TGIF: On the U.S. Under-17 team’s unmet expectations

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The U.S. Under-17 national team won a World Cup game on Thursday, but for many American observers, the 1-0 victory against Malawi didn't quite feel like a triumph. The disappointing performance led to some criticism (from SBI among others), and while it might seem misguided to be critical of a team of teenagers, the fact remains that this U-17 squad isn't just some youth team. It is a team being used as a barometer to measure just how bright (or dim) the future of U.S. Soccer is.

Sounds a bit heavy, doesn't it? The fate of a national team program resting on the still developing shoulders of kids who haven't attended their proms yet? It isn't quite that serious, but this Under-17 team does carry the responsibility of showing American fans that progress is being made, that the resources being funneled into U.S. soccer's youth development program aren't being wasted.

The U.S. Under-17 residency program has helped produce some of U.S. Soccer's brightest stars, but two years after an Under-17 World Cup failure, this new installment doesn't look anything like the standout squad we were hearing for so long it would be.

Yes, we've come to that point in American soccer when a youth national team can carry the burden of expectations.

That is what happens with exposure and with more attention being paid to the sport and national team programs. Consider that there are probably more American soccer fans who have heard about Charlie Renken, Earl Edwards and Jack McInerney than have heard about a good number of MLS players. Why is this the case? It is the case because American soccer fans are always looking for the next star, the next player or players to believe in, the generation of standouts who will help the United States rise to the level of the elite. How else can you explain some U.S. national team fans already projecting Under-17 left back Tyler Polak as a future senior national team player based on a few good youth World Cup performances? 

The success of American youth national teams isn't so much about results as it is about showing us that the United States' best young players are getting better and the pipeline is stocked as current stars like Landon Donovan and Tim Howard move toward the inevitable twilights of their careers. It is about a team wearing the USA shield playing some attractive soccer and giving us hope. We saw it in 2007 with the Under-20 national team (featuring the likes of Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley), and we saw it in 2003 with the Under-17 national team (featuring Freddy Adu, Eddie Gaven and Danny Szetela).

No, those youth team flashes of brilliance don't always translate into national team glory, but this country is hungry for evidence of progress. The current Under-17 World Cup team has the unlucky task of following up the Under-20 World Cup team's putrid performance, as well as the disappointment of the 2007 Under-17 team (which finished 1-3). The current team actually showed some good skill in its opening 2-1 loss to Spain, but missed chances and a blown lead vs. Spain, coupled with subsequent flat effort against Malawi (which the U.S. team won courtesy of an awful goalkeeping blunder by Malawi), suddenly have the U-17s heading into Sunday's group finale vs. the UAE needing its strongest performance of the tournament.

Perhaps this team is doomed to fall short of expectations. When standouts Charlie Renken, Joseph Gyau and Sebastian Lletget either pass on or were passed up for this team, any thoughts of real tournament glory should have disappeared. This team doesn't need a medal to be successful though. It needs to play some quality soccer, create chances, show more skill and less fear.

If this Under-17 team can show that it is better than it has shown in its first two matches, and win on Sunday, it could still wind up making this Under-17 World Cup a memorable one for USA fans, and make thoughts of the long-term future of American soccer just a bit more promising. If the U.S. team falls flat, then fans looking for signs of progress will be forced to wait even longer to see them.

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76 Responses to TGIF: On the U.S. Under-17 team’s unmet expectations

  1. forest says:

    I agree and hope Sunday they really play like they are capable of playing.
    And that photo is just damm funny

  2. Isaac says:

    I agree with you on the thought that Americans are always looking for the next great white hope for soccer, or any sport for that matter. That’s good but I think it’s always too quickly ” out with the old in with the new” and one good performance from one player and a bad performance from another normally leads to people thinking it’s as simple as one plus one when it’s not. It translates into players like Edgar Castillo, Jose Torres, Benny Feilhaber, Michael Orozco, Chad Marshall, so on and so forth.

