Written by Will Parchman

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Republican politician Ted Cruz is a caricature of a caricature of a vague idea. He has said there were 12 Communists on the teaching faculty during his time at Princeton. He claimed that defense secretary Chuck Hagel’s nomination was openly and publicly celebrated by the Iranian government. He has been booed off the stage by members of his own party.

It’s hard to imagine Cruz haranguing his own family with this kind of spiteful, indignant and knowingly false rhetoric. He acts this way in the public sphere precisely because it is a public sphere. These are general, defaming, often blatantly false comments he lobs into the ionosphere without specific aim because they make him something. We are talking about him. But the Cruz of the face-to-face, outside of the suit? If we’re honest, he’s most likely an affable man. In a lot of ways, you have to be simply to get along as a professional human being. It’s hard to imagine him approaching daily life with the daggers out.

But you don’t know this Ted Cruz, if he even exists, because he has not allowed himself to be known.

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Written by Will Parchman

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Since 2010, the U.S. Club Soccer-run id2 program’s been directing an international offshoot called the National Selection International Tour. The point is to cull the best young U14 players from a series of four previous id2 camps. The coaching staff pulls together a selection of the best players and pushes them abroad to face some of the best youth academies in the world. During the 2014 tour in Italy, the team faced youth sides from Juventus, Inter Milan, Siena and Fiorentina. The id2 side didn’t lose a game and finished with a 3-0-1 record.

The ostensible point of the id2 tour is to identify. During the most recent 2014 tour through Italy – the most successful ever – former USMNT keeper Tony Meola accompanied the team as a liaison to pass back recommendations to the U.S. BNT staff. These tours are a unique practice, because they offer the cohesiveness of a U14 BNT camp paired with the challenge of an international friendly. There isn’t really anything like it in the system.

In that sense, the id2 selection tours operate in their own world, devoid of the trappings and difficulties inherent in national team camps. And the beauty is that it’s now old enough to dissect. The program’s first class in 2010 was primarily comprised of ’96s (there were only two ’97s, and one, as you’ll see, is already an MLS Homegrown), meaning at the very least they’re U18 eligible. And U20, in some cases.

Remember, development isn’t like rounding up sheep and pushing a bunch through the fence. It’s a winnowing process, a numbers game. Especially at the U14 level, you hope one or two of these kids turn into future full national team contributors on a consistent level. It’s all gravy if you get more. Paradoxically, a five percent rate of return off one U14 roster isn’t terrible. Of course you want as many as possible, but that’s generally not how elite development works.

So anyway, with the 2015 tour through Argentina freshly announced, let’s walk through each id2 roster since 2010 and see what we find. How is it doing? We’ll grade each class by what we know of these players and how they project as pro prospects. Preview: the program’s already doing pretty well for itself. Nothing’s perfect, but as we’ll see, it’s off to a fast start.

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Written by Will Parchman

A few days before the USMNT was embarrassed by a team of Irish B-list stars last week, Scotland dumped Ireland 1-0 in a Euro 2016 qualifier. The man who made that happen was Shaun Maloney, who, according to the Guardian, was “one of the few players on the pitch to display class.” That goal of his up there is visual evidence.

Now, Maloney’s on an MLS radar, specifically that of the Chicago Fire. The Fire need attacking presence. Maloney would seem to fit the bill. And he’d presumably be a DP, so there’s that as well.

The Fire have a pretty horrible reputation with DPs. They’ve signed seven in club history, and Cuahtemoc Blanco is the only one that really deserved the title. In fact, aside from Blanco, the other six Fire DPs have played a cumulative 97 matches. None have played more than lone current DP Juan Anangono, who’s made 28 appearances since signing in 2013 and is currently on loan in Ecuador.

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Written by Will Parchman

The NCAA men’s tourney kicked off right on Thursday with games lighting up our scoreboard. None were better than Akron and Ohio State, a puzzlingly good matchup for a first round game that, even more puzzlingly, led directly to a matchup with No. 1 seed and defending national champ Notre Dame. Neither team deserved that kind of madness, but here we are.

Akron took an early lead in Columbus with an Adam Najem penalty in the 31st minute, but the Buckeyes equalized through Kyle Culbertson in the 67th. That opened the door for this insane flurry of penalties, which took 15 rounds and 25 successful kicks to decide. The Buckeyes eventually took it 13-12, which won them a date with the champs in the next round. Godspeed.

And for those of us who picked Akron to beat Notre Dame as the upset of the tourney, well, we just got college soccer’d.

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Written by Will Parchman

According to Wikipedia, BYUtv is “a television channel operated and funded by Brigham Young University (BYU).” OK then. It’s also the primary broadcaster of BYU athletics, including soccer games, so now you know something you didn’t a second ago. This is where things get weird.

