The problem isn't the lack of interest among kids. Participation is booming and when you think about it nowadays - if you're an athletic kid and under say 6' 3"... your chances of becoming a pro in soccer are better than in any other sport.
The goalkeeping. The US has three Goalkeepers in this squad over 33. Both Tim Howard and Brad Guzan have been on the decline 3 years ago. They cannot find anyone else?
Is it really the lack of interest from American born kids to soccer the reason that they can't replenish the talent pool? If so, then that's a BIG problem.
How does naturalization work? Can they naturalize somebody to be able to play here? Surely there are kids in some other countries that could be enticed to come to America and play for the National Team. Can they do that?
The problem is systemic and a big part is 'pay for play' model that seems to permeate the system right now. Means most the kids getting the chance to advance are middle class and those from wealthier backgrounds.
This needs to change. Hopefully US Soccer comes to its senses and develops a plan with the input of MLS owners and more importantly the generation of pro's who turned the corner for US Soccer over the past couple of decades. We have to do a better job of identifying more talented kids on the lower end of the socio-economic scale and find ways to invest in them by getting them top level training.
Soccer still has a huge opportunity. Baseball has become an old man's sport. American kids don't play it anymore. Football's concussion issues are going to have a huge impact on youth participation moving forward. Basketball requires a unique set of physical attributes if you want to make money playing it. That leaves soccer as the sport of the masses - as it is world wide. Kids of any size and athletic build can play.
Hopefully this serves as a wakeup call to US Soccer but there's a reason so many billionaires have invested in the sport domestically. And that hasn't changed despite yesterday's debacle.
Totally agree with the pay to play system.
If this was basketball, the best kids in the nation would have already been recruited by AAU squads. If this was baseball, they would playing in Little League, but in soccer, you'd have to pay to be able to play top quality organized competition. It has to stop, as it does limit it to the kids who can afford it.
I still think there's not enough interests in it, though. Kids would still rather still play basketball or American football. I don't know how to fix that, but something needs to be done there.
Also, I want to go back again to the whole naturalization thing. Why can't the US poach players from other countries and naturalize them?
Brazil and Argentina are a hotbed of football talent, and not all of those kids will earn caps for their respective nations, but there will be players who are good enough that they could change the culture and competition when inserted with the home grown kids here.
Sure, the US may not be able to poach a kid that could be the next Neymar or Messi, but they can probably find players that could be as good as, say Richarlison and Roberto Pereyra, not good enough to earn a senior cap for Brazil and Argentina respectively, but good enough to play in the Premier League regularly (Pereyra at one point was good enough for Juventus to get him). That is not world class level talent, but good enough to be able to elevate the USMNT to certain level, as far as skill, technical ability and competition is concerned. Yeah, they may not be able to poach a Thiago Silva who is mainstay in Brazil, but they maybe able to find a young player who can be a0 Gabriel Paulista type of player, who may never earn a cap, but that guy is has played against Premier League competition and now playing in the La Liga, surely better than Damarcus Beasley, Omar Gonzales and Matt Besler. There should be young players in these countries that the US can poach.
Some of these kids could find the prospect of moving to America enticing, as they maybe economically limited in Brazil, Argentina, or maybe in other nations in South America and Africa, to name a few. The idea of being able to play in the World Cup, even though it's not for their home land, could be enticing for them as well. So the US presents an opportunity for these young players to come, something I believe that needs to be taken advantage off.
The US are already doing this in College Basketball in a way, recruiting players for other countries to play for Universities. FIFA allows naturalizing players, maybe it's time for the US to take advantage of it, as there is clearly no interest and a scarce pool of talent here.