  3. Aaron in StL says:

    Patience…patience is key. Just look at the Confed. Cup this year. We can’t jump so quick after two matches to say U.S. soccer is doomed. Let’s see what the kids have.

    It is a shame the Gyau and Renken aren’t playing. Looks like Lletget is probably a lost cause unfortunately, and will follow Rossi and Subotic as guys that no longer apply to this blog.

  4. Brent McD says:

    You neglected to mention that Spain played nearly the entire match a man down….

  5. MexicanBlueFish says:

    Excellent article IVES.

    “Don’t confuse fame with success. Madonna is one; Helen Keller is the other.”
    -Erma Bombeck

  6. Peter says:

    Anyone know why we haven’t seen Packwood? He is the only one on the roster currently in a club’s academy, right?

  7. MexicanBlueFish says:

    By the way, that photo makes me feel bad for those guys. Are they robot dancing after an own goal by Malawi?? Ouch.

  8. madmax says:

    I wonder about the reporters who followed this team and gave it most of the hype. I wonder what were they watching. The team skills, the pace of play, the individual skills and stamina all should have been noticeable and constant.

    Yet Jen Chang at ESPNsoccernet says I’m wrong( not personally) . This isn’t the same team that they hyped. He says, its more than the three big omissions, it’s not the same team. Did Shinsky connect on his crosses and 5 yard passes back then? Did McInerny attack goal or pass on one touch? Was Duran twice as fast? Did Jerome round the keeper easily?

    Were they just cheer-leading? That’s my guess. And why not, a young fresh group, some good results, and a coach with new ideas made this team a good story. But why isn’t it the same team that Jen Chang saw?

  9. BrooklynFC says:

    I think we need to not stress over this team or any youth USMNT team because as been proven over and over again US players develop later than in most countries…. they usually thrive due to be atheletes

  10. kpugs says:

    There is nothing wrong with criticizing our youth teams. Our national teams have disappointed at every level almost constantly, with a couple of bright spots peppered in over the years. It seems like when our expectations are lowest our teams come through. The problem is that outside of the major competitions at each level, our teams give us reasons to expect big things. Then, when it matters most, they fold like origami.

    I’m confident we will overcome this at some point. When you can meet or exceed expectations, you reach that next level, the top tier. I just hope it’s sooner rather than later.

  11. mattC says:

    Do yourself a favor when you’re watching these games, look more for individual talent than how the team plays. Much like if you were at a combine…choosing players for the future. They’re kids and that gap in talent from player to player is often huge.

    Though Gil has shown momemnts, I’m still waiting for some indidual talent to stand out.

    Does McInerny’s play remind anyone of Joe Max Moore?

    It’s also a shame they’re playing on fake grass. It clearly affects the game.

  12. Rory says:

    IVES said: “Sounds a bit heavy, doesn’t it? The fate of a national team program resting on the still developing shoulders of kids who haven’t attended their proms yet?”

    Yeah, well if they keep dancing like that they’re going alone to prom.

  13. kpugs says:

    That makes absolutely no sense on any level.

  14. madmax says:

    I thought it was spot on.

  15. Frank says:

    The issue is that the hype came after the CONCACAF qualifiers. That is the key – CONCACAF. They looked good in CONCACAF but as always it is much harder when matched up with the rest of the world.

    (SBI-Frank, I know you’re a Mexican national team fan but try and keep up when discussing the US team. The hype for the U-17 team began when the team did well in the Nike Friendlies two years ago against the likes of Russia and Brazil in matches shown on TV. That’s the first glimpse a lot of people got of Charlie Renken, Stefan Jerome, Carlos Martinez and Earl Edwards. That started the hype machine rolling and expectations were heightened from that moment forward.)

  16. Goalscorer24 says:

    The U.S. Under-17 residency program does not work! These young players need to be on professional teams, training with the 1st team, trying to make the 1st team, and playing reserved games every week against other reserved teams. Against Spain’s 10 men we looked thoroughly outclassed.

