In the wake of the most disappointing result in USMNT history, a 2-1 loss that punctuated a failed World Cup qualification cycle, there has been a lot of talk of stacking all parts of U.S. Soccer into a pile, drenching that pile in a mixture of kerosene and Taylor Twellman’s righteous indignation, and then burning that pile until it is nothing more than the slowly smoldering embers of a once proud American Dream.
I get it. Things are not perfect with the system, evaluation is needed, and a period of reflection is warranted. I will not attempt to provide solutions to the national issues because they have already been solved by twitter (All we need is pro/rel, three of Alexi Lalas’ beard hairs, and to change our country’s name to the United States of Iceland). However, here are three things that I believe Real Salt Lake can do to strengthen the game in our own backyard (and Arizona).
This is something NYCFC did recently that I LOVE.
More places to play results in more people playing which leads to a greater attention for the sport, greater investment of social and financial capital, and greater pools of talent for the academy to draw from.
Throughout the world, soccer is the game of the masses. In America, participation rises with income level. Working with initiatives like this to put pitches in underserved communities will open up the game to more people, and improve the soccer culture in the state.
More free to play academies
The RSL Academy is top notch and has already produced incredible talent like Justen Glad, Brooks Lennon, Sebastian Saucedo, Danny Acosta, and others. In order to maximize the player pool though, there need to be a network of elite clubs in the state that are also producing high quality talent to integrate into the academy setup. Subsidizing clubs throughout the region will help RSL cast a wider net for talent identification and lead to even more homegrown talent at the senior level.
Ok so I’ll admit, I don’t really know a lot about the business side of Jr. Jazz, but I do know how it works on the court: My nine year old self wears short shorts and takes a lot of no-look fadeaways, my coach/some kid on the team’s accountant dad just yells lines from Hoosiers and tells us make five passes before a shot, the other team beats us by thirty, and then we all go to Arctic Circle and eat too much fry sauce.
I imagine Real Salt Lake could institute a similar program, hopefully with better trained coaches, that could develop kids between the crucial 5-12 year old age range. A lot of clubs have good programs for older kids, but talent development and ID needs to happen at a much younger age. Increased opportunities for kids equals an increase in talent for the organization.
What did I miss? What do you think RSL can do to cultivate talent? Let us know!