The World's Game In The Heart of the Sun Belt

Youth soccer’s dividing line: Club vs. academy

The Washington Post has a lengthy piece on the club vs. academy issue raging in that youth soccer hotbed, and it’s a topic that’s a rather hot one across country.

The U.S. Soccer Federation setting up a development academy that has involved Major League Soccer helped fan the flames of a long divide between the “professional” and “youth” camps in the American soccer structure.

Advocates of the academy system believe that the teaching and mastery of skills aren’t being emphasized enough, and they favor a more vertical system of player development that is common around the world:

“We need to shift the focus of our young elite players from an ‘overburdened, game emphasis’ model to a ‘meaningful training and competition’ model. This will ultimately lead to more success and will allow players to develop to their full potential.”

The speaker there was USSF president Sunil Gulati, whose comments have rankled more than a few defenders of the club approach, and not just because they feel their uniquely American-style autonomy and dominance are being encroached upon:

“I think we all want to push our players on to better environments But the key is, is it a better environment? We’re told it is, but there is nothing being done that proves they are.”

That was an unnamed youth club technical director in the D.C. area. Of course, the academy undertaking is rather new, and it probably will not supplant the established club system that is financed and dictated by highly involved parents.

Earlier this year, Jeff Carlisle of ESPNSoccernet.com examined the national youth structure in a five-part series that delved heavily into the Development Academy. One of his conclusions isn’t optimistic about this new approach:

“One issue is that kids rarely play soccer outside of a structured setting, meaning the kind of improvisation and experimentation that players develop organically in other countries is tougher to come by in the United States. But that is a cultural obstacle too large for the USSF to influence with one program.”

This is a topic I want to explore further as it pertains to what’s happening on the metro Atlanta scene. How much of a club vs. academy problem is there with your club? How is it affecting your child’s ability not just to play or get noticed by scouts, but simply to enjoy and appreciate the game?

Cobb Futbol’s Jack McInerney, a leading player on the U.S. Under-17 national team, has benefited from both environments, although his time this past year at the USSF’s residency program in Florida certainly has elevated his stock.

Can the long-standing club culture really turn out top-level players with potential for pro and national team careers in a way to advance the American game? Or are young players, especially those at the youngest age groups, better off in a less competitive and results-oriented cocoon, where their skills can be incubated without the constant pressure of winning games?

What do you think?

August 10, 2009   2 Comments

A Dutch treat for Cobb SC’s McInerney

ESPN Soccernet profiles U.S. Under-17 national team and Cobb Soccer Club striker Jack McInerney, whose amazing summer has taken another bright turn. He’s headed to Holland over the weekend for a 12-day tryout with a club he and his mother wouldn’t identify, but that Soccer America claims is Eredivisie side Arnhem Vitesse.

In October, he’ll lead the U-17s into the FIFA Youth World Cup in Nigeria. McInerney, who reported to the U-17 residency program two years ago at 5-foot-6, has grown three inches since then, still small for a forward. But his coach in Bradenton, Wilmer Cabrera, says that in McInerney’s case, size doesn’t matter:

“The great thing about soccer is that you don’t have to be the biggest, fastest or strongest player. Jack is smart and that’s why he finds the goal. He knows what his strengths are, he doesn’t do too much. Jack’s simple and effective, he’s not a showman.”

July 30, 2009   No Comments

North Atlanta U-19 boys vie for national title

The North Atlanta Soccer Association ‘08 Elite Under 19 boys team has scored only one goal, but two draws helped it reach the title game of the U.S. Youth Soccer national championships Sunday in Lancaster, Mass.

In the McGuire Cup finals on Sunday at 10:15 a.m., NASA will meet Baltimore Casa Mia Bays 1990. The two teams, which come in with five points apiece, played to a scoreless draw in their opening match. On Friday, NASA also produced a 0-0 result with the Pike Indy Burn Eagles.

Here’s more information from the USYSANC Web site.

In the boys Under 16 tournament, the Gwinnett Soccer Association’s Phoenix Red 93 team was ousted after finishing in last place in the six-team group. The GSA 92 Phoenix Red Under 17 girls also were eliminated after three draws in group play.

July 25, 2009   No Comments

Atlanta teams competing in U.S. Youth nationals

It’s raining today in New England, where the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships are being played, and there are three metro Atlanta youth contingents in action.

On Thursday the North Atlanta Soccer Association Elite Under 19 boys downed the Colorado Rush Nike 1-0 on a goal in the third minute by Christopher Klute. The Gwinnett Soccer Association Phoenix Red Under 16 boys played to a 2-2 draw with Campton United Navy of Illinois as Walker Zimmerman and Ado Junuzovic scored. (Here are all of Thursday’s boys scores.)

On the girls side Thursday, the GSA Phoenix Red Under 17 also played to a 2-2 draw with Eclipse Select of Illinois as Kimberly Spence and Alexa Newfield notched goals.

GSA is “Tweeting” updates from its team’s games here during the tournament.

Here’s the official tournament Web site, with scores, schedules, standings and other information.

Real-time developments from all games also are on the USYSNC’s Twitter feed, which also has updates on the weather.

July 24, 2009   No Comments

Atlanta youth stars called into U.S. team camps

Alex Newfield of the Gwinnett Soccer Association’s Phoenix Red girls program has been working out with the U.S. Under-20 women’s national team, which is playing its Canadian counterpart in a three-match friendly series this week in Boulder, Colo.

Two local regulars on the U.S. men’s Under-17 national team have been included on the roster for the Copa Macae, a major international youth tournament that begins today in Brazil.

Jack McInerney of Cobb Soccer Club and defender Jordan McCrary of Concorde Fire this spring were in the Under-17 residency program in Bradenton, Fla.

There’s more information here from the U.S. Soccer Federation.

July 14, 2009   No Comments