Thursday, October 29, 2009

The End Of The Coaching Daddies

There are different ways to manage players and teach and educate - no one style is the right way, as it has to fit each coach's personality.

Alan Black of writes about the parenting style of Sir Alex Ferguson, and how that context of teaching and coaching appears to be a dying breed.

Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United refers to his players as “boys” and calls them “son,” when speaking to them of matters most important.

His “sons” grow up to call him “father.” Both Beckham and Ronaldo have described him as such.

Ferguson is the last of the great British coaching daddies.

He ends a line that stretches through England from Herbert Chapman to Alf Ramsey and Don Revie.

In Scotland, it was Jock Stein, Ferguson’s own soccer “father.”

These men grew up and played in an era when daddies and their sons were the only people inside soccer stadiums.

Women were secretaries in the front office, and tea makers.

It was an age when daddy lifted junior over the turnstile, a tradition now gone in the age of season tickets and seats. It was daddy who showed his son that losing control in moments of joy and loss was acceptable, and normal, during ninety minutes on a Saturday.

Just don’t cry in the real world, son.

But the old-fashioned coach is rapidly going out of style.

The internationalism of club soccer, and the supremacy of the star player, has diminished the need for parenting.

Younger coaches treat their players as equals, hoping to bond as a team, instead of family. Servitude to one tribe is no longer for life.

Brad Guzan saves four PKs

Brad Friedel's understudy Brad Guzan made the most of a rare appearance for Aston Villa, saving one penalty kick in regulation time and three PKs in the tiebreaker in a win over Sunderland that sends Villa to the English League Cup quarterfinals. In Scotland, DaMarcus Beasley saw his first action of the season.

Guzan thwarted Kenwyne Jones' 85th minute spot kick to preserve the scoreless tie that sent the game into overtime and to a penalty-kick shootout, in which he saved three of the four PKs he faced, from Andy Reid, Lorik Cana and Jordan Henderson.

The 25-year-old keeper who joined Aston Villa from Chivas USA in 2008 also made spectacular saves on a Kieran Richardson shot in overtime and a volley from Henderson in the first half.

"We deserved to go through but their goalkeeper's had one of them nights he's going to remember for the rest of his life," Sunderland coach Steve Bruce told the Guardian.

"He was excellent." Aston Villa coach Martin O'Neill said, "No one's more euphoric than Mr. Guzan. His was a fabulous, fantastic performance. He's got everything and he's as brave as they come. Friedel has been terrific for us but Guzan was immense tonight. I can't remember the last time a keeper saved four penalties but, by the end, I was almost expecting him to save them."

Friday, October 23, 2009

Ferguson Voted the Greatest

Sir Alex Ferguson has won 33 trophies in 22 years at the helm of Manchester United, and he was recently recognized for his tremendous success. The makers of Football Manager 2010 had Ferguson topping their poll of the Greatest Manager of All-Time.

The poll features other Knights of the Realm such as the late, great Sir Bobby Robson, Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alf Ramsey but despite their fine records, none of them can match Sir Alex's two decade long domination of the English game.


1. Sir Alex Ferguson - 26 per cent
2. Sir Bobby Robson - 14%
3. Bill Shankly - 9%
4. Brian Clough - 8%
5. Sir Matt Busby - 6%
6. Sir Alf Ramsey - 5%
7. Jose Mourinho - 4%
8. Arsene Wenger - 3%
9. Bob Paisley - 2%
10. Jock Stein - 1%

*As polled by Football Manager 2010

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mariner moves back to Plymouth Argyle

Major League Soccer suffered a loss to it's coaching community this past week when Paul Mariner resigned from his position with the New England Revolution to take a similar position with Coca-Cola Championship club Plymouth Argyle.

Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney outlines his significance in New England, as well as in MLS.

Whether or not MLS has let a potentially great head coach slip away with the departure of Paul Mariner back to his native England is open to debate, but what the league and this country have lost is a good chunk of institutional knowledge.

At Plymouth Argyle, he will serve as a head coach under the direction of manager Paul Sturrock , and that is not a contradiction in terms. The manager selects the players and decides strategies and tactics; a coach conducts drills and sessions, and doles out praise and criticism as needed. Every Revs player will tell you that practices with Mariner were laden with exhortation and motivation as well as information.

