I was reading up on the New York Times Soccer Blog a day or two ago, when we were discussing Marcus Tracy’s signing with Aalborg Boldspilklub, and I think it’s time to articulate a key difference with American soccer and soccer in the rest of the world.
The thing is, Tracy is already 22 years old and he's just now getting professional touches on the ball.
So this fact got me thinking again about how professional athletes in America are cultivated and discovered. I was complaining that the "NCAA to MLS combine" model doesn't make a whole lot of sense for soccer.
But the problem really goes back further than NCAA draft picks and combines.
It goes back to our high school aged kids and how they are groomed for their next steps.
When you consider a guy like Ryan Giggs was playing at Manchester United’s academy when he was 14, while most of our 14 year olds are high school Freshman - getting 3 hours a week on the ball if they’re lucky, you begin to get a more complete picture of how our system of sports promotion is stacked against us.
The major sports clubs all over Europe have serious Academies, so that talented kids, such as Giggs, can hone their craft in an environment surrounded by other talented kids pretty much there for the same reason. They are competing against each other, learning from each other, and taking classroom instruction in sports related subjects that will benefit them as professionals.
So while our top 17 year old high school prospects are hoping for a "full ride" to a division one university, Ryan Giggs as a 17 year old was making his English Premier League debut against Everton at Old Trafford in front of tens of thousands of Red Devil faithfuls.
That being said, what is the appetite for American families to pull their kids out of “regular” school and put them in a soccer academy? People with kids committed to gymnastics or tennis or even acting, hire tutors and home school…I could imagine a fully academically accredited soccer academy might do ok if there were a some serious pathways to success.
Is it time to start Gruffgoat FC?