Cuban National Teams Competing in Four Tournaments

At the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015, Cuban soccer will be competing on four fronts. Cuban U17 and U20 national teams both qualified for full CONCACAF tournaments out of smaller Caribbean tournaments. A U21 squad will compete in the Central American and Caribbean Games in late November in Mexico.

With a chance to enter the 2015 Gold Cup next summer in the United States, Cuba’s full national team kicks off its play in the 2014 Caribbean Cup on November 11.

 

Cuba’s U17 finished 3rd place in the U17 Caribbean Cup, a qualifying tournament for the 2015 CONCACAF U17 Championship. Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago and St. Lucia will represent the Caribbean Zone in that regional tournament.

Cuba bested Dominica (4-0) and Suriname (2-0) to advance out of the first group stage of Caribbean qualifying for the CONCACAF tournament. In the second round of group play, Cuba demolished Guadeloupe (5-0) and defeated Martinique (1-0) before losing to Jamaica (0-3). By virtue of finishing second in Group B, the Caribbean Lions qualified for the full regional tournament.

As a consolation of sorts after already advancing to the CONCACAF tournament, Cuba beat Saint Lucia (2-0) on October 26 to win third place in the Caribbean competition.

Cuba’s U17 team will play in one of two groups of 6 teams early next year for the opportunity to qualify to the 2015 FIFA U17 World Cup in Chile.

In addition to the five teams from the Caribbean that have already qualified, North America’s three teams (Canada, Mexico, and the United States) enter the CONCACAF tournament automatically. The final two entrants from Central America are still to be decided in three weeks, but Honduras are in as tournament hosts and Costa Rica has assured its passage through one of two qualifying groups.

 

Cuba’s U20 national team also finds itself in the upcoming CONCACAF tournament. Though the squad started its qualifying campaign rather unceremoniously back in June, Cuba somehow squeaked through.

Cuba was placed in a qualifying group alongside Martinique, Barbados, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. After two draws to open the group in late June, Cuba’s 3-1 win over Martinique earned the Lions passage into the second group stage.

In that second round of group play in September, Cuba defeated Curaçao (1-0) before losing to Suriname (0-1). Cuba entered its final group stage match against Trinidad and Tobago with its future uncertain. The young Soca Warriors had already clinched their own qualification and may have taken their foot off the pedal, allowing Cuba to grab the early lead in the game. Though Trinidad and Tobago did battle back for a draw, Curaçao’s victory over Suriname meant Cuba finished second in Group A.

In an odd happenstance, Cuba’s U20 team won the consolation match against Aruba (2-1) to finish third overall in the 2015 CONCACAF U20 Championship Qualifying Tournament in the Caribbean.

Cuba will be joined by Haiti, Aruba, Trinidad and Tobago, and hosts Jamaica from the Caribbean. The three North American teams (Canada, Mexico, and the United States) enter the tournament automatically while Panama, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala qualified out of Central America.

Cuba kicks off its 2015 CONCACAF U20 campaign in early January. The Cuban hopefuls face Mexico on January 10, Honduras on the 12th, Haiti on the 15th, Canada on the 19th, and El Salvador on the 22nd.

The tournament features two groups of six teams each and the group winners automatically advance to the 2015 U20 World Cup in New Zealand. The next four best teams are seeded based on group stage results. These four teams play (1 v 4, 2 v 3) and the winners of each match also advance to the World Cup.

There is a tough road ahead for Cuba’s u20 team but the isolated island nation does have a track record recently at the youth level.

Cuba qualified for the 2013 U20 World Cup in Turkey and even though they finished with 0 points and a -9 GD, the squad showed well for a program with such limited resources.

Cuba’s U20 team turned a few heads at the 2013 qualifying tournament in Puebla, Mexico. Finishing the tournament in fourth place earned the Caribbean Lions a berth in that dubious World Cup. Creative forward Maykel Reyes was particularly impressive and he has continued his participation with the national team program.

