Preface: Many nations didn’t even allow adult women to play soccer back in the 1990’s. Muslim nations in particular. The US was the only country that allowed a large pool of boys & girls to compete together at a youth level. That helped catapult the USWNT to soccer dominance which lasted for 30 years. This is a follow-up piece to USWNT out early at World Cup 2023: no one cares
The USWNT trained at the sprawling Markham Woods soccer complex (AKA: Lake Sylvan Shores) in north Orlando, throughout the 1990’s and at least into the early 2000’s. It has multiple fields, and the USWNT shared this space with all the youth league teams, including my (then) step-son’s summer teams from 1998-2000. When looking in their direction (as every cognizant soccer spectator did back then), I immediately noticed it was men coaching the USWNT.
My step-son was a good kid and enjoyed playing soccer, though he never had any scholarship or professional ambitions, which helped him fit-in well with all the coaches he played for. His mom made him choose soccer over football in high school on my advice.
He actually liked band better, and played trombone during the football games, so he was much happier for it. I often remarked to her in the bleachers, “The Mount Dora football team sucks, but their band kicks ass– best in conference!” She would laugh, and was proud of that.
His summer coach was a good-hearted father whose son was the center-midfielder. Everyone got along well, and the coach would often admonish his young players for being lazy & unserious by screaming, “Do you see Mia Hamm over there?! She’s won two World Cups & Olympic gold, and she STILL gets pissed at herself when she fucks up! So why are you laughing at your stupid shit when you’re on the same field as her?!!” That was really good stuff from a boys summer league coach– I liked him.
After the USMNT made the Round-of-16 in World Cup 1994, MLS was born. I saw early MLS exhibition games at Disney/ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex which had opened recently in Buena Vista. We were given tickets from a cousin, the head secretary of WWOS— which is nice. They were sparse crowds, so we always had a good view. Up close, I instantly recognized Lexi Lalas, Tab Ramos, Eric Wynalda and the rest of these hippies & high-strung pretty boys by their “free spirited” west-coast playing style.
I saw it for real when I played my 1985-86 high school year in San Jose. These kids were talented for sure, and they had skills, but they were afraid to be really great, and that’s why they never won anything. I saw it over & over from the bench my junior year in San Jose. I finally had a great coach, and he knew I needed to catch up on skills before I could get serious playing time, but I was ambi-footed & serious about putting the ball in the net for my team.
I was excited to play for this coach my senior year, and was ready to dedicate my 1986 summer to getting better per his suggestions, but my family moved back to Wisconsin before the Cali soccer season ended and that was that. The level of talent & coaching in Oshkosh, WI wasn’t/isn’t anywhere close to Cali, so I only played summer league for a two more years, then gave soccer up for academics. Sports taught me a lot, including when to quit.
Sports also taught me that rich, spoiled Cali boys are the kind of teammates who always yell at you or try to show you up in front of everybody and never apologize for it. You would think a few of these hippies would understand karma or team philosophy, but no, they only care about themselves. They do whatever they want on the field, and waive off any criticism. THESE are the stars, and they are fixed– nothing can re-align that.
These enabled crybabies get where they are by politics, influence & money, more than actual talent. I’m not saying they were terrible, but I am saying they really weren’t that good, and most of it was for the cameras. The 1994 USMNT didn’t even have to qualify because the US was the host nation– for the first time ever. The time had finally come, and these pretty-boy brats simply had the right backing. That only gets you so far on the world stage, and the USMNT has never made it past a Round-of-16 in any World Cup. No one fears them.
Soccer was a winter sport in Cali when I played, as compared to a fall sport in the Midwest. Soccer is a winter sport in Florida too. I feel like soccer skills & basketball skills go together, and that young athletes should be allowed to play both. I think Bo Jackson would agree. California & Florida are where many of the best athletes come from, but forcing boys to choose in high school limits their ambidextrous skill development.
Basketball requires ambi-hand skills, while soccer is ambi-feet. If developed correctly, the ambi-skills reinforce each other, producing a formidable athlete. But in Cali, FL, and elsewhere in the deep South, where there is perhaps the most money for soccer, boys have to choose, as hoops & soccer are BOTH winter sports. Climate has something to do with this, so it’s a complicated regional sports issue, that seriously impacts the quality of the USMNT, and it goes unmentioned.
I saw a few high-school kids in Florida who tried to play soccer after fall football, but often they were too hurt from gridiron action. In some cases, it took most of the winter soccer season for them to recover. Just in time for spring football.
