With Jurgen Klinsmann’s appointment as USMNT coach, it’s worth revisiting his commentary on the American soccer structure during the World Cup last year after the round of 16 loss to Ghana.
I hope to expand on this tomorrow, but it’s worth watching again and absorbing those comments as we look at what the standards for his tenure with not just the USMNT, but the entire USSF structure in general, will and should be.
I’ll kick this off in the meantime. I’ve been a soccer dad for about five years, the last two of which have been watching Mallory play at club level. As far as what Klinsmann said a year ago, I’d be happy to help him nuance that message, because the “lower class environment” stuff, no matter his intentions, will get him in trouble.
Now, for his point about the inverted pyramid, etc. These last five years have taught me that soccer is a decidedly inclusive sport, as long as you’re included. That is, we will show up for Mallory’s practice, and kids from different clubs and rec teams, high school kids, coaches from different levels, and an assortment of parents might all be kicking the ball around between actual practice sessions, tending goal for kids they don’t know who need practice striking left-footed, coordinating carpools with other families who they only know through the seeing each other on that particular stretch of FieldTurf every week, etc. etc. It’s a sport that culminates, levels out and promotes lots of interaction.
But it ain’t a melting pot. Even for Portland, the sport is decidedly homogeneous. We live in the middle of Portland proper, as do most of Mallory’s teammates, but her team has not had an actual game—fall, spring, or tournament—in the city in almost two years. The sport is overwhelmingly populated by well-off suburbanites (I can tell you that the cost for Mallory to play at the level she does, is not insignificant for us).
And the logistical burden is such that I cannot imagine how a single, working parent could pull off having a child or children playing at a high level. Even during the summer, Mallory practices two or three times a week, and plays in tournaments five or more weekends.
I love the sport. And I have little doubt that we are on the cusp of soccer becoming second only to football in popularity in the U.S. But until we figure out a way to cast a wider net, we will not only lose out on some of our best national talent, but we’ll deny opportunities for millions of kids to be a part of it all.