After a disgraceful loss to Trinidad and Tobago in the World Cup qualifying tournament, the United States men’s national soccer team has been exiled from participating in the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The last time the USMNT was left out of a World Cup was in 1986, when Mexico hosted the event. Now that the Americans will be watching the tournament from home, there will be a lot of time to reflect on the faults of the United States Soccer Federation. Sunil Gulati, the president of the USSF, needs to stop blaming the players, coaches and scouts. He needs to resign. This sporting federation needs to completely rethink their approach of their handling of the U.S. player pool. The system that this country uses to evaluate its soccer programs is broken. To begin with, the USSF has turned playing soccer into an immense financial burden to low income families in inner-city neighborhoods. On average, it costs $5,000 annually (equipment, team fees and traveling cost) to fund a child’s dream of playing competitive
youth soccer at the highest level. The “pay to play” model has not worked for America. It has canceled out many of the minorities from playing soccer in this country. The youth system that the U.S. operates under forced much of the elite youth teams that come from suburban areas to field teams mostly made up of white players. How long is it going to take for someone at USSF to say that the current system does not work and that the program must expand to reach low income communities. As of now, these privileged suburban soccer players are not cutting it. The USSF should take a page out of Germany’s book for rebuilding a broken soccer program. This consists of constructing youth programs that include any child that desires to play soccer competitively. It should first mandate that all professional soccer teams in this country are required to better accommodate children entering academies to smooth the transition from amateur to professional play. Also, teams in the MLS should
be required to ensure a minimum of 12 out of the 18 players on the roster be American-born citizens. Another aspect of the American game that must be changed is the structure of the professional leagues. MLS is expanding year-to-year, but that growth is not enough. Bringing in washed up European players is not a longterm solution (David Villa of the New York City FC is an exception). The first step is for the MLS is to eliminate the salary cap. Salary caps hinder MLS teams from being financially competitive against other teams around the world in the transfer market. Yes, the designated-player rule allows MLS teams to bring in stars like Sebastian Giovinco, Jonathan Dos Santos and Ignacio Piatti, however, that starves the rest of the roster
leading to lower salaries which hurts the quality of play. If USSF leadership and MLS investors think this league is a respected one throughout Europe or Latin America, they are wrong and it is an ignorant assumption. Even Third World countries make fun of the MLS. This whole structure is broken and it is embarrassing to watch this country totally mishandle the talent it has at its disposal. The U.S. develops good youth talent, then places those players into its lower competition leagues. Then those players get embarrassed on the national team. It’s an endless cycle of dumpster fires. In true monopolistic style, the MLS is owned by a group of investors that control every team in the league. The league lacks a promotion/relegation system that is essential for structured competition. The plan slows the growth and development of the league and has a negative effect on the national player pool. This method of running a professional soccer league isolates the U.S. from the world transfer markets putting it at a disadvantage. The Liga MX (Mexican first
division soccer league) is a perfect example of competing on the open market against European teams. Over the last five years, the bigger clubs in the Mexico have made strides toward bringing top quality talent to the Americas. Players like Marcelo Diaz, Andre-Pierre Gignac and Eduardo Vargas have been lured to Mexico via open market competition. Now the U.S. must look at the leaders of USSF and MLS investors and ask them if all they care about is their profits. Will Gulati continue to stick his neck out for these arrogant millionaires? These people are wasting one of the greatest talent pools in the world just so they can collect a check. American soccer fans must demand better leadership at the top of the USSF. The U.S.’s loss to Trinidad and Tobago cost it a World Cup berth. Hopefully, Gulati and his cronies realize they should resign for a lack of overall vision.
Efrain Valdez is the social media editor for The Advocate. Contact him at [email protected]