    (SBI-It isn’t a case of the program not working (the list of players produced makes that claim laughable). The reality is that MLS teams DON’T HAVE ACADEMIES so until they do the U.S. Under-17 Residency Program is necessary.)

  17. jtd says:

    lol, mexican blue fish… thata was my initial thought too,”wtf? are they doing the robot?”

  18. smokeminside says:

    Agreed…they’re kids, for God’s sake. It IS too heavy to place any grandiose expectations on them. Nice to hope, though.

  19. smokeminside says:

    Actually, Adu and Altidore are going to give them a ride.

  20. otergod says:

    these are kids, inconsistent play is going to happen.

    Mawali had very limited chances. US had several opportunities. Our issue this tourny is our final 1/3.

    either way, the results mean little. Its the development that makes all the difference. a number of U17’s are already in Europe, with others soon to follow. A U17 Cup means little, its the end result with our Senior squad that matters to me. Seeing a handful of these kids make it and appear with the USMN is all that matters

  21. Stephen says:

    Hi Ives: enjoyed the article – agree with most of your points. However, the biggest problem with youth development in the U.S. is the USSF. The best players are NOT picked for the U-17 residency program, or the other youth national teams. There is so much political b.s. inside the USSF – it’s sickening. (Give Eric Wynalda a couple of beers and he’ll tell the truth about the USSF). Need to get the pro clubs in the U.S. to take over youth development. Or get people like Claudia Reyna involved in youth development.

    Reyna (and a few others) recently formed the NYSC (New York Soccer club) here in Westchester County. The tryouts were held in May/June up in Bedford, NY. Claudio is coaching the U-11 team, which also includes his son. The team started serious training in mid-August and is destroying all of the elite teams that they’ve against here in the NYC/LI metro area. They went to an elite/premier tournament in PA over Columbus Day weekend and won first place. All this success in just a few months of training!

    My point is that Reyna and his trainers picked the BEST players for each of the teams that they formed (U-11 through U-14). No political b.s involved at all. Until this happens on a widespread basis throughout this country, our national teams will never catch up to the likes of Spain, Brazil, Argentina, etc. – NEVER. We need to remove the USSF from the youth development equation – ASAP.


  22. Judging Amy says:

    You don’t think our national teams have overachieved consistently since 1990? And when they have failed that’s when they’ve been meeting expectations?

    I think most would consider our program since 1990 a huge success.

  23. usa says:

    awesome stephen. we all know that winning a u11 tournament is solid evidence of great training and a great youth set-up that we must emulate to become “spain, brazil, and argentina.”

  24. Dan says:

    Great analysis Ives. I think the problem with our teens is that they don’t have the technical skill of European and Southa American teams. As they mature, their athleticism will help them level the playing field and help neutralize some of the advantage that other countries have due to superior skill sets.

  25. jpc says:

    Realistically, this is going to be the last national team to find any success, b/c the US program has gone about building players from the top levels down, w/ the MLS. Quality MLS youth programs and other rival academies are the way we are going to build any sort of quality team at the U-17 level. One academy of 40 players simply doesn’t cut it. Eventually Bradenton needs to be phased out, players need professional type experiences, and the WC pool cannot be taken from a pool of 40 kids. I think its amazing that they’ve been able to qualify continuously, and actually do pretty well at the Youth WC’s. The youth system is on an upswing, but I don’t see them competing against the best teams for another 10-15 years or so, at least.

  26. Judging Amy says:

    In my experience with youth travel teams it seems as if they are very results oriented, so even if there is politics involved, they still want the best possible team. Elite teams need the best players to stay elite. So I don’t know if Reyna’s success is so much a matter of actually wanting to pick the best players as him having the expertise to know who the best players really are. I guess its a small distinction. I don’t know about youth national teams but if political bs is going on at that level that is very foolish indeed.
    Another concern is the emphasis of the youth soccer system on results and prestige. Parents pay alot of money for their kids to be on teams in the highest division, with the “best” preferably foreign coaches, behave like rabid stage moms on the sidelines and seem to want to literally hang coaches god forbid they lose a few games. Is it a surprise that youth coaches resort to a gameplan of chucking longballs for 90 minutes to their gigantic, overdeveloped superstars? At that level it gets you results.