 

Cuba’s under 21 team will take part in the Central American and Caribbean Games in Veracruz, Mexico, in November. There is heavy overlap between the squads for these two competitions.

The 2014 Central American and Caribbean Games is organized into two groups of four teams. Cuba, which starts play on November 19, is in a group with Costa Rica, Haiti, and Venezuela. This tournament uses U21 teams with up to three overage players allowed in the 20-man squad.

 

Cuba’s full senior national team qualified for the 2014 Caribbean Cup by virtue of lifting the trophy in 2012. Though that surprise title run was in part due to Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago under-performing, Cuba has a strong opportunity to qualify for the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Kicking off on November 11, Cuba faces French Guiana, Curaçao, and Trinidad and Tobago. The top two finishers from each of the two groups advance to next year’s Gold Cup while the better of the the third-placed teams squares off against Honduras for the final berth into the full CONCACAF tournament.

Cuba’s youth teams have both managed to qualify for important Caribbean tournaments and the senior side has performed in recent competitions. However it is difficult to predict whether Cuba is fully prepared for the Caribbean Cup since the team didn’t participate in the qualification cycle.

Jacksonville Armada FC Announces Miguel Gallardo as First Player

Miguel Gallardo was unveiled Tuesday with Jacksonville Armada FC

Miguel Gallardo was unveiled Tuesday with Jacksonville Armada FC

The 2015 NASL expansion team announced on Tuesday, October 21 that goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo is the first-ever Jacksonville Armada FC player. Gallardo will lead Jacksonville after playing four successful seasons with Orlando City SC of USL PRO.

“It is an honor to be the first signing in Armada FC’s history,” Gallardo said on Tuesday.

Gallardo initially joined Orlando City ahead of its inaugural season in 2011 in USL PRO. The 6’1″ goalkeeper played with the Austin Aztex in USL-1 for two seasons before moving with the club to Central Florida. With Orlando, Gallardo amassed 51 wins and 32 clean sheets in 82 appearances over his four seasons. Miguel Gallardo led the City Lions from the back en route to three regular season titles and two playoff championship trophies in USL PRO.

Gallardo apparently did not impress head coach Adrian Heath quite enough to earn an MLS contract alongside Kaká, Salvadoran national team star Darwin Cerén, and 2014 USL PRO MVP Kevin Molino. His four years leading the third division league with Orlando City, however, mean that Gallardo is among the strongest goalkeepers outside of MLS and will lead Jacksonville in the club’s first season.

Armada FC’s General Manager Dario Sala was glowing about Gallardo joining the club. “We are proud to welcome Miguel as our first signing. He encompasses all that we are looking for in our players – a well-developed skill set, strong character, leadership ability, a great résumé and a desire to be a part of our team and our community.”

There are few better players to build a defensive core around than the 29 year old goalkeeper. Gallardo not only put up impressive numbers but formed a powerful connection with Orlando City’s fans. Jacksonville Armada FC are hoping to capitalize on both Gallardo’s career pedigree and his personal characteristics to form the backbone of their squad.

“Today is an incredible moment in the history of the Armada FC and a key building block as we assemble a team that Jacksonville will be proud to call its own,” said Jacksonville Armada owner Mark Frisch.

Armada FC plans to fill out the rest of its 27-man roster by January 2015; look for future announcements about which players will join Gallardo on Jacksonville’s squad in the coming weeks.

Puerto Rico National Team Kicks off Caribbean Cup 2014

After a hiatus of nearly 2 years, since the conclusion of the previous regional tournament, Puerto Rico’s national soccer team is ready to contest the 2014 edition of the Caribbean Cup.

Puerto Rico has a relatively easy pass in the first stage of the competition. Los boricuas face off against Curaçao, French Guiana, and Grenada in Group 4. All group matches will be played from September 3-7 in the Juan Loubriel Stadium in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.