Mariner might seem at first glance more nutty professor - disheveled hair, casual attire, glasses slightly askew, lanky physique - than the international striker he once was, or the MLS head coach he might have been. But watching him work in the trenches drilling - and that's the right word for much of what he did - players on the finer points of the game magnified the value of high-caliber instruction on the field, every day, week after week, month after month, year after year.

If he appeared at times befuddled, it might have been just a slightly goofy smile, or the glasses, or an amazing knack for rattling off observations and memories seemingly unrelated to the topic at hand. He didn't look especially comfortable in a suit and tie or when asked for a sound bite. His persona may not fit what MLS executives envision as a head coach. Yet players who felt the sting of his criticisms and the reaped the benefits of his knowledge and experience and passion seemed to get it.

Says defender Jay Heaps , "As someone who has been here like myself a long time, I've learned quite a bit from him - about professionalism, about carrying yourself, and I think he's just an awesome coach, an awesome individual, and he's helped my game out quite a bit just by how he approaches it. I think it's a sad day for the Revolution but a great day for Paul Mariner."

Glancing at the coaching staffs around the league, I don't think it's a coincidence that Houston has former Scottish international John Spencer as an assistant coach, or that former Polish international Robert Warzycha guided the Crew back atop the standings after taking over as head coach. Not every successful team has among its assistants a former international player, and some head coaches prefer to do a lot of on-field work themselves, but with many teams more or less equal in talent the value of practical experience is considerable.

Mariner started his pro career in 1976 with Plymouth before helping Ipswich win an FA Cup and a UEFA Cup, and then playing for Arsenal and Portsmouth. England capped him 35 times, and he scored a goal against France at the 1982 World Cup. That may not be as glittering a resume as that of Revs head coach Steve Nicol , an English League and European champion with Liverpool as well as a Scottish international, but it's dotted by success.

The benefits derived from Mariner by a forward such as Taylor Twellman are obvious. He has counseled and drilled - there's that word again - Twellman and other Revs' strikers for years about the timing and angling of runs into the box, finishing the half-chances, harassing opposing defenders, etc.

Yet he could be just as zealous getting players to protect a chute between two cones 20 yards apart, for example, cajoling the defender to push the dribbler as wide as possible to buy time and perhaps funnel the ball into the path of a teammate who could win it, or hectoring defenders to attack balls lofted into the box rather than let them drop or leave them for the keeper to deal with.

Before he joined New England as Nicol's assistant, Mariner worked as a head coach for the Albany Capitals and the San Francisco Bay Blackhawks in the American Professional Soccer League. Whether that experience, plus his work with the Revs, tacked onto a long pro career in England and for the national team would have made a successful MLS head coach we'll probably never know.

"He deserves to go places, and he deserves to get a head coach's job, which I think is going to happen eventually," says Nicol. "We're certainly shocked that no one in MLS has come in and taken him. Our American youngsters are going to lose somebody who has knowledge and experience to another place."

Ultimately, a team depends on the philosophies and expertise of its head coach -- a manager in England -- for success, but conveying and instilling those ideas is a function of work on the training field. In the best situations, an assistant coach is not the head coach's underling but a sounding board for discussions, a partner in strategy sessions, a critical contributor in the scouting and evaluation of opponents and possible acquisitions, and a role model for success.

A head coach in MLS has to do a lot more than coach, which is one reasons his assistants are so important. The Nicol-Mariner pairing, formed in 2004, reached three MLS Cups, losing them all, yet won an Open Cup and a SuperLiga title.

"I think MLS is missing out on a great coach, too, so hopefully we'll see him back someday," says Heaps. "But I think once he starts to fly, we're not going to see him around; he's going to be in some high-level coaching."

1990 World Cup team remembered

I just wrote recently in my column in the Evansville Courier Press about how far American soccer has come since the 1990 World Cup, so it was a pleasant surprise to see Andrea Canales' column on the 1990 US team.

Since that World Cup, I have gotten the opportunity to know a number of the key members of that team. When we look back on the development of US Soccer over the past 20 years, the '90 team needs to be looked back on fondly as the group that got things started.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Wizard of Westwood turns 99

John Wooden just celebrated his 99th birthday, and ESPN's Rick Reilly sat down with the coaching legend recently.
I like going to Wooden's house for the same reason people like going to church: It makes me want to be a better man.

