International professional clubs have been very active recently here in the U.S. An increasing number of them are setting up official affiliations with youth soccer clubs across the country to identify talent as early as possible and then develop them in the right way, including at their home academies in Europe.
Here’s a very interesting ‘must-read’ article on this topic just published by the LA Times: Other Countries Are Scouting Young U.S. Soccer Talent.
Quoting from this article to set the scene:
When Brad Friedel was growing up in suburban Cleveland a generation ago, youth soccer was more an afterthought than an organized activity. “There was nothing there,” he remembers.
So he was a bit surprised when he moved back to the U.S. after spending most of the last 20 years playing in the English Premier League.
“The entire landscape and scope of what soccer is today doesn’t compare, doesn’t even look remotely similar, to the landscape that I left,” he said.
I will post an article in a day or two specifically about what this trend looks like in the Bay Area, but here’s a brief clip from the Wall Street Journal summarizing the motivations nicely.
They happen to interview the youth academy folks from famous English Premier League team West Ham, but there are many more clubs doing the same now here. West Ham now has dozens of affiliates across the country – check out their website here for a full list.