Who’s really in charge of soccer in the USA in 2018? It’s my opinion that a group led by primarily 2nd tier and lower former English soccer players and fans who are now around 60-70 years old are in control of American soccer. In the 1990’s and earlier we had a combination of English, German, and Eastern European soccer leaders in the USA, but now it’s primarily and almost exclusively English led. These are the coaches, directors, agents, and executives who make the decisions behind closed doors, behind the scenes in American soccer.
Most people think that the coaches make the decisions when actually it’s the agents and executives who recommend which coach is to be hired to the team owners and executives who provide the funding to keep teams and leagues in business. These English agents and their progeny play all sides of the coin between the coaches, players, and team owners and executives. I believe that this is not obvious to most soccer fans, players, and coaches.
The formative experience of these movers and shakers in American soccer is from England during the 1960’s and 1970’s. These soccer bosses were not necessarily the most talented players or most successful or knowledgeable in English soccer but they are the first wave of English “soccer immigrants” to come to the USA who set the stage for soccer in the USA and dictate such things like player development, transfers, league relations, international friendlies, coaching hires, and sponsorship relations. They are running the show in American soccer now.
This explains the kind of soccer style we see on the field across American teams ranging from ODP, club, college, pro, and national teams. These English imports who control American soccer now are the ones who find and recommend the coaches to the team owners and this sets the tone for the American soccer style. Interestingly, you can see the lineage that these English born and raised American soccer leaders learned during their playing days in the late 1960’s and through the 1970’s brought over from England to the United States. The player selection, playing style, training methods, ideas, thought processes, attitudes, word use, and nearly everything about American soccer was imported from England by these first and second wave of soccer immigrants. Do we play on a pitch or a field, for example?
We all remember how cool it was in 1980’s if your soccer coach was from England and had an English accent. They were automatically thought of as something akin to Pelé. We owe a great debt of gratitude for these English soccer pioneers for what they’ve done for American soccer, but it may be time to move on to something better. Is the 1960’s and 1970’s English soccer style really the best thing for American soccer in the long run? Is this ancient soccer style, developed primarily on cold and muddy fields, what we want the American soccer style to be for the future of American soccer?
Why not consider soccer ideas from more successful soccer countries like Brazil, Argentina, Italy, or Germany instead of the way soccer was played in England in 1975? These countries play a more attractive style of soccer and produce better players on the world stage as well. For example, Brazil has produced more World Player of the Year award recipients and won more World Cups than any other country. In fact, Brazil has produced more World Player of the Year winners than nearly all the other countries in the world combined. Brazil also exports more professional soccer players to various leagues around the world than any other country. Brazil, Italy, Argentina, Uruguay, and Spain have won the most club world championships in history, far more than the other countries, by a combined factor of 5-1. Wouldn’t this be the best system for young American soccer players to learn and for the USA to adopt as a national soccer style if we want to produce the best soccer players and teams? USA also has a similar diverse ethnic population just like Brazil has as well as a similar culture based on families, friends, neighborhoods, food, and parties, rather than the pub-culture of England and Europe. England, in contrast, has never produced a World Player of the Year winner, let alone very many nominees.
These thoughts and discoveries also explain why so few of the best Latin style soccer players in the United States have been included in the various important soccer clubs in the USA. The current leading scorer in 1st and 2nd division professional soccer in the USA over the past 5 years has still never played for the US National Team, and he is of Colombian descent, for example. This player led all American-born strikers in MLS in goals from play in the 2017 MLS season. At the most, Latin players have been let in but always kept on the fringe. And when I talk about Latin players I don’t just mean Mexican players or players from a Latin country or who have Latin descent or, even, who speak Spanish. There are many “white” or German or even players from English descent who play a Latin style of soccer in the United States, just like there are many Spanish speaking players who play the English style. These are Latin people are not Latin style soccer players, they are culturally mismatched soccer players playing the old-English game. There are actually thousands, maybe millions of English speaking blond-haired and blue eyed boys wanting to play like Brazil, but not given the opportunity to explore this style of soccer in the USA. However, the Latin soccer style does not match up with what the 1970’s English soccer bosses and coaches in the USA want to see or have in mind. It just doesn’t make sense to them how they play and think about the game, not to mention that people naturally surround themselves with their friends and close colleagues, rather than unknowns, and exclude people and things that are unfamiliar or new to them.
Looking back on things, it all makes sense now. Why the USA is playing such stationary, rough, low scoring, unskilled, and even boring soccer? Why can’t the USA qualify for the World Cup? Why does the US National Team and MLS teams almost never field a primary striker who is under 6′ tall? Why does the USA produce so few skilled players? Why has the USA never produced a single player (while Mexico has produced multiple players who have) to play for the two best teams in the world over the past 15 years, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid? Why hasn’t the USA qualified for the last 2 Olympics? Why are there so many English coaches and players in our college and pro leagues more than 50 years after the first NASL was founded? Why do we struggle against teams like Bosnia and Iceland? Why does the current version of MLS look like a baby clone of the EPL with very few, if any, main players who are American born and raised? I found my answer by looking at who is really in control of American soccer today and the way soccer was played and trained in England in the 1960’s and 1970’s. It all makes sense now. What we are seeing today is the imagined brainchild of a 1960’s and 1970’s English soccer fan made manifest in American soccer in 2018.