  27. OmarVizquel says:

    That’s really funny, and I’m not exactly sure why.

  28. madmax says:

    Ives. “… so until they do the U.S. Under-17 Residency Program is necessary.)”

    But why exclusive? Is it inherent in the structure, or a power trip?

  29. Stephen says:

    Well Dopey – you missed my point.

    Do you want a bunch of empty suits in Chicago deciding which kids make our youth national teams, or former professional players like Reyna, Tab Ramos, John Harkes, etc. making those decisions?


  30. jcd says:

    Unmet expectations? I saw that “robot” live… No amount of low expectations could have prepared me for that abomination! My 4 year old nephew rocks the robot better than Shinsky’s abomination.

  31. Ulrich says:

    In the two US U-17 games I’ve watched, I’ve seen some amazing corners that fly into the box (and can’t be finished), some of the worst / weakest shots (does the team do any weight training in south florida?), some atrocious passes to the other team (if they could lift the ball it’s a great idea, but they fly 3feet off the ground and into the defender), and the emergence of the one-trick Shinsky (he has one move to beat the defender, which actually works, but then his crosses are those of a blind man).

    This team is a rudderless mess without the three star players that are missing.

  32. Brent McD says:

    You inadvertently made the point with this line: “Parents pay alot of money for their kids to be on teams in the highest division….”

    Our best talent doesn’t necessarily have alot of money. We need more Dempseys. How do we find and develop them?

  33. Sean M says:

    I think Cabrera should be responsible for some of the blame,because of him we are missing some of our best players. With that being said, nodody on this team has really impressed apart from Gil and maybe Duran. Jack Mac has looked like edson buddle out there.

  34. Supsam says:

    As long as we get another Landon Donovan, the Residency program will be worth it

  35. Aquaman says:

    I agree that Gil and Duran certainly have shown some flashes of being quite good. I think Jack has missed a lot of shots, but he hasn’t missed by much. I know it’s his job to make those shots, but still to get as many shots as he has off and not miss by much is at least a little bit impressive.

  36. Judging Amy says:

    True. Although the best travel programs have scholarship programs in place for good players without money.

  37. andrew in tampa says:

    Disappointed in what I saw from Jack Mac. no guile, no real skill, no nose for goal. Gil on the other hand looks very good. that back heel that eventually led to the goal was worth the price of admission.

  38. bf says:

    I think American fans (me included) put too much hope in young and untested talent. When I lived in England, most fans really could care less about U-17 national team matches. They only watched something if the teams featured a player from their favorite club. I am sure club scouts were there scoping out the next talent, but the average fan didn’t bother because these players haven’t passed the test of playing week in and week out at a good club.
    Of course, we are not England, but I still think we should take note of these teams and players and just wait and see. Otherwise you get over hyped 13 year-olds that end up sitting on the bench for Belenenses.

  39. rory says:

    I agree with smokeminside’s sentiment, but they are playing against OTHER KIDS out there… they ain’t taking on the Brazilian National team, they’re taking on Malawii’s u-17 squad. It really didn’t help them that while the U-20 team was underperforming some people kept saying “yeah, but out U-17 team is the one’s to watch.”

  40. Rory says:

    Don’t Ride with Altidore, according to a tweet last week he tweets while he drives!

  41. Rory says:

    Also, didn’t the press make a big deal out of how the Spainish Under 17’s played together and trained together for a month before the tournament and that really helped them? If that was the case, wouldn’t our 8 plus month academy be a huge boost?

  42. SAY says:

    Great Article as usual by IVES. My biggest issue with the U17 is the exact same issue with Men’s National Team. Very very few options at a true attacker. The US fans are always looking for the flashy, creative attacking players. I do have to applaud left back Polak even though it’s just two games, I’ve never seen anyone on the senior national team be that consistent on corners (EVER). I think he’s been the most consistent.

