Big American Soccer Survey

Photo credit: Detroit City FC / Twitter: @DetroitCityFC

PST survey results: Lower leagues, and that darned pyramid

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The results of PST’s Big American Soccer Survey are in, and our staff will be walking through the results of thousands of votes in a series of posts this week.

We didn’t realize you could acronymize it to BASS, or else we would’ve done it sooner. Today’s BASS questions deal with lower leagues and pro/rel.

[ MORE: All Big American Soccer Survey posts ]

Before we get to the results of three intriguing questions regarding domestic soccer, let’s talk a bit about the mercurial nature of our blossoming-if-haphazard soccer country.

Do you want a team, or do you want a culture?

Those ideas aren’t mutually exclusive, but too often the expectation that starting one will ignite another turns out to be foolhardy.

We’re in the Wild West of American soccer right now, make no mistake about it, and the frontier is far from settled.

That’s unavoidable in a country so big, with travel costs so high, where the most established league is a whopping two decades old and support is far from traditional.

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American soccer tends to lean on its success stories, and understandably so. Portland, Seattle, and Kansas City are among myriad wonderful tales for a nascent culture.

But support is so much more than one set of fans, or players, or an owner. Look no further than Rochester, where an annual playoff team in a soccer specific stadium has suffered under the weight of unsatisfied MLS expectations.

Or San Francisco, a one-and-done champion of the NASL.

Or Austin, which failed to support a USL team but is emboldened at the idea of getting another city’s MLS team.

Or Dayton. Or Wilmington. San Antonio Scorpions. Atlanta Silverbacks.

(We’re going to conveniently leave out the teams dropped into a city by a league in order to battle for a market because this is America and we just need Borussia Butte competing for market share with Montana Monterrey United).

Each of these “failures” has a story, and we’re not naive enough to pretend each falls on one reason. Some American cities, accustomed to having the best example of any particular spot in their region via the NBA, NFL, MLB, or NHL, simply won’t support a league which wouldn’t rate in the Top 20 — or way worse — on a global scale.

We like to blame leagues more than anyone which is insanely easy given the closed structure of every league and the highly-magnified nature of Major League Soccer as a torch holder. Sometimes it’s deserved (the handling of Columbus, the handling of Columbus, as well as the handling of Columbus). Other times, probably not.

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It would take a much longer post than this to figure it all out, and much brighter minds than mine. In fact, one of our biggest flaws as a soccer community is pretending to unveil a universal fix inside of one big lightbulb.

If we had to proffer some easy fixes, they would be this

chattanoogafc.com

— Support your local club. I don’t simply mean by buying tickets, though that certainly helps, but by allying with the cause of improving support in your area. It might seem odd to be a group of four friends starting a supporters’ group for your third- or fourth-tier club, but the team will love it and your enthusiasm just might make someone else come back for seconds. Believe us, we’ve heard the arguments about quality of play, etc., but at some point desire for the development of our culture starts at home. Look at Chattanooga (right), Detroit City (at top), and even Sacramento for this. Look at Columbus while it’s being tortured, too, and look it in the eye. Maybe MLS wouldn’t have given Columbus a market had the league started up today, but it did 20 years ago and we’re fairly sure the business isn’t hemorrhaging money and the fans haven’t quit on the idea of the Crew.

Detroit is really an incredible example, and it’s pertinent as MLS entertains expanding to the city with an organization which isn’t Detroit City FC. Full disclosure: I’ve run a club which has staged a derby with DCFC, and I’ve watched the Motor City outfit go from “Detroit should have a soccer team” to “I bet we could fund restoring a neighborhood stadium and sell it out” to defying critics about what’s possible for a fourth-tier (for now) club. And without as much first hand knowledge from this writer, Chattanooga’s growth predates DCFC’s story with some striking similarities. If either club’s ownership was unable to move forward, I have no doubt their fan bases would rally to keep the clubs alive.

— Support your local soccer-first organization, too. If there’s a group running a program in low-income areas or aiming to elevate the quality of youth soccer without demanding $4000 per player and the pipe dream of maybe being seen by FC Porto’s North American marketing director (then maybe look into whether they do good work with donations, or if the donations make sure the “technical director” has a nicer house).

So to the questions, which show an appetite for the game at all levels and a desire to move toward an open model. And again, this demands you support your local club, because the idea that Major League Soccer is going to ask its owners to risk their investment dipping into a lower tier is improbable. We’re not saying we wouldn’t love it. And we’re not saying we won’t keep asking for it. But change in American hierarchy, especially when it comes to big money, takes a lot of work and lobbying.

Yes, I realize I’ve glossed over the pro/rel part in one paragraph, but let’s be very, very real here: You entered this discussion with a very pointed opinion on promotion and relegation in America. The results of the survey say most of us want to see it, but I couldn’t convince supporters it’s a bad idea or detractors that it’s necessary. I will say this: It’d be great if leagues found a way to make it work despite the massive travel costs that would multiply a successful team’s path upward. With loads of respect for the idea and how successful the open pyramid is in other countries, few if any have to deal with the gigantic landscape of the US of A (let alone several Canadian teams as well).

According to our voters:

PST Survey results: Club or country?

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The results of PST’s Big American Soccer Survey are in, and our staff will be walking through the results of thousands of votes in a series of posts this week.

