US Soccer Dumps the Development Academy “Just-Like-That”


Let’s start saying that there is nothing in the bellow USDA communication that suggests they have any thought to the children, the athletes, the players!
There appears to be a rather disingenuous expression of remorse in the notice (letter) of the quick decision to shutdown the US Soccer youth development program (blaming it on the Covid-19 pandemic). The “Notice” is full of DA’s praises and that’s about it. However, it’s very doubtful the program was cut due to long-term financials, more likely, those the heavily paid board members did not take the advise of the soccer experts in the organization (I know of many that had a better solution).

We as Americans should all be embarrassed on how US Soccer handled this. We teach our children to never, ever, give up, no matter how tough the opponent is or how difficult their team or club situation has become. Just hours ago a very well respected youth soccer club president text me this: ” Rick, it’s just another mismanagement of the sport by people who were set on lining their own pockets before creating a successful national program.”

It’s very strange, the ECNL and all the other national leagues didn’t run out of business because of COVID-19. However some speculate that the USWNT lawsuit is part of the reason the USSDA is now done. The financial hit had to be taken somewhere, so the USSDA program was axed as a result.

Lesson learned! Never again any trust in a US Soccer based academy program!
It’s always about the bottom line and we wonder why talent leaves the US at an early age and heads to Europe (UK, Italy, Spain, Netherlands…) to develop.

This is a sad day in US Soccer. Let’s add to that: Missing out on the World Cup as well as the Olympics, it has shown that the DA and USSF Coaching Education lacked real quality. The coach education is a LOT lower than any UEFA program, with an extremely old school mentality resulting in a broken department that needs to be completely restructured in order for it to produce real quality coaches. We need coaches that are passionate about what they do and coach educators and not “Dictators” them that have an open mind who promote creativity from up and coming coaches.

Currently the USSF is creating robots and we have seen the results. From what I have been told by fellow coaches on the courses, coaches going after the USSF B and A licenses are pretty much forced to follow the coach educators steps and philosophy/beliefs step by step in order to pass the courses. If I dared to do that during my UEFA course’s I would have been kicked out on day one. Unfortunately, I don’t believe this is the way forward. We ask our players to be creative, show flair, take chances, but yet we ask coaches to be robots or risk failing their coaching course.

Outside of the US Soccer DA I’ve seen plenty of club directors promote and allow coaches to be very creative to develop players and to run their sessions in accordance to what they believe needs to be accomplished. I never coached to win at the youth levels. Yes winning brings joy and confidence at times but at the risk of long term player development? No thank you. I’ve coached plenty of players both in Italy and the US that have gone on to join the FIGC or the DA and other top level clubs over the years only to be told by parents that while its great visibility for them and higher competition levels. The training provided isn’t all the best and plenty of great coaches don’t get the opportunity to coach at the higher level for one reason or another.

There is a lot of talent that might shift to other sports during this moment. The real question is: How will they attract the superb talent to come back from a broken system?

Pay to play at its finest! No wonder we cant field 11 U17 or U19 players out of 329 million US citizens!!!

For years the U.S. model has been going down the wrong road for the wrong reason, now if we could get rid of these over priced “Franchise Youth Soccer Clubs” that say they are here for the kids (LOL). If your there for. Kids why does it cost the parents thousands more dollars for 2 nights a week training for 3 hours. Total. Congrats US soccer your making progress. 

Time to start a real soccer development culture like that in Europe. Focused around professional clubs without the huge pay to play programs, franchises and barrel scrapers that are just after mom and dads pocketbook content.
The best players will migrate and play for pro-related clubs (USL Championship and MLS) where player rights can be sold just like the leading soccer countries around the world. The non-elite players can continue to play in local and state leagues. This can be the start of something great for soccer in the United States, that seems to strive in every other world class sport but Soccer!

THE ALTERNATIVES TO THE US SOCCER DA…

MLS Academy:
There aren’t enough details yet to understand the differences between the DA and the MLS-A. One of the main questions will be how they decide what non-MLS clubs to compete within this pre-professional environment, while at the same time, not ostracizing their current/potential fan base? However, it is exciting to see MLS try and tackle the elite player pathway programming since they are the ones who have the most to gain (in theory).

USL Championship Academy:
Nothing less than a prime division USL team academy would work (Championship).
Each club will seek to field one youth team, that’s primarily composed by top local U15 to U19 players. Building a direct link to the USL Championship senior team is a great idea, but what are the costs? Will only the rich boy and girl be able to play?

My concerns for both the above:
1) how successful will this be if it’s not their core business?
2) if you are choosing your local competitors, how do you not ostracize clubs that don’t get selected which serve as your current fan base?

I think it can work, but one will need great diplomacy skills and I am sure that won’t be the case in every market.

The DA is gone! Can we finally change the youth soccer model in the United States please!!

Rick Zucchi
ZEE Soccer Academy