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HBO special on Tom Byer’s plan to rescue American men’s soccer

HBO’s special begins with footage of the United States Men’s National Team being defeated by Trinidad and Tobago in the final World Cup qualifier from the CONCACAF Hex. Seconds later, USSF presidential candidate Kyle Martino utters the words, “US Soccer thinks they have all the answers. And they’re not, in its current iteration, willing to ask the experts for help. On the men’s side, that’s been catastrophic.”

From the beginning of this 13-minute special that will air on HBO tonight on the show Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel, the broadcast is spellbinding. But instead of rehashing the reasons why the United States is failing as a soccer nation, HBO charts a different course by looking at one man who could be a key figure in changing the future of the soccer in this country.

Soccer coach Tom Byer is a fascinating man who has been instrumental in training elite players and teaching fundamentals to millions of children in Japan. While he’s done much to help make the Japanese men and women’s team a force on the world’s stage, the United States Soccer Federation has finally decided to hire the American to begin making a difference on these shores.

Byer’s project is only for a small pilot program which helps teaches the fundamentals of how to improve in soccer in Washington State, but it’s a start. (Unfortunately the USSF declined to be interviewed for the program.)

In the HBO special, Martino expresses how he can’t understand why USSF has for years neglected the opportunity to hire Byer. If Martino wins the race to become the next USSF President, he promises to hire Byer to join his team.

In the typical style of the Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel program, the broadcast does an excellent job at telling the story in a succinct style as well as relying on correspondent Jon Frankel to ask the hard-hitting questions.

After leaving his mark on Japan and China, it’s now Tom Byer’s turn to make a difference in the United States. Find out what his philosophy is and how he could make a difference in the US by watching the HBO special that will debut on Tuesday, November 21 from 10-11pm ET exclusively on HBO. It’ll also be available on HBO NOW, HBO GO, HBO On Demand and Sling TV (free 7-day trial).

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  1. Graham

    November 28, 2017 at 9:15 pm

    Graham Ramsay- A lot of good intentions but off the mark. To transpose another’s culture – Japan to USA is unrealistic. I presume the method chosen is Weil Coervers based which has not yet produced any great players – even the KNVB, the Dutch FA., use it sparingly.
    The problems go beyond the failure to reach the World Cup. The World Cup is the product of a poor, mismanaged “system” . We need to totally start again especially at grass roots level and bed it down in elementary & middle schools where there is no cost for a child to pay. The point made by the Icelandic system is a very valid one – where at very little cost a coach can learn to be a coach. Here it is far too expensive. and has become an industry rather than to serve education. Because of the path chosen by the Icelandic FA everyone is
    involved. This energy has transformed a non-soccer country into a power. Look what they
    have done in the last 10 years- Remarkable!!

  2. Bob Kuehl

    November 22, 2017 at 5:59 pm

    Excellent philosophy, however not a new concept. This is true in most every sport and athlete who has been successful. The key is in the execution. How do we drive Tom Byer’s strategy into households? The USSF does not have 16 years to wait on a generation to blossom. I perceive the work ethic and passion are still missing. Players in the US are looking for monetary success before they have it on the field as a team, not an individual.

    • Jackamerack

      November 30, 2017 at 6:29 pm

      Ball skills are simply missing from the select soccer society, where kids build their skills coming up through the ranks! My daughter had ONE single coach who preached this to no end. Pulls, pushes, step overs, on & on. Had he Always had the best teams in the area, routinely playing his girls ‘up’ a year and they still won, because of their skills!

      It’s another reason that Brazil Women’s team is one of my all time favorites! Their ball skills have been unequaled in the women’s world soccer stage.

  3. Jeff

    November 22, 2017 at 12:55 pm

    what is missing in American soccer is what is there in basketball and football = MONEY AT THE TOP. If MLS salaries = NFL, MLB, NBA … u better believe every kid will have a ball in their house learning different moves in an early age. the answers r right there; but we choose to play stupid.

  4. Adam Edgington

    November 22, 2017 at 7:55 am

    Larry, looking at the rosters of the teams that beat us in CONCACAF, MLS is clearly not the problem. Costa Rica and Panama are both stocked with MLS players. Most of CONCACAF has large numbers of players in MLS, and even USL and NASL. Clearly, our leagues are not the problem.
    The Hyundai A-League is considerably weaker than MLS in most regards, yet the Aussies qualified with a roster full of its players. Granted, AFC might be a tad softer than even CONCACAF, but that is debatable.
    The only issue that MLS might present is the make up of the teams themselves. Maybe it’s just that we are not giving our best domestic players enough time on the field. Perhaps the other CONCACAF players have developed better than our guys and team owners/coaches have no choice but to play them (and Europeans and Africans) over US players. I’m guessing that this is the more likely issue. We know that there are major holes in our development system ranging from pay-to-play to weak high school and college schedules to a lingering perception that soccer is inferior to football and basketball.
    Perhaps the real solution is to blow up the college system alongside the pay-to-play system so that parents stop focusing on the scholarship dream? Maybe it is for the USSF to increase funding of professional academy programs in more areas, which would require even more stability in the professional ranks. Maybe, if we can finally get the professional house in order, the USSF can scrap the Olympic Development program in favor of diverting funds to professional academies for every team in MLS, USL/NASL, NISA/USLD3. Maybe in their scenario, we can actually devise a system that allows these programs to get paid for prospects signed by foreign clubs, the way that European academies do.
    I truly believe that our problems lie at the development level. What we see at the senior level and on MLS fields is a result of our piss-poor development model. Until we fix that, nothing will substantially change.

  5. Mark Botterill

    November 21, 2017 at 9:50 pm


    Larry, with full respect intended you are a generation behind. MLS is more than capable of producing world class players. We do it in every sport. We have more qualified players investing 30 plus hours a week to the game more than anywhere else in the world.

    What we need is exactly what Tom brings an ability to afford an 8 year old a broad base of skill acquisition from which to spring board to wherever they want to go with the game. Where we fail is we loose 38.5% of children before they reach 7.5 years old and of that group we loose 50% of them before they reach 10. Why, no fun. No fun, because they do’t have the basics to perform and achieve.

    Iceland for example has gone one step further by eliminating volunteer coaches I don’t think we need to go that far but we need what Tom brings to establish better technical players and less attrition. Simply adjustment to soccer nature but if adopted will have a huge effect on the next 15 years.,

  6. Larry Kern

    November 21, 2017 at 8:52 pm

    Unless young American players that are talented (like Pulisic) can get contracts with teams in Europe and we unrealistically expect players from the MLS to play a key role in our men’s national team…we are doomed to failure. The MLS is popular and making good money which encourages young players who don’t want to go through learning another culture and language to stay and play in our league. That’s a problem. If you are a fan of the world game then you must clearly see that the level of play is considerably lower than in Europe. So, if our young players are chosen from the MLS then their skill level and experience of playing with some the world’s best will not be brought back to the national team. You don’t have to go back too many World Cup tournaments to see that the MLS players used to be a minor part of our national team. Using these players from the MLS will only make us competitive in CONCACAF where the skill levels are roughly competitive. Playing against and with former stars of Europe and South America who have come to the MLS to retire is not a substitute for the experience garnered playing in Europe.

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