I was glancing through the comments at the end of this article on the challenges facing U.S. Men's soccer coach Bob Bradley, when I came across a comment that highlights a monumental truth regarding soccer in the USA.
A soccer oracle with the odd name of SignGuyDino hit the nail on the head when he opined, "In the world, soccer is the poor kid's game. In America, it's the rich kid's game."
I thought about that for a minute and realized the truth of it. Our oldest son just finished his freshman year in college. He didn't play club ball growing up and only played three years on his High School team. yet even with that lack of experience, he was able to get a partial scholarship to play at a small NAIA school in central Florida - Webber International University. But let me tell you, that is one expensive college. Is our son getting some great coaching and a great education? Absolutely - but it ain't cheap.
Our younger son, still a junior in High School, has been playing for the local club team, FC Santa Rosa, to boost his skill level. We are struggling to keep that dream alive. At $70 per month for club dues, it's not too pricey as club soccer goes, but the start up costs, uniform fees, tournament costs, etc. all add up. And in this economy, with a spouse who fell victim to layoffs, yeah, it's expensive.
I think what SignGuyDino was trying to say is that if you go to just about any other country in the world, soccer is played at the street level. Kids grow up playing the game anywhere they can. The professional leagues have academies to draw in the better prospects. National teams sponsor camps and other opportunities for kids of all age brackets - not just to showcase their talents, but also to offer real and valuable advice on what they need to do to improve.
Soccer is the world's game and it's looked upon across the globe like we look upon football, basketball, and baseball in this country - as a way to escape the poverty of the streets through excellence in athletic endeavor. I'm tired of hearing couch pundits rip American soccer - and I'm guilty as charged, although I still play the game - but many of their rants have substance, if not style. That dino guy also said that, '...in the U.S. soccer is played with a soccer mom mentality,' and he's right. We need to get serious about building a national organization to develop soccer in America. We need private companies and public organizations to help finance the growth of the sport in this country. We won't need the gravy train forever; once the sport takes off and the infrastructure is in place, then we'll begin to see the U.S. emerge as a real challenger on the biggest stages of the world's biggest sport.
What do you think?
For more in-depth commentary on the Beautiful Game than I can offer, check out the great blog by Ives Galarcep - Soccer by Ives