    Our strength as a nation is our athleticism and our…..wait for it wait for it…our DEFENSE. So a lot of people forget our strength isn’t our offense and that’s what everyone is looking at with these U17s (our lack of finishing). No one at the forward position has done ANYTHING in these games really. The thing I am most pleased about is the gradual infiltration of LATIN talent into the youth national teams. As most US fans would recognize the praise has been given mainly to Duran and Gil. I think most glaring quality about those two is their FIRST TOUCH. I think the appointment of a Latin coach for the youth National teams is a great idea, maybe not the right one, but a good first step. We need the U17 Coach to be more like a TRAINER and truly help develop these guys foot skill.

    I can see everyone’s points about Bradenton, but right now its necessary to have without more money put into MLS and having a true reserve division/academies. I don’t think the current “academies” are going to cut it at all. I still think we might be about 10 years away from REAL academies being a true possibility. My true wish is if “USSF Development Academies” molded into the ACTUAL Reserve Division and each MLS team had what about 5 different youth teams as a farm team and sometimes have players get called up to train with the MLS Team. I think my idea is interesting, but has a lot of potential issues.

    I think another thing that wasn’t discussed about how the U17 team doesn’t necessarily mean national team success is……..NCAA. I think that is what’s holding back some of these players. But that’s maybe a different subject.

    -I know ESPN has done the “Where are they now” editions of several U20 and U17 teams and I didn’t count, but it seems like only 2-4 of the players from each team are really contributing to the Men’s National team. So obviously, we need to look strictly at the individual talent with the pool of U17 players, because I would not be surprised the likes of Shinksy playing in college, then MLS then vanishing.

    Tons of random thoughts but soo much to discuss.

  43. Rory says:

    Well it has to start somewhere. It’s awesome Claudia is given back.

    You just know some jerk parent of a kid on that team is going to be quoted as saying “that idiot coach only plays his son because it’s his son and I bet he doesn’t know as much about Soccer as I do!”

  44. smokeminside says:

    Point taken…to develop my thought a little: it wouldn’t surprise me if half these guys disappear by the time they’re u20 and their spots taken by players we’ve never heard of. I just don’t think this snapshot is necessarily what the future will look like, personnel-wise, or talent-wise. (though I wish they’d play better).

    That said, and as been posted a zillion times before, “Where have all the (finishing) strikers gone?” (sung to the tune of “Where have all the Cowboys Gone”)

  45. smokeminside says:

    I hope he has a designated tweeter. Wish Davies did. :(

  46. futbolero says:

    your second to last paragraph is spot on Ives!

  47. Dennis says:

    I’ve actually watched and coached as a team of teenagers grew up and observed the teams from a few years older to a few years younger than mine. Of all those players(around 150), many played in college (maybe 50) at least 6 played professionally for a short time or played on a YNT (not the players on my team). The only thing I can say for certain is that the “best” player at 15 was not the “best” player at 21. Sure there was a general pecking order that did not have many dramatic changes, but as the kids matured some continued to improve and others did not. Neither of the 2 best 15 year olds by any soccer standard would have been in the top 11 at age 21(nor did they ever play professionally). If you were to have picked the 11 best 15 year olds only a few of them would still be in the 11 best 21 year olds 6 years later. That means if you did not continue to help the other 15 year olds continue to improve the group of 21 year olds would not be as good as it could be.

    That is the failing of the single youth training site, it excludes players who will, given the chance be the best in a few years. And it promotes the talents of bright young stars that whose brightness will fade. What is needed is a much larger net to include all those kids who might develop into stars in the future. Right now the development academies are working along those lines, but…

  48. Yet to be cap-tied says:

    As a player who came up through the youth system (ODP, Super Y league, etc) and experienced the transition to the Devlopmental Academy system, I think people need to realize that there is an entrenched system of coaches who absolutely do pick favorites, and are constantly resistant to bringing new players into the fold. ODP for example, was a joke; there were 18 spots that were essentially guaranteed every year, and the other 100 kids pretty much fought it out for the 3 reserve slots. Development Academy is a step in the right direction, but at least in my area they gave the reigns to the same coaches, who then turned around and raided their old teams for their favorite players. If you want to see better youth developement, it is absolutely critical that the USSF finds new coaches who are willing to develop players, give chances to people outside the traditional youth soccer power apparatus, and willing to play the best players in the best form, regardless of the name. It’s funny, we did talk about the same at age 11 that we did at age 18. But it was usually to say that they no longer lived up to the hype that the coaches put on them. US youth soccer needs a change in mentality more than anything.

