Written by Will Parchman

mike

The German Bundesliga opens its season today. This is the literal height of sporting news on Germany’s annual domestic sporting calendar, of course, but it’s also a matter of European if not fully trans-continental news.

Germany is currently No. 2 in UEFA’s coefficient ranking, which ranks clubs’ performance in Europa League and Champions League competitions. It is not a full reckoning of a league’s vitality, but it provides clues and hints as to which leagues are outperforming their contemporaries. The Bundesliga, then, can unquestionably be considered one of the world’s top three leagues, alongside Spain’s La Liga and England’s Premier League. Based on the eye test, it can reasonably be considered No. 2, behind only Spain.

Whatever your personal bent on the matter, the Bundesliga is big business. And as we saunter into the 2017-18 season, one of the biggest leagues in the world with some of the heaviest economic stakes in play is about to push six coaches under the age of 40 into the fray.

This is a big deal, and it should be something of an international model. There’s a reason why German teams are so enjoyable to watch and so front-foot on the international tactical curve. It’s a place of experimentation, of professional sideline Clint Dempseys who try things and have a mandate to do so. It’s cultural as much as anything. The German coaching institution is a lot of things, but it is not stuck in neutral.

This is not the way of it in the U.S., which, to be perfectly blunt, has done a pretty shameful job of developing young bright-eyed coaches and pushing them into places of prominence. This should change.

The youngest professional coach – that is, coaching in either the NASL, USL or MLS – in an American soccer league is Jacksonville Armada chief Mark Lowry, who’s all of 32 years old. But he’s English. The youngest American coach in any of those three leagues is Mike Munoz, the 33-year-old LA Galaxy II coach who’s been on the sidelines as a coach since practically the minute he retired in 2009.

In fact, there are a paltry five head coaches under the age of 40 on the 61 teams split between the nation’s three fully professional soccer leagues. That’s 8 percent of the total. Remember, 33 percent of the Bundesliga’s head coaches are under 40. That, to me, is the gold standard.

A couple are close. OKC Energy’s Jimmy Nielsen just hit 40 a couple weeks ago. Ben Olsen’s been coaching in MLS for seven years and just turned 40. Ian Russell, who’s turned Reno 1868 into an attacking juggernaut in a span of months, is 41. But opportunities for men in their 30’s have simply not existed with any seriousness until lately, and even then it’s been a slow trickle.

This has not been entirely on the clubs, of course. You can only hire the coaches who apply, and the pool of talented forward-thinking coaches under the age of 40 in this country is depressingly low. But still, the stakes in U.S. professional leagues are comparatively low in relation to just about every major league of record in the world. There’s no reason not to take chances in the hope of exceeding all-too-common norms. What I am saying, then, is maybe don’t hire Frank Yallop if you think you might have a less experienced 34-year-old with some harebrained ideology.

The point is not that hiring coaches under 40 is necessary – or even advisable – in all cases. Merely that the chances need to be there for fresh blood to infuse the old with ideas from a different wave. And those chances haven’t existed in any volume at all, ever really, in this country. And the percentage sure as hell needs to be higher than eight.

With that in mind, these are my 10 favorite American coaches under the age of 40 in this country right now.

Not all are professional, obviously, meaning I dipped heavily into the college ranks. The college game is often panned in the public purview for its tendency to produce blunt objects for players, which is too simplistic an analysis but has its merits as far as critiques go. But one area where college has been indispensable is providing opportunities for young coaches denied them on the professional level. College soccer, for all its faults, is actually doing a mighty fine job of giving chances to young coaches – certainly a far better job than any professional league in this country.

My hope is that they are not ignored.

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Written by Will Parchman

Bob Bradley

A brief 20-second interchange between Christian Pulisic and a cross did about as much to advance the American soccer player’s reputation in Europe as any full-fledged European career before it.

It was a small moment, but it was almost impossibly significant. Pulisic cut across the Real Madrid back line like a knife working against the grain, cratering Danilo and then depositing a cross into the box that Andre Schurrle finished. It was the Champions League, at home, against the world’s most decorated club, and an 18-year-old American made it look like a Tuesday evening on a back lot in Hershey. In our age of digital proliferation, you can’t put price tags on this sort of notoriety.

