Since people seemed interested, I thought I may as well share my thoughts. Feel free to let me know if you disagree, even if you aren’t a huge soccer fan. In regards to the discussion about elite athletes going into other sports in America and the effect on soccer in the United States, I’ll first make it clear that I obviously do think having more elite athletes playing soccer would be beneficial. Having a larger talent pool to choose from would no doubt improve things. I actually used to think that was the biggest problem for American soccer, but I changed my stance after watching more and discussing the issue with other soccer fans. I believe the biggest problem concerning American soccer has more to do with the development of younger players than it does with the lack of elite athletes playing soccer. When watching the World Cup, I noticed that America actually did have more team speed than I had given them credit for. I remember watching one of our 30 year old defenders outrun one of England’s midfielders and being very impressed. However, I did notice the glaring lack of technical skill in comparison to other teams, especially in regards to the forward play. Seeing fast teams like France flame out while watching Germany blow out the likes of England and Argentina made me realize that simply being athletic doesn’t make up for a lack of technical skill. To go back to a discussion from the other thread, the Dutch have always stood out to me. I never quite understood how they have consistently fielded good teams despite having a small population and never really having athletic teams. But after watching highlights of some elite players to come from the country, I realized how consistently they’ve been able to produce great forwards over the last 40 years or so. They’ve had great individual skill, particularly up top. Guys like Dennis Bergkamp, Johan Cryuff, and Marco Van Basten come to mind. After learning about Johan Cryuff and his influence in developing Barcelona’s soccer academy, I began to realize this may not just be a coincidence. The Dutch have produced high quality teams because they have had high quality development with great coaches. Now getting back to American national team, our biggest problem in the world cup was clearly with our attacking game, where we didn’t have a forward score in any of our four games. It became clear that you can’t substitute speed for skill at the highest level. For example, Robbie Findley may be able to outrun a horse, but the horse would likely have better chance at actually putting the ball in the net. The fact is we’ve never really had consistent scoring, and I do believe our development is at fault. When playing youth soccer, it became clear that athleticism was generally considered the most valuable attribute. It’s not hard to see how this came to be. Athleticism is an enormous factor in pretty much every sport, so people are naturally going to feel that way. Additionally, at a younger age, the best players typically are the guys who can run by everyone else. When I was a player, the majority of the goals were simply a result of breakaways. As a result, the fast players were generally considered the best, and they were the players who were most likely to make the top travel teams. When I was playing travel, we played two games a week and practiced twice. Our practices focused more on strategy and teamwork than actual player development. It was probably going to give our team the best chance to win at the time, but I think players who hope to play professionally would be better off developing individual skill. In addition, we need to do a better job of identifying the young talents who could potentially become the next Ronaldo instead of simply identifying the best athletes. For these reasons, I’m glad that there seems to be a change in the way soccer is set up. More and more kids are going to academies, and fewer top players are playing for college teams. I think Jurgen Klinsmann could be a big factor in future changes as well. Soccer has grown a lot over the last 20 years or so, and it will continue to grow as it more attention and as more kids get into the game at a young age. That said, for US soccer to reach its potential, we need to see a change in the way we develop players. I fully expect to see the US compete for and win World Cups in my lifetime. If we can get on the right track, I think it will be sooner than most expect.