The last time he swore? 1924. The last time he drank alcohol? 1932. Number of girls he ever kissed? One, his beloved Nell, who passed in 1985. He's never gotten over it. Still writes her a love letter on the 21st of every month -- the date of her death.

Every time I go, I learn something new about the Wizard of Westwood (a name he hates.) For instance, did you know --

-- Wooden used to predict how his UCLA teams would do that season and hide the prediction in his desk drawer? Only once did he predict the team would go undefeated: "Lewis's first year," he says. He means Lewis Alcindor, of course, who later became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. And he was right. Alcindor's sophomore year (his first with the varsity), the Bruins went 30-0 and won the national championship, Wooden's third. "I just felt Lewis was so good and so different that it was going to be hard for opponents to catch up to him." Wooden had three other undefeated teams, two with Bill Walton.

United wingers lacking bite

A trademark of the great Manchester United teams have always been the width in their attack, spearheaded by dynamic wingers. Chris Peterson of ESPN examines where United's current wingers stack up among the recent United teams of the past.

There was a time when Manchester United wingers struck fear into the hearts of their opponents.

Players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Andrei Kanchelskis and, at his best, Lee Sharpe (Ralph Milne can probably leave the room at this point). Players capable of tearing teams apart with raw speed, a moment of sublime skill or the accuracy and trajectory of a ball delivered from the flanks.

It has become a hallmark of Sir Alex Ferguson's success at Old Trafford down the years. But no more. Giggs is still gracing the Premier League stage, but partly because he has reinvented himself as a more rounded footballer who can also operate in the middle of the park or tucked in behind the striker where he can use his reading of the game and ability to spot and execute a killer pass to maximum effect. Though far from slow at the age of 35, he is no longer the winger who burst onto the scene as a teenager 18 years ago.

That job now falls to the likes of Nani, Antonio Valencia and Park Ji-sung, and would you honestly pick any one of them ahead of their predecessors in a red shirt?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Chess provides tactical foundation - part II

Apparently New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi also feels that chess has helped him develop his tactics and decision-making...

The below video clip from the New York Times sheds some insight into how learning chess at an early age helped the Yankees skipper develop decision-making skills and foresight.

I think the tactics in chess are more comprable with those in soccer than in those with baseball, but it is interesting to hear about a similar way of thinking from a coach/manager in a different sport.

Tactics of Chess Similar to Soccer

From the Evansville Courier Press, October 4, 2009

EVANSVILLE — My father bought my son a chess board last Christmas, and as we walked the boy through the ideas and concepts of playing chess, things seemed very familiar.

The familiarity was not only with the tactics on a battlefield but on a soccer field as well.

As I started to research more closely, I found that two prominent professional soccer coaches, Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez and Inter Milan manager Jose Mourinho, were avid chess players. The more I started to study the relationship in tactics between both, I realized that chess was a practical training ground for soccer coaches who fancy themselves tacticians.

Listen to a coach in an interview and you may hear him use phrases like, "The defense is well-organized," "I can't commit too many numbers forward or I'll be counterattacked" or "I should use the flanks because their middle is too compact." These phrases could also be said by a master chess player.

Both games require players to attack and defend, to rely on width, depth and balance in both attack and defense. The same way your central defenders are covering and protecting that space in front of their own goalkeeper is the same way that defensive pawns might be protecting their king.

The similarities in the games are pretty clear — you must capture the other team's pieces or score goals without conceding anything on your end or side.

Both games offer a number of options when you are in possession and that every action has a converse reaction that can be countered. Both games rely on movement of all players or pieces.

It is not uncommon to hear coaches that talk about good teams say that "the sum is greater than the parts." That is also clearly the case in chess.

Teams that overachieve need to be able to look at the whole team as opposed to just individual players. Good chess players are also able to integrate key pieces into their overall scheme.

Most good chess players need to be able to play five to six moves ahead, knowing where their opposition will move and be ready to counter it. The same can be said in soccer for a very good passer in possession (knowing where your next pass should go before you even receive the ball) as well as for a good coach (preparing for how your opponent will play, and how to counter their decisions).

Both games also have a spontaneous and continuous rhythm to them — there are no timeouts and very few plays that you can dictate during the course of the game. This requires sharp instincts and quick decision-making, both for the players moving those pieces in chess or as they make decisions on the field (players) or off the field (coaches) in soccer.

