State of U.S. Soccer according to former FC Barcelona Academy Director

Albert Puig wrote the following open letter in English and Spanish on Oct 12, 2017, following the elimination of our MNT from the World Cup:

One year after my arrival to the United States, with your permission, I intend to reflect on the situation of the U.S. Soccer.

I want to do it without criticism. Just stating the facts, since the will of the development of soccer in the United States, it is, and so it must be, of the Americans themselves.

I think it may be interesting to both the American public and to the rest of the world, to understand the situation, of course, always in my humble opinion.

The elimination of the senior national team for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, is no more than a consequence of the current soccer development system in the country.

A development system unable to define which is the objective. In the rest of the world, soccer becomes a factor of maximum social roots. Accordingly, their level is compared with other countries, and in that competition is where the challenge is created.

In the United States, the structure is very different. Without social roots at the base, its objective is transformed from collective to individual.

The formation of the player has a clear objective: get a scholarship for American universities.

Thus, we move from a collective challenge of a society, to a challenge more alien to it: the individual success in a team sport.

The development player becomes a parental investment; not so much, as in the rest of the world, because of the possibility of an economic and social future, but because investing a monetary amount now and multiplying by ‘x’ later, may become money saved for the university.

This leads to an exaggerated individualization of the vision of the parents on the development of the player. Every game has to be the result of my economic investment this week, therefore, it has to be the best, because the individual vision goes over the collective one. I invest, so I would like to see immediate results.

Sports structures are at the service of this idea. Plenty of competitive rules that only seek to follow the marked path: to arrive at the university.

Here a parenthesis. The American university is part of a big business economic development of the country, and acts as the real connector from youth to maturity within both social and jobs industry point if view. This is different in other countries.

In that individual objective, the methodology of the coaches follow the path. Practices where the focus are on the individual technical and physical development of the player, without understanding that soccer is a language, where the most important thing is to understand that language, understand it and speak it.

Two styles very defined. The combinative, usually robotic and without any hint of motivation by the creativity; and the physical, the body size and a direct game with speed to the back of the defenses.

The final goal, that could well be as in other countries, the arrival to the professional soccer, here the MLS, it is a way without any kind of future work.

Business takes over sport. Low salaries, not attractive to the American player, pure marketing, and tickets with the price of European soccer.

Result? Maximum economic benefits for the owners of the clubs, very low level of competitive quality. And those players are the basis of the national team.

Cases like Pulisic, which I personally know well because I was Director of the academy for FCB, are exceptions; in this case it was successful thanks to the strong will of the family, and the risk they took going for the adventure of professional soccer in Europe; as I said, in this case was successful, but unfortunately many more did not achieve their dream.

And what is the way forward? Only the social will of desire. And in these moments, and in the past, the United States, does not want to, as a collective, be a reference for the world of soccer.

US really has all the ingredients; large population, very smart players, with good physical anatomy for the sport, creative, collective….. only one thing is missing….to want, and to know, how to do it well.

SPANISH VERSION:

Un año después de mi llegada a Estados Unidos , con vuestro permiso, me dispongo a reflexionar sobre la situación del futbol estadounidense, aquí llamado soccer. Quiero hacerlo sin critica. Solo exponiendo los hechos, ya que la voluntad del desarrollo del futbol en Estados Unidos, es , y asi debe ser, de los propios americanos.

Creo interesante para que tanto el publico americano , como el del resto del mundo, entiendan la situación, evidentemente, siempre desde mi humilde opinión.

La eliminación de la selección absoluta del mundial 2018 de Rusia, no es mas que una consecuencia del desarrollo actual del futbol de formación del país. Una formación donde no esta definido cual es el objetivo que persigue, o si. En el resto del mundo ,el futbol, pasa a ser un factor de máximo arraigo social . En consecuencia , su valor es comparado con otros países, y en esa competición esta el objetivo de superación.

En Estados Unidos, la estructura es bien distinta. Sin arraigo social en la base, su objetivo se transforma de colectivo a individual. La formación del jugador tiene un objetivo claro. Conseguir una beca económica para las caras universidades americanas. Asi pues, pasamos de un reto colectivo de sociedad, a un reto mas ajeno a ella. El éxito individual en un deporte colectivo.

El jugador de formación se convierte en una inversión paterna, ya no tanto, como en el resto de países del mundo por un porvenir económico y social de futuro, sino por invertir una cantidad monetaria para multiplicar por x después, en el ahorro de la tasa universitaria.
Eso conlleva a una individualización exagerada de la visión de los padres sobre el desarrollo del jugador. Cada partido tiene que ser la consecuencia de mi inversión económica de esta semana, por ello, tiene que ser el mejor , ya que la vision individual prima sobre el colectivo. Invierto, pues quiero ver resultados inmediatos.

Las estructuras deportivas están al servicio de esta idea. Infinidad de reglas competitivas que solo buscan seguir el camino marcado. Llegar a la universidad. Aquí un paréntesis. La universidad americana es parte de un gran negocio económico de país, y actua como eje real vertebrador del paso de juventud a la madurez dentro del ámbito laboral y social. Diferente en otros países.

En ese individual objetivo, la metodología de los entrenadores siguen la estela. Practicas donde se busca el desarrollo individua técnico y físico del jugador, sin entender que el futbol es un lenguaje , donde lo mas importante es entenderlo , comprenderlo y hablarlo.

Dos estilos muy marcados. El combinativo, mas bien robotizado y sin ningún atisbo de motivación por la creatividad. Y el fisico, imperando la talla corporal y un juego directo con velocidad a la espalda de los defensas.
El objetivo final, que podría bien ser como en otros países, la llegada al futbol profesional, aquí la MLS, es un camino sin ningún tipo de futuro laboral. Impera la ley del negocio. Bajos salarios, no atractivos para el jugador americano, marqueting en estado puro , y entradas a precio de futbol europeo.

Resultado? Máximos beneficios económicos del los propietarios del los clubes, nivel muy bajo de calidad competitiva. Sus jugadores son la base de la selección americana.

Casos como Pulisic, que bien conozco personalmente por mi antigua dirección de la academia del FCB, son excepciones, mas por voluntad firme de la familia, y del riesgo de la aventura del mundo profesional europeo, que en este caso si ha tenido exito, pero por desgracia muchos mas no consiguieron su sueño.

Y cual es el camino? Solo la voluntad social de querer. Y en estos momentos, y en el pasado, Estados Unidos, no quiere como colectivo ser referente el el mundo del futbol. Lo tiene todo. Poblacion, jugadores muy inteligentes, con buena anatomía física para el deporte, creativos, colectivos….. solo fatal eso….querer y saber hacerlo bien.

Lifelong player and student of the beautiful game in Germany, England, and USA. Volunteer futsal coach and USSF referee.

2 thoughts on “State of U.S. Soccer according to former FC Barcelona Academy Director

  1. “Cases like Pulisic…are exceptions; in this case it was successful thanks to the strong will of the family, and the risk they took.” People keep pointing our CP as evidence our systems are NOT broken, but if that were the case we would have dozens of Pulisics right now and we don’t. The MLS/single entity tail is wagging the USSF dog, but defenders keep talking about stability and ownership groups as if they are the most important things about soccer in the US.

    Like

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