Klinsman is out, Arena is in; is that going to change the future of men’s soccer in the US?

“Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing” Coach Henry Russell (Red) Sanders

Recently and after 5 years at the helm, Coach Jurgen Klinsman was fired as USSF MNT head coach and USSF Technical Director. Klinsman failed to move American men’s soccer into the first world of football. Seasoned coach Bruce Arena is coming back to replace Klinsman as US MNT head coach. Fortunately, in the US, we don’t have problems regarding women’s soccer, but women’s soccer is a different creature and we are lucky to have the best coaches for female soccer and the best female players of the world
In my opinion, Klinsman’s failure to produce significant changes in US men soccer is not entirely his fault. Don’t take me wrong: Klinsman coaching style and methods plus what he did in the last two matches he coached proved to me that he is not among the cleverest soccer strategist of the world. I estimate that no matter how good Arena is as coach and leader, he won’t be able to change the way we organize and practice men’s soccer in the US. Unfortunately nothing will change if we only attempt superficial, cosmetic adjustments and we keep of the picture large portions of our minority population where soccer is traditionally an intrinsic part of their social and cultural life. In my opinion, the problem has deep roots in what is known as “traveling youth soccer” and requires extreme changes.
 Youth soccer is still, after a struggle of decades, a recreational game designed to provide expensive babysitting and instill a mediocre, kind of defeating mentality in our youngsters. Equal playing time, small sided noncompetitive matches, trophies for all, prohibition to head the ball and other aberrations contribute to produce poor quality soccer players. Selection of players based on the ability to pay for registration, travelling and private lessons, not for the ability to play is a paramount tragedy.

In my opinion, we must separate what is just recreational from what is competitive football. But make it clear: travelling soccer is not per se competitive. Most of the time traveling soccer is just expensive recreational soccer. I don’t have any problem in supporting playing for fun since, at the end of the day, only a few youngsters will be the ones destined to become footballers and the rest will continue to just kick balls for fun. The fact of the matter is that elite players are born and later on trained and perfected in order to succeed. We must understand that not everybody has the DNA of an elite soccer player. But if we want to enter the first world of soccer we must identify, train and support those elite players and instill in them a winning mentality. Winning mentally does not mean winning at all cost, on the contrary it means training hard, playing consistently, dominating the opponents and arriving to victories by the quality of their performances. For that purpose, and among other things, we must re-structure soccer eliminating the artificial separation between youth and adult divisions, we must create a new culture where the ultimate goal is to be superior and powerful; we must bring into the picture honest administrators, experienced coaches, intelligent sport physiologist, good sport psychologists and capable team managers to lead the revolution. Soccer clubs must be clubs designed to form players skilled to play good soccer (dominating, winning soccer), not just appendices of cities Park and Rec departments designed to make soccer moms and dads happy so they will vote for the incumbent city officers in the next election. Competition must be strong and above all it is necessary to come to an understanding between club and collegiate soccer to work together for the development of the elite players. To do all of the above soccer clubs need proper funding. I strongly argue that the money is there, but it is ill used in these days. Don’t be fooled by the false appearance that soccer organizations are broke. Soccer generates obscene amount of revenues. Yes, there is large amount of money in the account of most soccer organizations from FIFA down to the National Associations. But large sums of money are wasted by the National Association in salaries to bureaucrats and in ineffective programs that fail to produce quality and quantity of elite players. With a fraction of such money clubs such as Estudiantes de la Plata from Argentina, produce every year dozens of elite players who then play either in the top division of Argentina or in Europe.  In South Florida, whit proper financial support we can run the best developmental programs conceivable. Regrettably the much needed money always disappears into “thin air” rather than going to the clubs who are trying to develop the players. That must be changed drastically if we aspire to see US soccer at the top of CONCACAF and FIFA. 
Call me an utopian, if you want to, but I am optimistic that one of this days the miracle will happened.

Dr. J. C. Meeroff
FIFA "A" Coach (ATFA)