Small moments like these change perceptions, maybe a few at a time and then more as each successive paradigm is shattered under the gear teeth of another cross, another embarrassed defender, another goal.

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Written by Will Parchman

2013-10-22_MILAN-BARCELONA_05.v1382478973

Tata Martino lost in the court of Argentinean public opinion. And when the gavel hit there was no doubling back.

How will MLS receive him, if he is next?

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Written by Will Parchman

wags

Before Jurgen Klopp took over for the fallen Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool in 2015, there had been a single German head coach in Premier League history. In 2014, Fulham hired Felix Magath and broke the German Barrier that existed in the PL since time immemorial. It was probably not a coincidence, at least in a broad field of view sense, that it came the same year Germany won the World Cup and established itself to coaching as Isengard was to Orcs.

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Written by Will Parchman

ntcdc

We’ve been hearing rumblings and rumors and half-confirmed truths and confirmed rumors and half-rumored truths about the new Training Death Star about to open in Kansas City. We know more than that now.

On Sunday, U.S. Soccer and Sporting KC (alongside Children’s Mercy, a hospital group that sponsors SKC’s stadium) jointly announced the groundbreaking of a palatial seven-field complex featuring an 80,000-square foot building to ultimately become ground zero for U.S. Soccer’s sporting operations in this country. It’ll open in 2017 and immediately become the training touchstone of American national team soccer.

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Written by Will Parchman

batistuta-mundial_CLAIMA20150325_3112_27

If MLS has a current blind spot, it is in the enchanted and somewhat terrifying realm of coaching. The league has relied in large measure on retreads and safe signings for so long that when a Patrick Vieira does something moderately different, it’s cause for terminal shocks. What do you mean he played three at the back? Are we all going to die now?

Coaching communities are at risk for groupthink alongside every other collection of humanity. Which means stirring the stagnant pool and bringing pulses of fresh water from outside the reservoir.

Oh. Hello Batigol. Almost didn’t see you there.

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Written by Will Parchman

kloppers

We are hardest on the ones we love.

It is an unfortunate consequence that the confluence of expectation and disappointment are so close. I can remember walking into Star Wars: Episode I ruminating on the wider merits of George Lucas’s faithfulness to his own legacy. And then an annoying child the size of a barn door whined uncontrollably for two reductive hours and Jar Jar Binks happened everywhere and I inexorably gripped the paddles on either side of my movie seat, fingers digging into the gum on its underside. It didn’t matter. I’d given up.

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Written by Will Parchman

vanney

The Toronto FC coaching carrousel turns abnormally fast. TFC has been bad literally since it kicked its first ball in an official capacity, and the spinning Rolodex of coaches is a road map for that failure. Nine coaches since 2006, and not one of them with a winning percentage in the 40’s. Each of the last four didn’t even hit 30.

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Written by J.R. Eskilson

CoachingCoursePhoto

“I don’t want to play,” four-year-old Maddie replied before staring at the grass.

Some battles just can’t be won.

After five days of the US Youth Soccer National Youth License course, my grade came down to running two activities with a group of six players in the U6 age group. Not exactly the most difficult challenge in a vacuum, but not a cakewalk when the kids have already gone through three other coaches on a warm afternoon in Southern California.

My Director of Coaching at Sol SC highly recommended the US Youth National Youth License course. She said it was the best course that she ever attended, which is a high selling point from a coach with an A License.

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Written by Will Parchman

arena

MLS is a unique league. With its panoply of rules, adherence to a strict salary cap and reliance on a massive and unkempt scouting pool, coaching in this league takes a unique personality set. It also creates a unique divide between those coaches who’ve had previous experience with the league before taking their first head coaching gig in its ranks, and those who have not.

So what are the differences between coaches with prior MLS experience (either as an assistant or a player) and those hired cold from outside the league’s ranks? Is MLS a different league for those initially unfamiliar with its vast switchboard of rules and requirements? Let’s have a look.

Here’s a list of every head coach in league history and the years in which they served split into two categories: those who’d had previous MLS experience and those who had not. Let’s see what we can find. Notable: this does not include coaches who operated exclusively under the interim tag.

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