2014 World Cup: USMNT Not On The Same Path As Germany

By Douglas Smith
Germany vs USMNT Youth Development
Getty Images

After watching a close World Cup final that saw Germany come out on top, USMNT fans immediately started making associations.

There are young players being infused in the system, and some of them are German-American. Jurgen Klinsmann had a hand in rebuilding the system in Germany, and he speaks of the same type of system here. Building the youth and creating academies is often one of the first items latched onto as a true first step for development. By association, one may say the USMNT is following the right path because this is how Germany did it. That association is wrong.

The heroes today in many people’s eyes were Andre Schurrle and Mario Gotze. They are both young and were substitutes in the match. They have many years of international play ahead of them. Gotze has been in the German youth system since 2007 and came up through the SC Ronsberg academy beginning at the age of three. Schurrle started with Ludwigshafener SC at the age of six and came up with the German system in 2008. These teams have been in existence since before 1930.

There is a responsibility with the larger clubs in the two Bundesliga divisions to oversee the development of young players. All 36 clubs are now obligated to operate centrally-regulated academies before being given a licence to play in the league. In these new academies, at least 12 players in each intake have to be eligible to play for Germany. Now, there is a debate on continuing the dual-national trend for the USMNT. Regardless, having a pool of homegrown players would be extremely beneficial to the future of soccer in the U.S.

The key here is that they were in German academies and as they made it through the youth national teams, the methods and messages were similar. The academies in the U.S. are nothing like the ones in Germany. Clint Dempsey often talks about being driven three hours just to find competition when he was younger. Diego Fagundez, a potential USMNT player, started with FC United at the age of 10. FC United is not tied to any MLS team.

Germany put a lot of money into this restructuring, which was planned after the 1998 World Cup. After the plan was developed, it has taken 14 years to see the fruits of their labor. They had scouts at matches all over the country looking for players younger than 10 to put into the youth national team system. From 2003 to 2007, the percentage of players in the academies who were eligible to play for Germany moved from 56 percent to 62 percent.

The other big part of the equation is that no single entity can own more than 49 percent of any Bundesliga club. MLS acts as a single entity controlling every team. There is also a very unusual accounting system in MLS with a foggy salary cap. There is also that can of worms surrounding relegation and promotion. We’ll leave that for another time.

The USMNT is improving, but are still going on what we know, which is good defending, hitting on the counter and a heck of a lot of heart. If it is the German system you seek, then you may be waiting a while. The U.S. Soccer Federation is in a completely different place right now.

Douglas Smith is a soccer writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @DFresh39, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google.


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