  49. Dennis says:

    Let’s get off the “3 stars missing” thing. Every soccer team everywhere is missing players due to injury, suspension, or just plain some dumb thing the player did. I would venture a guess that in 4 years, those 3 will not be considered stars, maybe, one, but probably none. You can extend that to the whole squad of every u-17 team in the present championships. (with more players a few stars will remain)

    Eddie Johnson won the gold boot in the U-17 WC 6 years ago. He is struggling now. He is still young and we will see what the future will bring. Did the USSF succeed by picking him and not some other player?
    Charley Davies did not attend Bradenton and did not make a US YNT until the u-20s. He was the roster final cut before the 2005 championships.
    Neither case proves much except that players change. And it does point out that there are alternate routes to the YNT besides Bradenton, Davies route included the NCAA (Boston College for 3 years). Does that mean the NCAA develops talent better than the MLS or Fulham?

  50. Dennis says:

    Wikipedea is wonderful, Dempsey: well read on:
    Dempsey was born in Nacogdoches, Texas, a small town roughly halfway between Dallas and Houston. For much of his childhood, Dempsey’s family lived in a trailer park, where Clint and his siblings grew up playing soccer with the local Mexican immigrant children.
    His older brother Ryan was offered a tryout for the Dallas Texans, one of America’s elite youth soccer clubs, but young Clint, who had come along, was noticed and recruited while passing time juggling a ball on the sidelines.[1] Dempsey became a standout on the team at an early age, but had to quit due to his poor family’s time and money constraints as his eldest sister Jennifer was becoming a ranked youth tennis player.[2] But several parents of his teammates with the Texans offered to assist the Dempseys with expenses and travel, allowing him to rejoin the club. He went on to be the captain and high scorer of the Texans and was honored with MVP in the Tampa Bay Sun Bowl tournament.

    Dempsey attended Furman University …n his three seasons at Furman, Dempsey started 61 out of 62 games in central midfield and scored 17 goals.

  51. smokeminside says:

    off topic but Switzerland is beating Brazil 1-0 mid way through the second half.

  52. smokeminside says:

    link:link to

    actually, it’s late: 83rd minute

  53. smokeminside says:

    and it’s final, Switz 1, Brazil 0. last ten minutes were VERY intense. Lots of great defense from Switz. and not a lot of imagination from Brazil….

  54. jon jones says:

    Unfortunately, it’s question of numbers. The US has ample talent but only 30-40 players are given access to elite training. If you look at the Arsenal youth system, not every player turns out to be a future star. And in the US, if you look at the Duke basketball team, not everyone is the future of the NBA. As long as there are limited development possibilities, we will continue to fail to produce top qualities. The lack of opportunity is no ones fault in particulur as youth development in the US is in the beginning stages by international standards. As MLS academies continue to grow we will begin to see a decrease in the dependence on Bradenton for MNT players.

  55. Tom says:

    First off…I think this has been some of the best discussion i’ve seen on this site…discussions rather than one sentence jabs (which I do to).

    The point I wanted to make: Can’t we also assess and say that we have three U17 players that are training with European clubs and acknowledge that as a success of the program. How many players turned down the 1999 tourney because they wanted to stay in Europe? It would be great to see this team do better but I will also say I’m glad that there are three youth training in Europe and several more likely to join soon.