The top two teams from each of the four groups, along with the top ranked third-placed team, move on to the next phase of the tournament. Puerto Rico should be able to see themselves out of this group stage playing at home.

Below is the squad called in by national team head coach Victor Hugo Barros.
Name, player age, national team appearances (Club team or college)

Goalkeepers:
Eric Reyes, 22 years old, 9 caps (Unattached)
Matthew Sanchez, 20 years old, 0 caps, (Loyola University)
Luis Fiol, ??, 0 caps (Criollos de Caguas FC)

Defenders:
Joel Rivera, ??, 0 caps (Bayamon FC)
Juan Velez, ??, 0 caps (Criollos)
Gustavo Rivera, 21 years old, 2 caps (Barry University)
Carlos Rosario, 20 years old, 0 caps (Bayamon)
Sean Sweeney, ??, 0 caps (Fort Pitt FC Regiment; National Premier Soccer League – fourth tier in U.S.)
Alexis Rivera, 31 years old, 24 caps (Bayamon)
Steven Estrada, 27 years old, 2 caps (Bayamon)

Midfielders:
Emmanuel D’Andrea, 19 years old, 2 caps (Sevilla FC ‘C’)
Alvaro Betancourt, 20 years old, 4 caps (Bayamon)
Andres Perez, 25 years old, 10 caps (Bayamon)
Eduardo Jimenez, ??, 0 caps (Bayamon)
Juan Coca, 21 years old, 5 caps (Kultsu FC; Kakkonen – third tier in Finland)
Michael Fernandez, ??, 0 caps (Universitarios FC)
Andres Cabrero, 25 years old, 18 caps (Criollos)
Samuel Soto, 22 years old, 9 caps (Bayamon)
Alex Oikkonen, 19 years old, 6 caps (Kultsu, on loan from MYPA; Veikkausliiga – first division in Finland)

Forwards:
Eloy Matos, 29 years old, 3 caps (Bayamon)
Hector “Pito” Ramos, 24 years old, 21 caps (Isidro Metapan; Primera Division – El Salvador)
Joseph Marrero, 21 years old, 13 caps (Kultsu)

Luke Dempsey’s Club Soccer 101 is a Must-Have

In a sport that is wildly partisan and can be frustratingly dry, Luke Dempsey offers a glimpse into the world’s biggest soccer clubs with both respectful impartiality and a refreshing sense of humor in Club Soccer 101. Without boring his readers with mundane or overwhelming details, Dempsey provides useful information in an entertaining fashion. Every American soccer fan should consider Club Soccer 101 either as an introduction to the sport or as a quick read between European matches on the weekend.

The structure of the book, a vignette about each of 101 teams, allows readers to immerse themselves in the identity of a soccer club without getting bogged down by dates and figures. Club Soccer 101 is jam-packed with information but Dempsey does well to present it in an entertaining and digestible manner.

Of particular note for a large segment of American soccer fans (and which definitely piqued my interest in the book), Dempsey covers MLS teams and superclubs from Latin America with the same deference he gives the storied clubs from across Europe. Without missing a beat, Dempsey describes the masses of rave green fans in Seattle or the desperate die-hards in New Jersey who support the Red Bulls in the same tone with which he fills pages with the histories of FC Barcelona and Manchester United.

As a coffee-table atlas of sorts for soccer’s most interesting clubs or as a trove of clever quips to impress your friends while watching matches, Club Soccer 101 is a must have for any fan of the world’s game.

Cuba Falls 4-0 to a Young, Inexperienced Panama Squad

The Cuban national team traveled to Panama to face that squad in a preparation match for the upcoming Caribbean Cup and Central American Cup.

Colombian head coach of Panama’s national team, Hernán Darío Gómez, could only choose players based in that country’s league because Wednesday night’s match was not on an official FIFA fixture date. A further restriction on his selection was Chorrillo FC’s participation in the current CONCACAF Champions’ League earlier in the week.

