Never a supporter of a mellow Twitter Chat we decided to crank up the tempo by introducing one of those sticky subjects associated with the game. The topic for this weeks #SoccerSpeakUSA was the US Soccer Pyramid.
The most trust worthy source of information out there on the internets (Wikipedia) described the US Soccer Pyramid as a term used in soccer to describe the structure of the league system in the United States. The country’s governing body for the sport, the United States Soccer Federation (also known as the USSF or US Soccer), oversees the system but does not operate any of its component leagues—with one temporary exception noted below. For practical and historical reasons, some teams from Antigua and Barbuda, Bermuda, Canada and Puerto Rico (considered a separate country for sporting purposes) also compete, but they are not eligible for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, which is open only to teams affiliated with US Soccer.
The pyramid’s top level (commonly referred to as a tier or division), Major League Soccer, has a fixed number of teams with no merit-based promotion possible from the North American Soccer League (NASL), the second-level league. It also had no merit-based promotion from the third-level league, the USL Pro, which is operated by the United Soccer Leagues (USL). The closed league system is also used for the fourth tier, the USL Premier Development League, as well as the National Premier Soccer League, which both have fourth-tier sanctioning from the USSF. The United States Adult Soccer Association, encompassing tiers five to nine, uses an open league model for their leagues under the merit of promotion and relegation. However, a fifth tier USASA team cannot earn promotion to NPSL or the PDL.
The overall effectiveness of the current pyramid should be looked at through the eyes of a child. If we were to rewind to when we were 7 years old and harbored those grand ambitions to be a professional soccer player – could you realistically see a clear path there? Should it be a smooth transition from youth to academies to pro teams? What about college? The list of different, often disjointed paths are cause for much debate. Now we take that debate online…
To those that are unfamiliar with the #SoccerSpeakUSA chats – each week we provide a summary of the chat for those that missed it including the top posts from each question. We also announce a weekly ‘Tweeter of the Week’ who will be featured in this summary and goes to the person Soccer Support feels gave the best insights and responses during the hour and embodied what #SoccerSpeakUSA is setting out to achieve.
WEEK 7 SUMMARY
Q1. How would you describe the U.S. #soccer pyramid as it stands today?
@backseatgaffer Disconnected, broken. No vertical integration up and down the pyramid, few means to get into it and advance.
@ttillette inverted with end-result on top & development as secondary to wins #realtalk. There has to be a clear path to take if someone wants to go pro and there isn’t.
Q2. How do you think our pyramid stacks up against European structures for example?
@backseatgaffer Our system is every-man-for-itself, isolationist, with no connection to leagues/orgs ahead or behind
@Will_Stevenson4 We tend to forget what made the USA such a great place was diversity. The best of all worlds
@jdevereux not sure Euro is helpful comparison, think we should look at stronger regional organization though USYS regions may not be best regions to start with.
@ShazzKhann It’s different, Europe is in a different class. The structure, playing style and format is always developing.
Users then talked about how the world perceives us and whether the success of the sport in the USA is important to FIFA.
The consensus was that everyone wants the sport to be a success given the size of the country, the wealth of the country etc. A cultural shift is what is needed and this ultimately takes time.
Q3. If you were head of @ussoccer how would you improve (if indeed needed) the pathways/structure of soccer in U.S?
@CarolinaHookMan More time spent on SUPPORT, not just governance…
@backseatgaffer A single over structure in the adult game (for both men and women) that connects all clubs in pyramid and allows clubs to go up and down the pyramid based on desire and results, not wealth.
@88MPHMcFly pay more attention to low income/resource areas. Sadly sometimes it’s the old privilege/who do you know game.
Q4: Would you make a submission to an independently organized national enquiry into the game? Like the @StateOfSoccer Report?
@ttillette ABSOLUTELY!! As a soccer dad, junkie, coach – just wanna know WHAT WORKS BEST??
@CarolinaHookMan I would & will make a submission on b half of American Amp Soccer Assn Shameless plug but we actively encourage tweeps to check out the #StateOfSoccer Report – a huge opportunity for grassroots soccer fans, players and administrators to convey their opinions on how we can #GrowTheGame http://t.co/2jPGtBb6
It seems widely agreed that there is no clear path for player development. With a complex junior system and the college anomaly making it difficult for talented players to decide which way is best for their own progression in the game, it is clear there is some real confusion and frustration amongst the soccer community. Sadly there is no silver bullet but it looks like it may be time there was a serious review into the grassroots of the game.
UNTIL NEXT WEEK…
#SoccerSpeakUSA returns next week (3/28/12) at the regular time and day of Wednesdays at 4:30pm PST and 7:30PM EST.
The conversation doesn’t stop there though. Fans across the country are encouraged to use the #GrowTheGame hashtag during the week to be linked with other like-minded people and talk all thing soccer.
See you all next week!