There are certainly those who find both games slow and boring. Maybe scoring does not come as frequently or at the same pace as in other sports. Those critics probably have not either grown up playing these games or have never taken the time to sit down and see the games' art and tactics.

I did not grow up playing chess but have been so infatuated with its tactics that I have been regularly playing games online and researching great players like Garry Kasparov in the same fashion that I study soccer tactics. I have found that not only were there a lot of applied similarities in both, but that understanding one has helped me better understand the other.

It is not uncommon to hear an announcer refer to a closely played, well-coached game as being "chesslike." Maybe there's more to that than we think.

For any aspiring coach in sports where you defend a goal, a basket or a goal line and attack another, chess might be the way for you to regularly practice and fine-tune your skills.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

TEAM - Together Everyone Achieves More

I have always been a firm believer in having my team(s) train together rather than on an individual basis. The commraderie that develops in a competitive training environment not only builds a positive team culture, but also allows the players to push each other by being challenged shoulder-to-shoulder with their teammates.

The Science Daily recently wrote that a recent study of Oxford rowers proved that members of a team who exercised together were able to tolerate twice as much pain as when they trained on their own.

In the study, published September 16 in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters, researchers from the University of Oxford’s Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology found the pain threshold of 12 rowers from the Oxford Boat Race squad was greater after group training than after individual training.

They conclude that acting as a group and in close synchrony seems to ‘ramp up’ pain thresholds. The underlying endorphin release may be the mechanism that underpins communal-bonding effects that emerge from activities like religious rituals and dancing.

Each of the 12 rowers participated in four separate tests. They were asked to row continuously for 45 minutes in a virtual boat in the gym (as in normal training), in an exercise carried out in two teams of six and then in a separate session as individuals, unobserved by other team members. After each of the sessions, the researchers measured their pain threshold by how long they could stand an inflated blood pressure cuff on the arm.

The study found there was a significant increase in the rowers’ pain threshold following exercise in both individual and group sessions (a well established response to exercise of any kind). However, after the group training there was a significantly larger increase as compared with training carried out individually.

Since close synchrony is the key to successful competition-class racing, these results suggest that doing a synchronised activity as a group increases the endorphin rush that we get from physical exertion. The study says that since endorphins help to create a sense of bonhomie and positive effect, this effect may underlie the experience of warmth and belonging that we have when we do activities like dancing, sports, religious rituals and other forms of communal exercise together.

Sitting on Yellow Cards

Bob Bradley is being dealt a dilemma for the final two World Cup qualifiers for the CONCACAF region - win 1 and your in, but with a number of players sitting on yellow cards, if any of them accumulate another card in a US loss in Honduras on Saturday, they would not be able to play in the all-important final qualifying match against Costa Rica the following week.

Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney outlines the challenge faced by the US coaching staff.

Along with Jozy Altidore, Carlos Bocanegra, Conor Casey, Steve Cherundolo, Ricardo Clark, Landon Donovan and Benny Feilhaber, Dempsey is a player named to the U.S. roster for the final two Hexagonal matches who is carrying a caution.

(Three other players not named on the roster -- Jay DeMerit, Frankie Hejduk and Sacha Kljestan -- are also carrying cards.)

"Any of those players carded against Honduras would sit out the Costa Rica match, which of the two is by far the most important. Unless the USA does as well or better in San Pedro than Costa Rica does at home on Saturday against Trinidad & Tobago, the Americans will need at least a tie against the Ticos at RFK Stadium to qualify for the 2010 World Cup. (The other scenario is a U.S. loss in San Pedro Sula and Costa Rica-T&T tie, in which case the USA might still qualify on goal difference if it lost to the Ticos.)

Bradley could bench some or all of the cautioned players for the Honduras game to assure their eligibility for the Costa Rica match, or use them in hopes of getting a victory that would clinch qualification. Fourth-place Costa Rica (12 points) trails Hexagonal leader U.S. (16) by four points in the standings. Second is Mexico (15) and Honduras (13) is third. Tied at the bottom with eight points are El Salvador and Trinidad & Tobago.

For me, it is a simple decision - you play out the Honduras match honestly, knowing that if you win that match, you are through to South Africa for the 2010 World Cup. Having an environment where there is the fear of failure - be it in losing a match or of picking up another card - creates a negative culture where players are afraid of making mistakes.