Cuba never expected to win this match but was using the contest to try out some new faces for the upcoming busy months. As in every case, Cuba’s coaching staff could only choose players from their domestic league because players who leave Cuba are no longer welcome in the national team setup. The island nation is participating in three tournaments in the fall of 2014, though each at a different age level.

The U-17 team dominated the first group stage of Caribbean qualifying for next year’s CONCACAF Championship. Cuba plays three matches of the second group stage of qualifying between September 27 and October 1.

The Central American and Caribbean Games, a sort of regional Olympics, is planning to bring soccer back to its slate of events. A spat with FIFA forced the organizers to drop the sport from the 2010 addition. Cuba is one of 8 nations participating in the soccer tournament that uses U-21 squads with three overage players allowed (born before January 1, 1993. This tournament runs from November 19 to November 28.

The most important of the three, however, is the 2014 Caribbean Cup. 8 teams will compete in two groups before a knockout stage to determine a champion. The top 4 teams will qualify automatically to the 2015 Gold Cup, the 5th place team will hold a playoff against the 5th place team from the Central American Cup to earn a berth to that Gold Cup, but most exciting is the pass to the 2016 Copa América Centenario available to the winner of the Caribbean tournament.

Cuba lifted the 2012 Caribbean Cup trophy over a disappointing Trinidad and Tobago squad and therefore won an automatic place in the group stage of the 2014 edition. The Cubans will have a tough time defending their title but are already preparing for the fight. The 2014 Caribbean Cup starts on November 9 and the title game is on November 18.

 

Squad for Panama on 8/20
Name (Club), Age, Number of appearances – last national team call-up
Kevin Melgar (Tauro FC), 21, 3 caps – preliminary squad vs Peru
Alex Rodríguez (Sporting SM), 24, 2 caps – August 6 match vs Peru
Óscar McFarlane (Pérez Zeledón; Costa Rica), 33, 34 caps – August 6

Porfirio Ávila (Chepo FC), 22, 1 cap – August 6
Nahill Carrol (Tauro FC), 30, 7 caps – prelim vs Peru
Richard Peralta (Alianza FC), 20, 1 cap – August 6
Joshua Hawkins (Atlético Chiriquí), 32, 1 cap – August 6
Chin Hormechea (Árabe Unido), 18, 0 caps – ???
Fidel Escobar (Sporting SM), 19, 0 caps – prelim vs Peru

Pedro Jeanine (San Francisco FC), 20, 1 cap – August 6
Josiel Núñez (Plaza Amado), 21, 21, 1 cap – August 6
Juan De Gracia (Arabe Unido), 28, 4 caps – August 6
Hécgar/Edgar Murillo (Tauro FC), 20, 0 caps – prelim vs Peru
Justin Simons (San Francisco FC), 16, 0 caps – prelim vs Peru
Richard Rodriguez (San Francisco FC), 18, 0 caps – prelim vs Peru
Francisco Narbón (James Madison University), 19, 1 cap – August 6
Adonis Villanueva (Río Abajo), 21, 1 cap – August 6

Ismael Díaz (Tauro FC), 17, 0 caps – prelim vs Peru
Edgar Yoel Barcénas (Arabe Unido), 20, 1 cap – August 6
Abdiel Arroyo (Arabe Unido), 20, 1 cap – ???
Angel Patrick (Árabe Unido), 22, 0 caps – ???
Armando Paolo (Arabe Unido), 24, 1 cap – prelim vs Peru
Ameth Ramírez (Plaza Amador), 20, 0 caps – August 6

 

Cuban squad vs Panama
Walter Benítez is the normal head coach but the squad was directed by assistant coach Rolando Ayllón

Name (Club), Age, Number of caps

4 Goalkeepers:
Diosvelis Alejandro Guerra (FC Artemisa), 24, 0 caps
Arael Argüelles (Cienfuegos)
Anoide Sardiñas (Ciego de Ávila)
Danilo Baró (Camagüey)

9 Defenders:
Renay Malblanche (Holguín), 23, 14 caps
Michel Márquez (Isla de Juventud), 27, 0 caps
Hanier Dranguet (Guantánamo), 31, 23 caps
Jorge Luis Corrales (Pinar del Río), 23, 20 caps
Yennier Rosabal (Granma) 31, 2 caps
Dairon Blanco (Las Tunas), 22, 0 caps
Yenier Márquez (Villa Clara), 35, 44 caps?
Yasmany López (Ciego de Ávila), 26, ???
Orisbel Leiva (Ciego de Ávila) ?????