  56. Spectra says:

    Thank you someone else see this. We still have a program in the states that rich kids get noticed because they’re at the big clubs and stuff. Charlie davies on the other hand plays hard through college. goes to northern Europe and then blam wow’s us all at the confed cup out of nowhere. No one was hyping this kid but he went out and worked his tail off. I even remember seeing the roster from Gooch and Landons days at the U-17. Not many of them made it into professional soccer let alone the Nats. Lets keep looking for the Charlie’s and leave the Adu’s behind

  57. usadcu says:

    Very much on topic – goes to the unpredictability of U17’s. Brazil finished 3rd in their group, will need to be very lucky to make the next round. Must be the end of quality teams out of Brazil, etc, etc… Switzerland wins their group easily, indicating that the era of Swiss dominance of world soccer is coming…Or not.

  58. Spectra says:

    Ives I still think it is a neccessity but I wouldn’t go so far as to say look at what the residency program produced. Guys like bradley trained with his father for years and then went to brandenton and then had to go make it in Europe. I like the players that are skipping out and just trying to go to europe.

  59. Spectra says:

    I’ll echo your statement do americans lift weights other than Jozy and Gooch? Some of the biggest offenders: clark, bradley, landon, feilhaber. I’m sorry but if your small like that you best have skills like messi or yuo’ll be eaten alive by the likes of gerrard and ballack

  60. daniel says:

    Many here often acknowledge that Latinos have generally great skills and hope for these Latinos to be incorporated into the youth systems. I personally don’t think that is a solution; the reasons these Latinos have those skills is not because of their heritage, it is because they grow up playing soccer and they love it.

    Unless Americans start feeling passion for the game since they are born, we will always have this problem. I am sure every so often a very talented player will be produced but it won’t be enough to even become a feared team.

  61. I agree with what you are saying.

    This same conversation took place on the Hungarian boards about their u20 team. How many of their kids will make it to the senior team? Well if history is the judge, not many. Of the u17 Mexicans that won in Peru, how many have made it to the 1st team? 2? Vela and Dos Santos. Are they starting at their clubs?

    The reality is, you may only get 2 kids off this team because that is how the numbers usually play out in academy teams. Only a small portion of the kids will make it to Europe with a number being average in MLS.

    (That being said, I did like the 2 Polish kids on our team. Poliachuk (sp?) showed some very good skill with pressure. I think Zavaleta is going to be a player. I liked the decisions he was making out of the back.

  62. smokeminside says:

    Yeah, I wonder how the Brazilian football press is responding to this….

  63. smokeminside says:

    P.S. the last stat I saw had Brazil with 68% possession to Switzerlands 32%. Interesting.

  64. jig says:

    fair points, but the discrepancy in technique will hold them back 100 times out of 100.

  65. “I know ESPN has done the “Where are they now” editions of several U20 and U17 teams and I didn’t count, but it seems like only 2-4 of the players from each team are really contributing to the Men’s National team. So obviously, we need to look strictly at the individual talent with the pool of U17 players, because I would not be surprised the likes of Shinksy playing in college, then MLS then vanishing.”

    This is what history shows, not only for the US, but other countries youth program.

  66. SAY says:

    “the reasons these Latinos have those skills is not because of their heritage, it is because they grow up playing soccer and they love it. ” …..I have to say you don’t know what the definition of heritage is….the definition is “practices that are handed down from the past by tradition;”…….and growing up playing soccer is based on it being passed down by generations! Come on. We all know this.

    Latin players in general are very good with the ball at their feet…good touch..good control…that’s where it all begins.

  67. daniel says:

    Sorry I meant to say race and/or ethnicity although heritage might be included because the practice of soccer its passed down by tradition.

    But going back to my point latin players dont have the skill just because they are latins they have it because they love it. If you dont believme look to 2nd or 3rd generation latinos and compare their skills with newcomers or 1st generations. Once latinos incorporate into society they stop playing soccer. Of course, there might be exceptions.

  68. Sean M says:

    Luis Gil looks like he has a future with US Soccer…as long as they dont blow him out like they did with freddy adu I think he will be a future player for the national team,even if it isnt until he is 22-23,it will be worth the wait.