Bradley's team is at their best when they play relaxed and comfortable, and I think they will come out with an inspired effort this weekend.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Lessons learned from Ryan Giggs

Former Sunderland standout Michael Gray (currently at Sheffield Wednesday) writes a blog for BBC Sport that gives insight into what life is like as a professional footballer. He had some really unique insight into what has helped extend Ryan Giggs' tremendous career.

If one person inspires me to keep playing it has to be Ryan Giggs. He is a credit to his profession and a great role model to thousands (if not millions) - over 800 games for arguably the biggest club in the world and still playing at the top of his game.

Maybe he doesn't play week in, week out, but every time I see Giggsy play he still has the desire to win. That is all down to Sir Alex Ferguson and how he manages his players.

I remember Giggsy used to miss a lot of games because of hamstring injuries. When I spoke to him last he told me how he had changed what he did during a week's training and how he had recovered and if what he told me was good enough for him then it was certainly good enough me - lots of ice baths during the week and after games, not the nicest thing in the world but very effective.

Giggsy also does yoga; something that I learned was good for me later during my career. When I was at Sunderland I used to do Pilates, which helped me a lot. I did two 30-minute sessions a week.

Stretching is really important before matches, making sure your body is warm before games to get the best results, and cooling down after matches is something that has been introduced during the last six years.

Lactic acid builds up in your body after matches and this seems to be the best way to release it. When I was younger I never understood the importance of stretching and warming up, when all I wanted to do was get out on the pitch and play. My views have had to change over the years and I've certainly reaped the benefits of modern technology.

How do you beat Man Utd

Every team is beatable...even the 3-time defending English Premier League Champions. As hard as it is to defeat Manchester United, Andrew Jordan of the Bleacher Report breaks down the different ways that United wins and loses matches.

While watching the Manchester United-Wolfsburg Champions League match on September 30, I saw United controlling the match for most of the game—until Wolfsburg scored a goal to take the lead in the 56th minute.

However, after the goal was scored, I thought to myself that Man United were definitely going to score, and there was no way that they were going to lose this match.

Two minutes later, the first part of my prediction came true when Ryan Giggs took a free kick that hit off of a Wolfsburg defender into the back of the net, knotting the game at one.

About 20 minutes after that, Michael Carrick scored another goal for United as they went on to win the match 2-1.

After the match ended, however, a thought entered my mind: Is there a real way to beat Manchester United?

Young players should scrimmage more

Most coaches of younger youth players spend most of their training sessions with countless drills, and then finish their session with a 'scrimmage'.

At this age, most of the training session should be 'scrimmaging', replicating the game and giving them opportunities to play.

Soccer America's Mike Woitalla wrote a great article the other day in where he references that scrimmages shouldn't just be for 'dessert'.

At the youngest ages, they should just be playing soccer rather than doing drills anyway. When it becomes necessary to incorporate technical exercises into practice, why has it become the cardinal rule that they must be done at every practice and they must be done before the soccer-playing?

When a bunch of rambunctious youngsters show up to practice doesn't it make sense to let them get on with the soccer-playing? If you need to have them practice their passing technique, why not after they've played some real soccer? They might be more inclined to stay focused during a slower-paced activity after they've used up some energy.

Schmid conquers challenges

Sigi Schmid has been a tremendous role model for coaches to follow, both on and off the field. José Miguel Romero of the Seattle Times sheds some insight into the man behind the success in Seattle.

For Sigi Schmid, life has been a series of challenges.

The Sounders FC coach faced each hurdle like a soccer opponent to be studied, dissected and conquered. Learning English in a new country. Overcoming a stuttering problem. Finding his way from a dreary job as an accountant to follow his passion for soccer.

And, finally, becoming one of U.S. soccer's most successful coaches and trying to take an expansion team to the Major League Soccer playoffs.

"Challenges, yeah, have always been a big part of my life," Schmid says.

To understand Schmid's determination, go back to some of his early struggles. He moved from his native Germany to the U.S., and with German spoken at home, he began school without a command of English. Still, he overcame that hurdle to become a good student who struggled to overcome a stuttering problem through high school that made speaking in front of groups an uncomfortable experience.

Soccer was always his refuge. When his family returned to Germany on vacations, he loved hustling rides to watch top-level Bundesliga clubs play exhibitions in small neighboring towns.