9 Midfielders:
Félix Guerra (Granma), 25, ???
Alberto Gómez (Guantánamo), 26, 24 caps
Yannier Martínez (Villa Clara) ?????
Armando Coroneaux (Camagüey), 29, 15 caps
Miguel Ángel Sánchez (Isla de la Juventud), 27, 1 cap
Liván Pérez (Camaguey) 24, 4 caps
Pedro Darío Suárez (La Habana), 22, ???
Jesús Rodríguez (Ciego de Ávila), 25, 1 cap
Tomás Cruz (Ciego de Ávila) ?????

4 Forwards:
José Ciprián Alfonso (Pinar del Río), 30, 4 caps
Yoandri Puga (Isla de Juventud), 26, 3 caps
Ángel Rodríguez (Ciego de Ávila), 23, ???
Ariel Martínez (Sancti Spiritus), 28, 39 caps

 

Lineups for Wednesday’s match that ended Panama 4-0 Cuba.

Oscar McFarlane;
Ángel Patrick, Jorshua Hawkins, Richard Peralta, Porfirio Ávila (Eric Davis, 46′);
Amílcar Henríquez, Francisco Narbón (Juan De Gracia, 60′), Josiel Núñez (Richard Rodríguez, 67′), Hecgar Murillo (Abdiel Arroyo, 60′);
Yoel Bárcenas (Darwin Pinzón, 46′), Armando Polo (Ismael Díaz, 46′)

Diosvelis Guerra;
Jeniel Márquez, Renay Malblanche, Jorge Luis Corrales, Yasmany López;
Alberto Gómez, Tomás Cruz (Livián Pérez, 55′), Yennier Rosabal, Jesús Rodríguez (Félix Guerra, 54′);
Ariel Martínez, Yoandir Puga (José Ciprián Alfonso, 68′)

Cuba did well to stymie Panama’s attack through the first half and into the beginning of the second half. A combination of the Panamanian reinforcements introduced into the game and Cuba’s players tiring undid that hour-long hard work.

Second half substitute Darwin Pinzón opened the scoring in the 67th minute before Juan de Gracia doubled Panama’s lead in the 70th minute, only 10 minutes after stepping on the field. Pinzón fired his second and Panama’s third just 4 minutes later to underline a hectic 7 minute period for Cuba’s defense.

Cuba ventured forward a few times after conceding those 3 goals in rapid succession but couldn’t force McFarlane into making saves. Panama capped the thorough victory with a first minute stoppage time goal from Ismael Díaz. The Cuban defense looked in shambles in the second half of this match but hopefully the team can take something from this game going forward.

Even this under-strength Panama squad is likely more talented than most teams Cuba will face in the upcoming Caribbean Cup. Cuba played Guatemala on Saturday night in another preparation exhibition match.

Surveying the Soccer Scene: The Role of the United States Adult Soccer Association

We all know about Major League Soccer (MLS), the North American Soccer League (NASL), and USL Professional Division (USL Pro). These leagues are sanctioned as professional circuits by the United States Soccer Federation (USSF, U.S. Soccer). But what about the murky depths below these professional leagues?

U.S. Soccer does not sanction amateur leagues directly; that responsibility falls to the United States Adult Soccer Association. The USASA governs amateur soccer through state level associations split into four geographical regions. A handful of large states are split into two bodies: California, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

“The USL’s Premier Development League and the National Premier Soccer League are USASA-affiliated but are designed to promote a higher lever of competition than the state organizations.”

