I had to spend a long time thinking about this article. I didn’t know what to write about at all. The thing about fall break is that once I come back I have to start all over again. Usually I have a plan, I know it might not seem like it but I do. It may be the sort of plan that Dick Dastardly and Mutley used to come up with i.e. they fall apart or backfire in my face; but I have a plan and that is what is most important.
I had someone on my hall complain a few weeks ago that I kept on referring to soccer as football so I thought that I would write a football article about the state of American soccer just to mix it up and make this a confusing experience for everyone except myself because I know what I’m trying to write. And to be really crazy I might use some turns of phrase or statistics. Ooooooooooohh! Crazy.
Usually when I write about a league other than the Premier League it ends up being Italy, Germany or Spain. I ignore France mainly because it just isn’t as good a league and now PSG has so much money the only thing I look for in the results section of Ligue 1 is to see whether they lost. But since I currently reside within the US it has come to my attention that there is such a thing as the MLS. Major League Soccer is unlike every other league in the world due to the restrictions on wages, salary caps, trading of draft picks, and no youth systems. In other words the MLS is an American attempt to make football like all its other sports. But you can’t do that when it isn’t your own sport.
The issue is that unlike in American Football, Basketball, Baseball and Ice Hockey Football isn’t a sport that can be controlled by one country. Through a variety of leagues and organisational bodies American sports can be regulated. Football on the other hand is too big and has existed for too long for a national organisation to establish control over. However, the MLS has attempted to control the wage structures of the clubs that play within it. While this is an admirable attempt for establishing financial responsibility as the watchword of club management it is designed to limit the growth of promising franchises while enabling weaker franchises to remain competitive. This is great for the competition within the league but it isn’t good when you have to compete in international competitions against Brazilian teams that have both youth programs and money.
Monetary restrictions are cast aside for a couple of players on each team in an attempt to encourage players to come play in the US for wages that they could receive in Europe. Beckham came as part of this program, as did Henry and Keane. But is this really a good thing? If you are going to ignore the rules in a few cases then you are breaking the code of preventing one team from dominating. By having Keane, Beckham and Donovan the Galaxy are a much more competitive team than say Dallas or the Union. Some teams are able to attract big name players, match winners, or decrepit former stars that give them a greater advantage over their rivals just because they, due to greater revenue streams, can pay these players outside of the wage cap. Having a Donovan type of player would make almost every team in the MLS better due to the amount of goals and assists he provides, it gives a team an unfair advantage when you are trying to prevent one team from dominating or getting into debt due to financial caps.
Youth football in the US needs to be reconsidered in the same way that financial restrictions should be. Clubs should become more responsible for themselves. This may lead to an imbalance and a lack of competition within the MLS there is a greater reason for this than money. The US national team could use players that have been raised on football and have been able to dedicate their careers to the game. It is admirable that players should get college educations because education is important for all of life even if you are an incredibly gifted footballer and make enough money to never need another job. But education is something that will always hold back the US national team because all other countries can give professional coaching and matches to much younger players. Players in the US generally start later than their compatriots in South America or Europe, first caps for the national teams are later and their first competitive match is always later. Until there is a balance the national team will continue to struggle despite the money that is invested and the amount of young players that pass through the system. I’m not saying that education is bad. But if the US wants to become more competitive on the world stage then there will have to be a rethink of youth coaching strategy.