Yet his working-class parents steered him a different career direction - business. His father worked for Pabst Brewing, and his mother ran a cafeteria in Germany and a German deli in the Los Angeles area where Sigi worked on weekends. Soccer wasn't considered a career option.

So he majored in economics while playing soccer at UCLA, got his master's in business administration and became a certified public accountant. Yet soccer was always there - waiting and beckoning.

From 1978 to 1984, Schmid worked eight months out of the year as a CPA and spent the other four - soccer season - as an assistant and later head coach at UCLA.

"For me the dream was always: 'I want to coach soccer,' " Schmid says.

How MLS killed the US U-20s

More daggers thrown by US Under-20 national team coach Thomas Rongen about how the absence of a reserve league in Major League Soccer essentially had taken it's toll on the lack of experience for our United States Under-20 national team.

"We have a bunch of part-time players, quite frankly. Players around the world play hard games every weekend. Our players don't," Rongen said. "That's a huge concern for our country -- we are falling behind in the under-20s."

The U.S., often noted more for its potential rather than its record, has reached 12 of 17 tournaments at this level, getting as far as fourth place in 1989.

In Egypt, the Americans were let down by their normally sturdy defense but also showed glimpses of excellence. Midfielder Dilly Duka of Rutgers University and Miami FC forward Tony Taylor were key against Cameroon, pairing well and both scoring in that Group C game.

Rongen said his players' wobbly performance had only been made worse by the decision to scrap the MLS Reserve Division last year.

"None of our MLS players are regular starters, and there's no reserve league," he said. "We go from full-time residency to a black hole. ... That's the reason we are erratic from game to game. There's no game sharpness, there's no game fitness, and no game rhythm.

"Because of the MLS dropping the reserve league the black hole will become deeper and darker."

Roy Keane: Behind the Scenes

Roy Keane has been under siege after a slow start this season at Ipswich, but as
Matt Dickinson of the Times Online reports, a distanced manager has apparently separated himself from his locker room.

One of the most troubling stories about Roy Keane’s management did not involve him screaming, shouting or karate-kicking the tactics board in the dressing room, as Dwight Yorke has described so vividly in his forthcoming autobiography.

No, it was the tale of a Sunderland party when all the players and families were invited to bond together on a bright summer’s day. A day when Keane, the man who should have been doing the mixing and making people feel good about their work, is said to have turned up, collected his food and walked across a pitch to eat on his own. Lunch digested, he walked back, dropped off his plate and disappeared, not speaking to anybody between arriving and leaving.

This was a man who could bring intensity and isolation even to a pleasant barbecue party.

The notion of Keane as a brooding loner is not new but it is particularly pressing at a time when his Ipswich Town team sit one place off the bottom of the Coca-Cola Championship with no victories in nine matches.

Is Bradenton The Answer?

On the heels of the worst World Cup result of a USA under-20 team in over a decade,'s Andrea Canales reports that a transition in development in Bradenton, Florida and the lack of an MLS reserve league could be the root of these problems.

I wasn't terribly surprised when the USA under-20 team, a squad where many members do not see regular playing time (partly as a result of MLS having no reserve league right now), had its worst performance of the World Cup against a South Korea team known for speed and fitness.

Inevitably, though, the failure to advance out of the first round brings up a few questions about the developmental pipeline of the U-20 team.

One aspect that should be scrutinized is the residency program at Bradenton run by U.S. Soccer. It has long been a cradle of development for elite youth players.

"Eventually, we should move away from (residency) and our professional clubs should take the lead in player development, quite frankly, like it’s done in the rest of the world," Rongen said.

Here's where MLS, which may have negatively impacted the U-20 squad the most through killing the reserve league, has a chance to redeem itself through the academy systems its clubs are developing.

"Our development in most instances has been done through U.S. Soccer," Rongen explained. "The professional teams need to take a vested interest in developing players. Obviously the academy teams now are younger teams - they’re three or four years in - so it’s going to be a while before we bear the fruits"

However, a few clubs are already reaping the benefits of youth teams, and have signed players to their full rosters. Thus, they could also directly benefit from a reserve league that develops such players.

"Some teams have already signed some academy players from their respective teams," Rongen noted. "I would like to think that that will continue and that’s a good trend and a healthy trend. And again, that’s the model of the rest of the world, where pro clubs are the frontrunners in player development and not necessarily the soccer federations. At this point we’re still the frontrunners and still producing more national team players through that than MLS does."