Europe versus home: An American youth soccer debate

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By Stephen Brandt

We have been trying to find our savior in the sort for years. Ever since Pele did the press with Fredy Adu, we’ve been trying to create our own star players. Whether it is Thomas Dooley, Claudio Reyna, Deuce, and Christian Puilisc, the debate will still reign true, what’s better for a player, Europe, or America. No one really knows the answer, but we here at Prost Soccer are here to provide you an answer.

To start it out, despite America having soccer on and off since the 1880’s, there hasn’t been that vertical path from the academies to the pro’s as it is in most of the modern world. For most of  Major League Soccer’s existence we have drafts upon drafts to get our players in, and then even some may be loaned out to the lower leagues. So there’s decades that were lost because American talent had to go overseas, and the player who were developed here were developed by foreign coaches.

There hasn’t been an established American model from players to coaches. In the US players are taught whatever the most recent fad in the sport is, not the technique. Now there are some coaches out there who boil it down to the basics. But we are a generation behind where we should be. So what are the best academies here in America? Even though that’s subjective, many people look at the Sounders, FC Dallas, Chivas USA, and LA Galaxy ones. Most of these are recent additions to the soccer landscape, and are slowly turning out players for the national teams. Most of the FC Dallas Academy products, if they stay in the league end up being stars. But they’e had a lot of players being poached. Rubio Rubin from Beaverton and DeAndre Yedlin are two of the biggest prospects who have played in the USA set up, who went straight to Europe and into the USA National Team. Emerson Hyndman is on this doorstep coming into the roster.

The well-tuned belief is that if your son is really good, ship them off to Europe. While that’s a great idea, all the clubs are over here are  scouting the top talent. There’s always a European club running camps in every state, not so much to get their names out there, but to get players. Germany have been scouting players for a very long time. Heck Eric Wynalda went over in the 90’s, Brian Dunseth was with Leverkusen in the 90s also. I’m going to stick to Germany on this, since that’s the biggest concentration for talent for the USA team. The wild card in this is Fabien Johnson, who is only American through his father, and hasn’t spent any time in the American youth system on the national side or the youth set up in the states. Look at Schalke, they have a number of players in their ranks from the USA set up, and all will come true. Werder Bremen has a couple USA players in Josh Sargent, whom we all think will be in the USA National team post World Cup, and Trevor Zwetsloot. Bobby Wood who is a starter on the USA team is also in Germany and has gotten better because of that. Of course Wonder Boy is at Dortmund, and did get to play here in the states and in Germany. He’s probably a better player for being in Germany.

The reason for the growing talent in Germany for the players, is that they get to be around the first teams, get to be integrated with the talent. In America, a lot of the academies aren’t apart of the first team set up, or are in other states. Keeping players in a bubble without the exposure sets players back. Yes, not every player in Europe grows to be a great player, more fail than you think. For American players, they need that exposure up and down the club to grow as a player. For this point in the growth of American soccer, parents should be sending their children to Europe if they have the means. Players will develop faster, and better. All isn’t lost with the American Academy system, we are probably a generation away from switching the narrative on it.

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