Instead of having to keep track of the alphabet soup of league names and sift through the overlapping league structures, wouldn’t it be easier if some central body (say, the U.S.S.F.) stepped in to regulate national leagues? This step would make it easier for fans, but also national scouts, to keep track of the best young talent in the country.
There is definitely the simple economic argument against this line of action, which says that if this centralized approach was viable then it would have already happened. I don’t buy that. I think it is in fact feasible but the will has not been present from those in charge
In a previous post about high school and college in the United States, I mentioned something that I think is relevant in this discussion. High school soccer persisted (and in most respects is still persisting) until a viable alternative was created and cultivated. The U.S.S.F. hopes the Development Academy League grows to fulfill that role. In the same respect, college soccer will be the path of choice for the majority of aspiring soccer players, even those from MLS club academies, until a national u-20 (or u-21, or u-22) league is established and has enough resources to adequately develop players the way the DA currently does.
In much the same way that Academies were originally designed to accommodate and complement high school soccer by working on a different schedule, current leagues like PDL and NPSL are only active in the summer months. The infrastructure that the USL umbrella currently has at its disposal cannot be ignored when considering how to bridge the gap from youth development to professional development. In addition to the u-12 through u-20 leagues, they also operate an extensive patchwork of mostly u-23 (mostly amateur) teams in the Premier Development League. On top of the PDL is the USL-Pro, which consists of 11 clubs, 10 in the United States. USL also operates a the women’s W-League and the Major Indoor Soccer League. The organization has specialized office staff for each endeavor and has provided a great deal of stability to soccer in America, despite poor retention rates in its leagues some years.
If a national-regional u-21 league was mapped out, it would be make a great deal of sense to utilize the existing structures. Taking advantage of Super Y-League clubs and Super-20 clubs, or in many cases the same clubs running teams in multiple age divisions, is a smarter way of tapping into potential player pools but also of utilizing the contacts and administrative infrastructure which is already established and primed for competition. Continue reading