A major issue in American youth soccer is about eliminating or adjusting the system of "pay to play” which has traditionally supported developmental youth soccer in the suburbs of America. This system in its structure will mostly showcase players whose families can afford to pay their club, travel, and hotel fees and expenses. Sometimes these annual club fees can run as high as $ 12,000-$18,000 annually, along with travel expenses. This problem is compounded when we look at the national talent pool in soccer which, unfortunately has culminated with U.S. soccer not meeting world standards of skill and competitiveness.
It is also this author's opinion that the federal and state soccer associations do have the financial resources and system of networking in place in which they can provide funding to kids that are underprivileged and living in our urban centers or poorer rural areas. Many of these players go undiscovered, unnoticed and are hardly ever moved up into top-flight developmental programs and the system for national team play.
Familes in this "hidden America" of youth soccer can be found on any given weekend barbecuing and playing in public parks. Maybe their family has immigration status problems or they cannot afford the costs of high level travel team soccer. It should be the game's quest to discover and develop the best available talent that can be utilized for our national team(s).
Coaches and parents must learn to " structure the unstructured styles" the free-style playing in the parks and streets that these kids and their families have learned and developed.
There are many reasons girls of the inner cities have found their sports' role models in basketball players like Maya Moore, Brittney Griner and Nneka Ogwmike.4 Money is available and programs abound for them to play basketball all year round. This funding comes from donations and sponsorships for the tournaments that they play in. In soccer there are currently no available programs like this in youth soccer that scout and target the inner city and rural kids.
Three years ago, Roger Bennett of Men in Blazers and Greg Kaplan, a University of Chicago economics professor, set out to study the effects of the pay-to-play system on American soccer. They compared the background of each US men’s national team member from 1993 to 2013 to that of every NBA all-star and NFL pro bowler over the same period, using socio-economic data from their hometown zip codes. They found the soccer players came from communities that had higher incomes, education and employment rankings, and were whiter than the US average, while the basketball and football players came from places that ranked lower than average on those same indicators. Those numbers have tightened since 2008, reflecting more recent diversity in soccer, but the gap remains.
Now there is much to be admired within the system that presently exists as "pay to play" and these qualities should be incorporated into a new emerging system that seeks diversity of culture within the youth ranks.
I remember on Jase's club team there were players receiving club scholarships paid for by the parents. These players did not receive proper tutelage on being scouted for colleges or obtaining a roster spot in a Development Academy. Sadly, they ended up doing prison time on gun possession or other criminal charges. It would certainly be better if the state associations funded the mentoring of these players. I believe they have enough resources to do this.
The National Alliance for Youth Sports says, “Volunteer coaches are the backbone of youth sports
in America. Without the thousands of parents signing up to coach youth sports every season, the youth sports world would come to a screeching halt!”
We must not allow that to happen. Parents, and coaches should work hand-in-hand with the state youth soccer associations to develop the quality of soccer in the U.S.A.
You certainly are all our heroes.