United Soccer Leagues is an important partner of the USASA. The Premier Development League, W-League, Super-20 League, and W-20 are all USL operated leagues that USASA administers. PDL runs a short season of 14 matches during the summer months to accommodate collegiate players, its main source of talent.

The National Premier Soccer League is another amateur men’s league that also runs a short season during the summer. NPSL is governed by its existing teams and, as such, expansion bids and other important matters are voted on by a committee of its member clubs. Its website, which is echoed on the USASA site, claims: “The NPSL is sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation (USSF), the governing body of soccer in the United States.”

USASA also sanctions the Women’s Premier Soccer League, an independent national women’s league that contains clubs affiliated to MLS clubs, PDL clubs, and ECNL girls’ youth clubs.

USASA oversees 11 local/regional “Elite Amateur Leagues,” some of which boast clubs and competitions with impressive history.
Coast Soccer League” in Southern California
Cosmopolitan Soccer League” around New York City
Long Island Soccer Football League
Maryland Major Soccer League
Michigan Premier Soccer League
Rochester District Soccer League” in Western New York [that’s me!]
San Francisco Soccer Football League” in Northern California
United Soccer League of Pennsylvania
United Premier Soccer League” in Southern California
Washington Premier League” in the DMV (Metropolitan D.C., Maryland, Virginia area)
Evergreen Premier League” in Washington (which you should check out)

The odd names of “Soccer Football League” hearken back over a hundred years when these leagues were founded. You read that right, some of these leagues have been active for over a hundred years and were a staple of American soccer throughout the rise and fall of countless professional leagues.

These “elite” leagues hold a special designation among local or regional amateur leagues but are still often a lower quality of play than NPSL or PDL. That is not to say the players in these leagues are hacks; the simple difference is that USASA-sanctioned “premier” leagues PDL and NPSL are primarily devoted to developing college-aged players.

The country’s 55 member associations are divided into four regions; Northeast/Mid-Atlantic, Mid-West, South, and West Coast. In case you were wondering, the 50 states plus an extra in each of CA, NY, OH, PA, and TX add to up the 55 total. Each association governs amateur leagues within its territory. For example, New York West oversees men’s leagues in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and the Southern Tier.

The four regions hold qualifying tournaments for clubs that are interested in potentially participating in the U.S. Open Cup. Because of the expanded field in the cup, USASA teams had 10 berths in the tournament in 2014. Each of the four regions had two entrants and two additional clubs qualified as USASA wildcards: NY Greek-Americans, Icon FC, Des Moines Menace (the PDL powerhouse qualified through an amateur “reserve” side), Schwaben AC, Red Force, NTX Rayados, Cal FC, PSA Elite, Mass Premier Soccer, RWB Adria.

USASA is a mainstay of American soccer and provides a valuable place in the organization of the sport. Amateur soccer at the highest level, whether developmental or recreational, runs through the United States Adult Soccer Association.

Surveying the Soccer Scene: The Role of U.S. Club Soccer

U.S. Club Soccer is an independent soccer governing body that works alongside the existing frameworks already in place (MLS, USSDA, USASA, NASL, USL Pro, NPSL, USL PDL, ASL, PCSL, EPLWA, USMPSUNSAMSL…all right, I made up that last one up). While following the same four regional divisions in its Board of Directors that U.S. Adult Soccer Association utilizes (North Atlantic, Midwest, Southeast, and West), USCS has a strong principled philosophy that separates it from the rest of the pack.

U.S. Club Soccer believes in the power of its member clubs. USCS’s philosophy is summed up in the following bullet points published on its website.

