Over the last three months, I have started a deep dive into the youth soccer landscape in the US. My aim is to complete thorough research to understand all the intricacies making the US youth model so special and so different from anywhere else in the world.

Unsurprisingly, we tend to do everything differently in the US; maybe that’s just a way to feel unique, or maybe it’s a societal current. In this sense, I have been trying to identify what makes this country so different in the way we “develop” youth soccer players. Here are some of my biggest learnings so far:

Starting at the structural level, we must understand that there are two main ways businesses and organizations operate in the world. There is the public sector and the private sector. For example, our school system has public schools and private schools; one is subsidized by the government through taxes, and the other operates privately based on fees and tuition paid by its members. If we take Europe for example, most sports are public. The local town has its soccer program, its tennis program, and its rugby program as well as the coaches from those senior teams that often get involved in the youth game to develop new talent for their first team. Every so often, a special player emerges and ends up in a professional academy, which is often private. Private youth clubs do not exist. This is not the case in the US. Focusing on soccer specifically, town programs have been buried by the private sector, and the two main drivers of that are:

  • The first consideration is that higher-level structures are all privately owned: MLS, USL, and NWSL. As a result, many other leagues have started below to create various “levels” that require a fee to play, which, in turn, has forced the clubs and players to “pay to play.”


  • The second is the search for the best training environment. Private coaches have started charging for “better” training, and slowly, we have created a web of privately owned clubs that set their fee schedules and promote their worth by their wins and status.


To put it in contrast, all leagues within the pyramid of French soccer run and operate through the French Football Federation, a public entity.

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