Written by Will Parchman

The UEFA Youth League is not an old competition. In fact, the 2014-15 season is just its second in existence. It came under immediate scrutiny for denying school-aged players valuable classroom time, and you can read an interesting Reddit conversation centering around a German protest here.

But the tournament marches on astride these great concerns. Barcelona won the first title in 2014 behind Munir El Haddadi’s 11 goals, making him the event’s first great breakout star. This season marked Chelsea’s turn. The Blues lost one match the entire tournament, a 2-0 group stage loss to Schalke, which Makes Real Soccer. They won their other nine, including a 3-2 win over surprise package Shakhtar in Monday’s finale. These are those highlights. Write my P.O. Box if you need a drool-catch, especially in the tricky build-up on Chelsea’s first.

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Written by Ken Sweda

I have just returned from the experience of a lifetime: watching my 13-year-old daughter play on the grounds of the FC Barcelona Escola, the feeder school to Barca’s famed La Masia soccer academy. The occasion was the third annual FCBEscola International Tournament held during Easter week.

My daughter Erin was chosen to represent the US, along with only two other girls, among 48 young American players who participated in FCBEscola camps in Chicago and Florida last summer, ran by Kaptiva Sports, a sports marketing company out of Florida and the official FC Barcelona partner in the USA.

Four teams of 12 were put together in under the “FCBEscola USA Blue” name in the U8 – Iniciacio, U10 – Preformacio, U12 – Formacio and U14 – Precompeticio age groups and played against collections of players from the various permanent FC Barcelona Escola school locations around the world. Great football was played, with wonderful sportsmanship, effort and joy. Players came from Brazil, Japan, India, Dubai, Poland, Singapore, Egypt, the Dominican Republic, Tenerife, Illes Baleares, larger Cataluña and Barcelona itself, and united in the world’s game.

What we experienced in Barcelona, with the spirit of the players and their supporters, was nothing short of inspiring. ‘We represented the US soccer with values, dedication, and sportsmanship. For our team, this was an unforgettable soccer experience but also a lifelong lesson that every participant will carry in their hearts and mind from now on. The goal is to inspire the next generation and prove them an avenue to their dream and one day become a professional soccer player and represent their county in humbleness’ Said Marcel Bombonato, Kaptiva Sports and FCBEscola Director of operations for the USA market.

As I write this, reflecting on what I saw, certain things stand out.

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Written by Will Parchman

mls acadds

Grant Wahl’s annual MLS Ambition Rankings dropped on SI today, which you can read here. It ranks teams based on criteria like practice facilities, sponsorship and season ticket sales. As usual, specific figures within a league that zealously guards its books were hard to come by.

But there were a few particularly interesting nuggets on the youth development side. Six teams divulged how much they’ve spent on development. This from Grant’s article.

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Written by Will Parchman

Back in August, we told you about how Frank Rijkaard was joining forces with Florida’s Montverde Academy to create an upper-tier development program for some of the best youth players on offer. The program, called The Soccer Institute at Montervde Academy (SIMA), promised a holistic, nurturing environment and the chance to cultivate talent to a degree not often seen on these shores.

Well, now we have an idea what that kind of talent looks like. This is a video of what essentially amounts to SIMA’s U16 team taking on various U18 Development Academy clubs last month at Clemson, Montverde coach Mike Potempa’s former stomping grounds. As you can see, the games were hardly a contest.

On balance, the scenes here are enormously impressive, for this age group especially. Potempa’s philosophy, as the highlights package lays out, is “goals, possession and building from the back.” You see these revolving triangles work their way downfield, the tactical formation never breaking ranks. Tight passing corridors, intelligent off-ball movement, lethal finishing. It’s everything you want to see from youth soccer development. Above all, it’s patience, something all too often in short supply.

SIMA has only been around since August, so the program is presumably still ironing out some kinks. But since it doesn’t compete in the high school ranks and doesn’t participate in the DA, it’s exclusively beholden to development. Which allows its coaches to drill into the core of what it means to create possession-oriented players in a culture that hasn’t traditionally valued them.


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Written by Jahmal Corner

By J.R. Eskilson

There is one saying that always gets me upset – I turn off my computer and take the dog for a long angry walk.

It usually goes: ‘The U.S. probably already found the next Messi, and now he is working as an accountant.’

I am not sure where it started, nor do I care.

The fact that people blindly believe this statement is true is what genuinely concerns me.

Do educated soccer followers actually believe a player of Messi’s ability just quit on the game?


There are obvious cracks in the structure of soccer in the United States, but a player of Messi’s quality isn’t exactly a sliver that could slip through that crack.

The honest truth is player development in this country has not reached the level capable of nurturing and instructing a world-class talent – even from the youngest ages.

Put your pitchforks away – I am not exclusively laying blame on any group.

This is a macro problem that is more the fault of the slow acceptance of the sport (and cultural differences) than anything else.

Consider this: Messi’s first youth academy, Newell Old Boy’s, was 93 years old when he joined the club. [Barcelona was 101 years old when he moved into La Masia.] The oldest MLS Academy is not even ten years old yet.

Over the course of those nine decades, Newell Old Boy’s had to pick up a thing or two about player development or the club would not have lasted long – not many clubs can survive without the selling of players for a profit.

There are so many complexities that go into developing players (especially players capable of reaching a world-class standard) and it takes highly trained coaches with years of experience to cultivate the talent.

It’s not quite as easy as just putting a ball on the field and hoping after enough time a player will turn into greatness.

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Written by Jahmal Corner

In the wake of the U.S. U23 Men’s National Team’s failure to qualify for the Olympics, it hasn’t been the best of time for U.S. Soccer. World Cup qualifying for the full national team starts this summer, and head coach Jurgen Klinsmann is no doubt a busy man as he prepares for the summer.

Regardless of that, Klinsmann took some time to speak to reporters on a conference call on Wednesday. In addition to voicing his support to Caleb Porter he had plenty to say regarding soccer in this country. Here are a few of the highlights:

On young Americans not getting enough playing time in MLS:

“That is definitely a concern, and it’s definitely a topic we want to bring up with Don Garber and MLS because we want to make sure that especially younger groups of players get as much exposure as possible coming through their developmental stage. I know that an 18-, 19-, 20-year-old is not at the same level as an experienced player and a proven player, but we’ve got to make sure that they get the chance to break through and get their minutes in. So it’s definitely a concern. Off the top of my head, I can’t give you all of the solutions for it, but it’s definitely worth a discussion going forward.”

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