  • Soccer clubs are the primary vehicle through which players are developed.
  • Too much time has been spent governing competitive soccer rather than encouraging its growth.
  • The business of the day-to-day development of top youth players rests with the club.
  • A business-friendly environment must be created
    • to develop programs and services which assist the club and player,
    • to provide a minimum of rules and regulations to assure basic fairness,
    • and to allow clubs the flexibility to build programs that meet their needs.
  • Clubs must work together to grow the club system.
    • This includes speaking with a collective voice on important issues affecting them; assisting clubs organizationally and technically through our technical committee, staff, and club services programs; and coordinating player development with national teams and professional clubs.

If I may paraphrase: Clubs are the true source of innovation to develop best practices. Clubs themselves know what path is best for their organization and the players therein. The governing body should be supportive but not overbearing or micromanagerial, as the clubs with ambition will succeed given the proper baseline and development assistance.

This is a fairly laissez-faire attitude [one to which I may not always ascribe in national politics] but one which is apt in this instance.

The clubs that participate in U.S. Club Soccer leagues are not exclusive. That is to say, clubs often field teams in USCS youth leagues while at the same time operating teams in the US Development Academy, USL’s Super Y-League, Women’s Premier Soccer League, or any other combination of letters in American soccer’s alphabet soup whether listed above or not, whether real or imagined.

In that regard, it does not serve USCS’s interests to demand things from its member clubs. If the restrictions are too arduous or annual dues too high, clubs would simply choose to participate in a different league. U.S. Club Soccer operates best when clubs (those that meet certain logical and logistical minimum guidelines) choose to participate, instead of ending up there as the last resort or seeking the least worst option.

USCS has programs designed not only to help identify young talent for the u-14 national team (the id2 program), but also has initiatives that promote ambitious and well-organized clubs to the opportunities for better competition in order to develop their players. The National Premier Leagues program is the perfect example of the realization of the USCS philosophy; the Pre-Academy Leagues are the particular pinnacle of that system.

Because strong youth clubs wanted a better platform for their younger players, U.S. Club Soccer designed new regional leagues. Most of the clubs that joined these leagues also participated in the USSDA at higher age divisions. This initiative was successful and U.S. Soccer was able to easily transition into a national u-13/14 age bracket for the Development Academy structure in large part due to the existing infrastructure from USCS’s Pre-Academy Leagues. [You can read my previous posts about the importance of the Pre-Academy Leagues here and here.]

The entry cost to participate in a USCS league is not prohibitive, meaning that clubs can decide their participation based on geographical and competitive considerations. This low cost also means that clubs don’t have to worry about sunk cost when considering pulling teams out of USCS leagues.

This is an American soccer landscape that has recently seen the NASL prop up 4 of its clubs when Traffic Sports USA had at least a majority stake in Carolina RailHawks, Atlanta Silverbacks, Minnesota United FC, and Fort Lauderdale Strikers and has seen MLS buy out the Chivas USA franchise from Jorge Vergara. In this context, the independent nature of U.S. Club Soccer is refreshing.

USCS does not rely on the patronage of a handful of clubs and therefore would have few qualms about dismissing clubs that don’t meet its basic standards. Perhaps this freedom is only possible within a system of amateur and youth development leagues, but a similar approach might also be successful at a semiprofessional level.

By standing firm to its simple obligations and not trying to expand beyond what makes sense for existing member clubs, U.S. Club Soccer-organized leagues can focus on benefiting those clubs instead of exacting memberships dues. Instead of a carousel of new clubs replacing failed enterprises, USCS leagues are mostly stable from year-to-year. This type of continuity stands in stark contrast to the collapse of USL Pro’s Antigua Barracuda FC, VSI Tampa Bay FC Flames, and Phoenix FC just last year (not to mention the failures of FC New York and the three Puerto Rican clubs in 2011).

Rather than assuming the role of snake-oil salesmen, claiming the impossible and promising the moon, USCS leagues can be honest with their member clubs and those clubs are honest brokers in return. At the very least this straightforwardness could be applied to ameliorate some of the negative aspects of the professional American soccer minor leagues.