to happen. Besides, the US already has an inclusive sports system that successfully develops the best players in the world and can provide economic opportunities for kids in poverty. It's called basketball.
Btw: If I recall correctly, Messi was not born in poverty but rather in a middle class family.
John Coviello from New Jersey on November 12, 2019:
You're talking about the "pay to play" soccer system in the U.S. It does tend to give kids from wealthy backgrounds a big upper hand over kids from poor backgrounds or middle class for that matter. That is the crux of the U.S.'s soccer development problem on the men's side. However, on the U.S. women's side, whatever they are doing is working.
It's great to see soccer growing so popular in the U.S. I look forward to seeing it grow and improve over time.