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Three things US Soccer needs to do to improve

By: Victor Higuera

Just a few months ago there was a worry that team USA might not qualify for the World Cup, but they’re back on track and appear poised to be heading to their eighth straight World Cup event. That actually seems a bit crazy to think about how the Red, White, and Blue have become such a fixture in the international event. USA missed nine straight World Cups over a 32-year period before getting in, in 1990. That makes a bit more sense considering that in USA soccer isn’t anywhere close to a top tier sport when it comes to fan support. At best, soccer is the fifth most popular professional sport in the states. Around the world, soccer is religion.

Despite this fact, the USA is not only regularly in the World Cup, but they’ve made it to the knockout stage the past two tournaments, including 2014’s advancement from the Group of Death, beating out Portugal and Ghana for the right to move on.

While soccer might not be the most popular sport in America, the countries pure commitment to sports and ability to spend huge amounts of money to improve is what makes USA a sleeping powerhouse in any sport they commit to. But while the USA has made some tremendous improvements and advancements in the sport, there are still some factors that are really holding them back when it comes to making a deep run in the World Cup.

1. College Soccer is not a proper farm system

College level talent as the link for national team players is not the answer. These are student athletes and this means that these players must abide by the rules made the NCAA for college level athletes. While other countries have prospects investing fully in improving their soccer skills, college athletes are restricted on time to train because of classes and limitations on the number of hours’ players can work with coaches. These college athletes are not refining their skills year around. College soccer as it stands right now should not be where USA pulls their youth players or national team players, but it’s a big system with a lot of talented players, just not prepared players.

2. They need to develop more club youth academies

Brazil, Italy, and Germany have each won four or more World Cups. These nations consistently qualify for the World Cup, the reason is their youth academies create a tremendous pipeline of talent to their national team. Youth player’s techniques and skills are developed at a young age for these nations. From a young age, players can refine their skills and compete against top level talent. This is how nations find their top-level talent for their national team. USA soccer must do the same if they wish to become a threat in future World Cups. The MLS has recently formed youth academies for their club teams allowing these youth players to compete against other youth club talent. With the academy structure being developed within the MLS, these homegrown talents can be spotted by bigger clubs allowing them to compete the top youth players. For USA soccer to have skilled players and pool of youth talent coming through each year the MLS must continue to develop their club academies.

3. A bigger emphasis on futsal

11 vs. 11 is how soccer is played everywhere in the world. At a young age skill and technique is developed by the amount of practice player gets with the ball. Soccer players improve in practice by the number of touches, passes, and shots. USA does not need soccer players who are athletes, they need to have soccer players with skill. The inclusion of futsal game would be great, and long overdue addition in youth academies. Futsal is an indoor game, generally played on a much smaller field and in tighter spaces. Players become better by not only moving faster but by playing the game at quicker pace. Youth players enjoy the game when they get more touches, develop new skills, but build up ball control that can still influence the game on 11 vs. 11 field.

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Victor Higuera

Staff Writer
Victor has not always had the passion for sports. As a child, he enjoyed reading books based on paleontology and zoology. At the age of ten, his interests changed when he was introduced to the most popular sporting event in the world, the FIFA World Cup. His dream was to play professionally in a World Cup game. And although this dream did not come true, he continues to play soccer for the joy of the game. From this joy, he decided to pursue a major in Sports Journalism and Broadcasting at Fullerton College. Victor is working his way to becoming either an MLS or EPL beat writer. He still has the dream to be at a World Cup, but this time it will be him writing and covering the event.

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