This Warren Buffett quote came to mind:
When a management with a reputation for brilliance tackles a business with a reputation for bad economics, it is the reputation of the business that remains intact.
There are structural challenges (like ‘bad economics’ in business from the Buffett quote) in the U.S. soccer environment that keep its soccer talent from developing to a level that can consistently compete with talent developed in countries where the soccer culture is more optimized to produce top 10 talent.
The current soccer landscape produces talent that allows the U.S. to hang around on the edge of the Top 25. Think about that in terms of college basketball or football. #25 won’t often beat a top 10 team.
Until those challenges are removed, firing the US Soccer coach will happen every so often on disappointments like the latest two US losses in the World Cup qualifiers, because I’m skeptical that any coach can turn Top 25 talent into Top 10 talent.
What’s missing isn’t a coach that can take a group of Top 25 players to the next level. What’s missing are key steps in soccer development the players go through long before they ever get their US Men’s National team call up.
Putting so much expectation on the coach, and players, is like thinking you can take a group of good 8th grade math students and compete, in a math competition, against college math majors. They won’t be successful because they’re missing 5-7 years of math progression.
With our soccer environment, we get good athletes with sound fundamentals and good X’s and O’s, but they will get beat by the top 10 talent that adds creativity and ninja-like abilities to control the ball and read the game (and think 1-3 steps ahead) that come from amassing 5-10x the amount of soccer playing time against good competition and soccer learning time in their life times — starting from a very young age.
Here’s the kicker…if those structural challenges were removed, I believe the US could produce talent that would make the current crop of soccer greats — e.g. Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar, Suarez — look pedestrian.
So, what are those structural challenges? I’ll cover what I think they are in another post.