Football & soccer often share the same playing fields in high school, which is another factor in good ol’ boys insisting on staggering high school football & soccer, versus competing head-to-head with soccer for young boys talent. Football coaches get hysterical about their home fields during their season. They don’t want to share it with anyone. This is just some of the politics I’m talking about.
This needs to change for men’s soccer to improve. Otherwise, the US is giving up on men’s soccer. Soccer needs to compete with football for boys. NFL fans don’t want to hear that, and that’s the root of the problem. If soccer acquiesces to football, and insists on competing with basketball, then US men’s soccer will continue to stink.
The talent pool in soccer needs to be enlarged, and you can get that from parents who don’t want their boys playing football. Stuff like this never gets discussed when American fans ask, “How can the USMNT ever become competitive at the WC level?” It requires a revolution in thinking & in deed, because rotten politics controls every game. Politics controls the funding, the coaching, scholarships, grants, etc. They own the huge complexes. They have deals with the corporate media giants, with the Star-Spangled Banner waving behind them.
As this actors & writers strike continues, sports programming will become more coveted by networks looking for fresh content. Sports affects many levels of our thinking & actions. People LOVE sports, they want their children to play sports. It’s nearly a universal childhood dream to be a sports star of some type.
The hardest thing to do is get control of all these emotions that go into our passion for the game, and make rational objective decisions based on all the facts, to come to a conclusion of what’s the best course of action for the good of the game. That requires revolutionary leadership to start, and it’s finished when parents, fans & athletes come together everywhere to get rid of the filthy capitalist politics that are ruining ALL our sports.
Wrap-up: By the late 1990’s, most of the best soccer brains in the US went into helping the women’s national team, as they must have recognized by then that the USMNT was hopeless. These brains were mostly male, but there were more & more butch lesbians working their way up the coaching, political & media ranks. It has been an American feminist agenda to make US womens’ soccer entirely female at its highest levels. All these major phenomenons in womens’ soccer (positive & negative) happened exclusively, or at least most sharply, in the US.
Most soccer-crazy nations in Europe & Latin America viewed fútbol as entirely a mens’ game back in the 20th century. Now the big money is everywhere, so other nations have built better womens’ programs because they have better mens’ players to instruct them. This is why the USWNT is in so much trouble. They have neither the coaching, nor the skill required to beat the best on an equal playing field.
Globally, women’s soccer is now equal, in the sense that the US women don’t scare everyone anymore, Furthermore, they aren’t going to get better– they’ve peaked for the historical reasons I’ve outlined. The USWNT has milked it for as long as they could, but now it’s over, and they have no direction back to the top. You’re not allowed to even whisper that truth on ESPN.
You need more than talent to win at team sports. You need organization, a serious work ethic, and a spirit of community & sacrifice for the greater good. In soccer, if it’s not being taught at the elementary youth level, then it’s hopeless, because every other competitive nation is doing precisely that. You can never win when you’re always behind from the start.
It’s not difficult to find reasons why the USWNT won’t regain its past glory. The US team is no longer formidable, but beatable, and the whole world knows it, so they’re going to get everyone’s best shot from now on. It appears the USWNT is too proud to admit they aren’t the best anymore, which is a problem. So it’s a losing combination of 1) the opponents burning desire to beat those loudmouth American bitches, along with 2) hubris & denial on the US end.
I’ve got online friends from HS, college, and beyond who have raised boys & girls that play soccer. I’m sure they’ve read what I’ve posted with great interest, whether they agree with my conclusions, or not. My job as a sports blogger is to make readers think outside of the corporate box. Soccer parents have been led to believe that they are part of a great social progress, but are they?
Today’s young American boys & girls are behind on soccer skills because the coaching is so poor everywhere. None of these girls are the next Michelle Akers, or anything close. The US men never win. There’s too much mediocrity & politics at the youth & HS levels, and that’s a shame considering the ever-growing American interest in soccer over the past 25 years.
Furthermore, many of today’s professional athletes didn’t play in youth leagues or high school, like we did in the past. If you are recognized early as a prodigy, and your parents have the money, then you are sent to a sports academy, such as ING. Here, kids receive top-level, sports specific training– the best that money can buy. This gives these talented (& privileged) kids an unfair advantage at the collegiate & professional levels, because most kids have never seen that level of competition & skill in their sport.
This ‘youth talent drain’ into the private sector hurts broader youth development for the same reasons. Normal-level kids can’t improve if all the best players are at private institutions. Soccer, tennis, golf, even basketball are now dominated by this private sports academy model. It has created an unlevel playing field for athletic scholarships, etc, and stagnated overall development in every sport– to the benefit a privileged few.