USA Crashes Out of U-20 World Cup: Can the MLS-USL PRO Partnership Help Fix the Continued Decline of US Youth Development?

This was supposed to be a different type of United States U-20 team. Managed by US Soccer legend Tab Ramos, the team has more professional players than its predecessors and is in the process of integrating a universal style advocated by Jürgen Klinsmann.

The US crashed out of the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup with an embarrassing 4-1 defeat to Ghana, a defeat that could have been much worse had it not been for the stellar play of Southampton’s American goalkeeper Cody Cropper.

This United States team, filled with players who have come from Major League Soccer academies or turned professional at a young age, did not perform at the level of its predecessors, most notably 2005 and 2007 when Argentina and Brazil were defeated respectively by the USA at the Group Stage of this event.

Perhaps some of this owes itself to the ongoing transition between player development via the college system or US Soccer/IMG National Academy in Florida and Academy teams run by MLS, USL and NASL sides as well as other elite youth clubs who are part of the US Soccer Development Academy setup.

The most striking thing about the US side under Ramos that was not apparent under his predecessor Thomas Rongen is a tactical naivety among the young squad. Whether that has to do with the manager himself or the traits of the players and the training they are receiving at the club level is difficult to decipher. For all the abuse the American college system has gotten from pundits including myself, we have seen some very strong US youth teams in the past that were dominated by players in college. Those teams were almost universally stronger than this current one that is dominated by professional players.

US performances at the youth level have gotten progressively worse the past few years even as the sport has become more and more popular in this country. For years, the US outperformed expectations in FIFA youth tournaments, often advancing deep in these events and producing players that caught the eyes of European scouts. But recently, the opposite has been the case as high expectations have led to poor results.

The agreement between Major League Soccer, the nation’s top division and the USL PRO, the nation’s third division, regarding loanee players and player development could hold the key to future success for the US. Currently it appears many of the MLS based US players don’t get enough game time or real tactical training to make the type of impact on the youth level, which is quite frankly expected at this point given the evolution of the sport in the US.

USL PRO will have a key role in developing many of the next generation of US players, giving that league some relevance and also getting youngsters some important playing time in matches that are competitive and meaningful. MLS youngsters have often been relegated to reserve matches, which quite honestly aren’t terribly competitive or to cup competitions.

US Soccer’s commitment to player development cannot be questioned. But the methods that the national federation have used through the years have been questionable and often times counter-productive.

I hold out great hope that the MLS/USL PRO partnership will help elevate some of the issues we have seen with recent U-20 teams. Additionally, some tactical training should be a requirement for all youngsters currently in the system.

12 thoughts on “USA Crashes Out of U-20 World Cup: Can the MLS-USL PRO Partnership Help Fix the Continued Decline of US Youth Development?”

  1. This is a massive topic…kartik perhaps you should do a series of posts explaining the current system and a comparison to others.

    At least the USA were in it…Italy, Belgium and Germany didn’t qualify and no one is critiquing those youth systems.

    Yes there needs to be a conversation about it…but i don’t see it happening thru comments on here…especially since the the volume of posts on here are effecting the interaction levels and thus does not allow for any kind of debate to develop on the site…its posted..then by the next day its either at the end of a long long scroll or on the other page…

    a real shame IMO

    1. Dust, with the change to World Soccer Talk, there’s far more stories to cover in a given day. It’s harder to keep up, but I don’t believe the discourse has been impacted. A lot of the regular posters are on holiday.

      While stories are going to move off the home page sooner than before, all of the articles are accessible and open for comments at any time.

      Thanks for the feedback.

      The Gaffer

      1. gaffer.. You are miss the point We liked the focus of the site. I have no interest in Turkey, or poorly written stories about US soccer.. I go other places for that. places that do it better then you. You did EPL well. you make this a free for all you lose your niche. Relevance. but it is your web site.. you can do what you like.

        1. I disagree. The focus is still Premier League. We’re publishing more EPL stories than before and the quality is better.

          With the focus on world soccer, I don’t expect every article will interest every reader. Read what you like and what interests you.

          The Gaffer

          1. I guess he doesn’t notice how you can filter the stores at the top of the page by league. Keep up the good work Gaffer.

      2. It’s your site, so what I think doesn’t really matter. However, the aspects of this site that I liked and now miss are the focus of the BPL, and most importantly the number of stories posted…This increase has negatively impacted the opportunity for debate…i didn’t always agree with everyone but that is what I liked about it, exposure to other users that more often than not had thoughtful opinions/perspectives and sometimes even evolved through the thread.

        I’m sure you have stats that are pleasing to you for whatever your goals are for the site…but as a user, its not even close to the experience it was before…this has noting to do with people on vacation.

        Change is/can be a good thing, i understand you need or want to evolve the site and i hope you succeed, I think the interactive element and behaviors of users has been overlooked in this change.

        I’m sure you can look at my visits by IP or just from posts and see the decline, (maybe you think thats a good thing lol) but I use espnfc, sky and NBC soccer (amongst others) to get a mix of stories on the global game…and epltalk/worldsoccertalk for interaction… anyways..I am just a dust not very important.

        Now i’m upset you have made me agree and align with with a point made by trickybirk, who, as you probably know I never agree with lol…

        1. Hi Dust, what you think definitely does matter (as well as the opinions of other readers). I’m not going to agree with everyone all the time. And sometimes I’ll go with what I believe is best.

          To me, World Soccer Talk is similar to EPL Talk in terms of level of coverage, but now the number of quality articles has increased. It’s an adjustment, for sure (for me, and the readers), but the same principles I believed in before (in terms of writing about and sharing content that is appealing to me, and other soccer fans out there, as well as getting exclusives now and again) are still true on WST.

          The level of interaction has changed, for sure. But as you know, I’m still actively involved in the comments section, and trying to stimulate conversations with soccer fans. It’s not the same as before because there are far more articles, but I believe that’s a good thing.

          Keep the faith. It’s going to take time for us all to adjust, but I believe everything will work out really well for regular readers from the EPL Talk days as well as all of the new readers who are discovering World Soccer Talk for the first time.

          The Gaffer

      1. Never visited that website. And I can guarantee you that our US articles and analysis were posted before that site.

        The Gaffer

  2. did you proofread this? some weird mistakes.
    Look. you are all over the place with this… Yes there is a huge debate over development in this country. But the way you frame it misses the big picture.Ramos is the answer. He is teaching proper football tactics. The issue is the talent pool. More and more Americans are being pulled in many directions. If you want to suggest that Senegal has a better set up I’d be willing to get have a great belly laugh. Senegal has better players on THAT team. You don’t even address the JK v Ramos issue… that is if you even know about it… this is just a poor story. I’ll stick to ASN for my USMNT news thank you.

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