I chanced upon this video today, and like Mario finding a strange and unavoidably psychedelic toadstool in a wayward green drainage pipe, I wasn’t quite sure what to think initially. I went through about a five-second interval where I questioned whether or not it was real. No logos, ridiculous commentary, BYU windscreens. OK. Not real. And then the next five minutes was a magical ride through a forest of the ridiculous.

It’s best not to analyze this. Just watch it. And turn off your brain first.

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Written by Maxi Rodriguez

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For all the discussion about where the U.S. National Team ranks amongst teams around the world, it’s easy to forget that in terms of sheer size, most of the world’s dominant countries could all fit within the United States at the same time, with plenty of room leftover for wind turbines or safari zones. Spain, for example, is roughly the size of Utah and Nevada combined. Italy is slightly larger than Arizona, and Portugal could fit within the boundaries of Indiana with plenty of space left over for Cristiano Ronaldo’s ego.

But what if the US were split like Europe? What if each state was an independent territory? Could California take down Texas? Would Virginia have enough talent to get past Oregon? Would every player technically qualify to play for Florida?

With that in mind, Reddit user skaranger13 decided to create custom home and away jerseys for all 50 U.S. states, in the event of a tournament between the entire nation. The kits are gorgeous and make us pine for an alternate reality where Landon Donovan suits up for California during international breaks.

Check out our favorites below:

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Written by Will Parchman

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College soccer often gets a bad rap, but it can be an unwieldy beast. For all its advantages, it’s been historically slow to adapt, resistant to holistic change and stubbornly brazen when it comes to joining the developmental fray. In the face of a swiftly changing landscape, the question of “adapt or die” takes on vital significance.

Today is for talking points. The idea that men’s college soccer has fallen behind (or, at the very least, is falling behind) is popular, but is it true? Historically, for the most part, yes. That’s created a growing groundswell of support for the eventual abolition of college soccer as a rung in the developmental ladder. Who needs it? Direct jumps from the Development Academy/elite club ranks to the pros are the ultimate ideal. Right?

It may be that years into the future college soccer will be a footnote as a legitimate talent producer. But what a waste it would’ve been. Many top Division I programs have facilities that rival – and in some cases outpace – European academies. There are dozens of entrenched coaching staffs doing marvelous work preparing and teaching players for the next level (though yes, there are, as with any world league, bad apples).

Point being that the framework is there. With the help of a paring knife – right, better make it a machete – college soccer can one day become a real part of the equation. But it’ll take a massive overhaul and the willingness to completely change what we know about college soccer. It will have its adherents and its detractors like anything. But hopefully it’ll move the needle.

An important distinction we have to make off the bat is that many of these rules would require the NCAA to either bend or snap its current structure to fit. We’re living in a world of idealism today. And many of these innovations would require pruning to fit them into niches where they’d be most comfortable. But there’s loose precedent at play with how the NCAA deals in rulebook science differently with its various sports, albeit often haphazardly and blindly. We can harbor pipe dreams that it will come to see men’s soccer in a similarly important light some day.

Here we go. Ways to change college soccer from a standalone necklace into a bonafide link on a wider American developmental chain.

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Written by Will Parchman

sk

The modern false nine’s been around at least as long as Francesco Totti’s fixed his face in that defiant Roman scowl. Out of complete accidental genius, former Roma manager Luciano Spalletti collapsed his supposed 4-2-3-1 into a 4-6-0 by deploying Totti up top as a “lone striker.” Due to a spate of injuries, Totti was thrust into this role unwillingly, and he largely did what he’d do in his normal role as a trequartista. He dropped in.

So instead of having what he imagined, Spal (or The Grand Poobah, as he affectionately became known amongst his English supporters) unknowingly birthed the modern false nine. Essentially a 4-3-3 or some variant therein with its head shorn off.

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Written by The 91st

stanf

It’s prediction time.

The TDS staff hits the books once a year to predict the NCAA men’s tourney in all its glory. So here we are, with Travis, J.R. and Will putting in work to calculate who comes out on top. Could it be one Pac-12 team? Or what about another Pac-12 team? Or maybe even a third Pac-12 team? The boys have thoughts. If you want to make your own picks, scoot on over to our bracket here.

So scope ours out below. This is your reminder that the tourney starts on Nov. 20. Leggo.

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Written by Will Parchman

The England U18s came back from a goal down to rout their Polish counterparts 4-1 on Monday. It was a pretty good game. The most notable thing about it was this simultaneously awful cross and incredible golazo from Ryan Ledson, a highly thought-of midfielder in the Everton youth setup.

May we all some day be so terrible.

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