  69. DC Josh says:

    Great article.

    Gil, Gyau (spelling), McInerney, Edwards, Renken. These players will ply their trade in Europe in the future at some point. We just need to allow these KIDS to grow up at their own pace. Don’t forget Luis Gil is still the youngest player on the U-17 team and has a looooooooong way to go until he reaches his potential.

    The youth system is doing things to help develop these youngsters. With the increasing pressure from the media and fans, it will only get better. I feel there is still a gap when kids get into their later teens and into college. The gap lies between outstanding high school talent, and the pros. We also need to get kids into playing the game for the love of it and get rid of huge tournaments that cost lots of money. Too many impoverished kids are being left out.

  70. @Tom

    “First off…I think this has been some of the best discussion i’ve seen on this site…discussions rather than one sentence jabs (which I do to).”

    I agree. I have read every comment on this topic. There are some good ones and thoughtful ones.

    My take is as follows:

    1. Politics does play a part in the current system of player selection.

    2. Players do develop differently. What you see at U17 today, is not what you will see at 21. As a buddy of mine says, age 18 is the great leveller.

    3. Sports in general are generational. We have a couple generations of kids playing the game now.

    4. The current “pay to play” system is broken. We really need to find another way of getting kids into the game. Working closely with school systems to include all kids would be a start.
    -The current economy is putting a stress on this system.

    5. I agree that MLS clubs need to take the lead in player development. Again, the current system is broken.

    6. Player development is not about winning and losing. It is about making kids the best players that can work in a system of play.

    Great…great discussion.

  71. Dennis says:

    Just to remind those who might think the 3 training with european clubs were identified as the best that they probably are the best only among those who happen to have dual citizenship or a parental relationship with a european country. Until they turn 18, most of the players cannot sign with a european club. I have no idea how many of the present crop of U17s are eligible for a european team, but I bet is not many.

  72. Ty Power says:

    Wait… So you’re implying that Guillermo

    Ochoa may not be one of the best goalkeepers in the world?! But he appears in commercials!!!!!

  73. Dennis says:

    Dempsey, Davies, Feilhaber, Bornstein and many others did spend time in college and while you can make a good case that their soccer might have dropped off a bit because of it, it did not seem to hurt too much, and without college perhaps only Dempsey would be a name we know. I think of this group, only Dempsey got national attention at 17, Fielhaber was a walk-on at UCLA and Bornstein was lightly recruited if recruited at all.
    The point is these became talented players because they wanted to. If you can find a way to light that passion in kids, the “system” will not matter so much. I hope right now there is a kid who, like Michael Jordon, is spending way too much time practicing.

    I’ve been involved in youth soccer at the local level for over 20 years and it is an ongoing struggle to reach kids whose parents cannot afford fees or get rides to games or practices. Scholarships will help only the fraction who are clued in and whose parents’ pride will permit it. The movement towards professional coaches for nearly all youth teams has raised fees and taken away the one chauffeur with a motive, the parent coach who often used is the one with the van who picked up 3 or 4 kids with missing or single parents 3 or 4 times a week. The pro coaches generally will not (and often cannot) do that. I am afraid the problem of helping disadvantaged kids is getting worse rather than better.

  74. madmax says:

    Did anyone say Brazil players lacked basic skills and technique? Most here are commenting on the USA’s poor skills, not their results.

  75. smokeminside says:

    I guess I’m reading complaints about both. don’t skills and results seem connected? Or, is that an oversimplification? I mean, for the US, by the way. We’re having difficulty scoring. that seems to indicate a lack of skill at finishing.

    Brazil did not play with any sense of coherence, and when they managed to get the ball in a dangerous spot, Switz. came up with some great plays to deny them. It wasn’t so much the Switz. goalie as it was the backs deflecting and clearing shots. But Brazil seemed very skilled with the ball at each player’s feet; they just couldnt find each other, and didn’t even seem to know where to look. Is that a skill or something else?