We didn’t realize you could acronymize it to BASS, or else we would’ve done it sooner. Today’s question: Where do Americans fall on the club or country debate?

[ MORE: All Big American Soccer Survey posts ]

Here’s one problem (of sorts) the United States faces when it comes to soccer versus the rest of the world.

Most of the country’s favorite team, here or abroad, is the national team.

Fifty-three percent of our voters said that, given the choice of club or country, they choose country.

Now unfortunately we don’t have the stats from around the world, but we’re assuming it’s much much different in nations with more storied domestic leagues (and this is largely not Major League Soccer’s fault, other than to debit its nascency).

Try to imagine this below story from Rio Ferdinand coming from any rivalry, from New York to Cascadia. It feels almost absurd, but over time perhaps that will change a bit.

Then again, perhaps our country is just a bit more rock, flag, eagle than the rest of the world. What do you think? Why is it country over club here?

PST Survey results: Most exciting USMNT prospect

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The results of PST’s Big American Soccer Survey are in, and our staff will be walking through the results of thousands of votes in a series of posts this week.

We didn’t realize you could acronymize it to BASS, or else we would’ve done it sooner. Today’s question: Excluding Christian Pulisic, who’s no longer a prospect despite being just 19, who is the most exciting USMNT prospect.

[ MORE: All Big American Soccer Survey posts ]

Exciting performances in the U-20 and U-17 World Cups have given United States men’s national team fans plenty of hope for the future.

The most-mentioned write-in, collecting across all attempting spellings, was injured Arsenal playmaker Gedion Zelalem.

As for the serious contenders, Jonathan Gonzalez, Andrew Carleton Tyler Adams, and Lynden Gooch lagged behind this pack of four:

Cameron Carter-Vickers — 14 percent — He had a howling back pass in Sheffield United’s 5-4 loss to Fulham on Wednesday, but the on-loan Spurs 19-year-old center back is playing every minute for a club very much in the mix for Premier League promotion.

Weston McKennie — 18 percent — Another 19-year-old, McKennie was one of the Men of the Match as Schalke went second in the Bundesliga this weekend. He’s been a regular starter when healthy, and played advanced, central, and set back in Schalke’s midfield. Next up: a Revierderby meeting with Pulisic and Borussia Dortmund.

Josh Sargent — 21 percent — Off to Werder Bremen when he turns 18 in late February, Sargent has four goals in five matches for the U.S. U-20s, and 14 in 29 for the U-17s. That includes four goals and two assists in his last three outings, against Paraguay, England, and Hungary.

Tim Weah — 24 percent — The son of African legend George Weah, Tim turns 18 two days after Sargent. Unlike his countryman, Weah has been in Europe for some time. The Paris Saint-Germain prospect is slated to get his First Team bow some time soon, having scored four goals and added an assist for PSG in the UEFA Youth League.

PST Survey results: Who’s the 2nd best American player?

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The results of PST’s Big American Soccer Survey are in, and our staff will be walking through the results of thousands of votes in a series of posts this week.

We didn’t realize you could acronymize it to BASS, or else we would’ve done it sooner. Next up: the top dogs of the current USMNT… beyond Christian Pulisic.

[ MORE: All Big American Soccer Survey posts ]

There are a number of strong contributors to the United States men’s national team, but there’s simply no question the top player going right now is 19-year-old Pennsylvanian wizard Christian Pulisic.

In addition to being one of, if not the only American player with some electricity in his body against Trinidad and Tobago, Pulisic is among the best players on a top Bundesliga team and has even been tipped as a possible replacement for Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben at Bayern Munich.

Aside from Clint Dempsey‘s five-year run between Fulham and Spurs in the Premier League, there is no American attacking player with a Top Five European league resume as strong as Pulisic who, again, is 19.

But what about beyond him? Tim Howard and Dempsey are deep into their 30s and back in MLS, while Michael Bradley’s play is not at the same level as when he left Roma for Toronto FC. The latter two, along with Jozy Altidore and perhaps sooner Paul Arriola and later Tyler Adams, are the top MLS-based Yanks (assuming they say domestic).

The European crowd have different arguments. Geoff Cameron is one of the most important players on Stoke City, while DeAndre Yedlin is a regular starter for Rafa Benitez at Newcastle United. John Brooks and Bobby Wood matter deeply to their Bundesliga outfits, while 19-year-old Schalke midfielder and Pulisic FIFA rival Weston McKennie is raising eyebrows here and abroad.

So where did you rank ’em?

It’s worth noting that we gave six options to go with a write-in box: Altidore, Bradley, Brooks, Cameron, Dempsey, and Yedlin. Wood and Fabian Johnson received enough write-in votes to prove they should’ve been among the options.

7) Jozy Altidore — 3 percent — A CONCACAF and MLS killer, Altidore unfortunately often needed to drop into the midfield to hold the ball up for Bruce Arena’s feeble midfield. His reputation has dropped amongst USMNT supporters since his failed move to Sunderland, but ask Eredivisie and MLS defenses whether he’s got international quality. The 28-year-old may have not been Premier League quality — many weren’t at Sunderland — but he remains a top American forward. Once an unquestioned favorite to chase down Landon Donovan and Dempsey amongst the all-time leading U.S. scorers, will young competition and Dempsey’s continued relevance keep him from achieving that objective? Altidore currently sits 16 behind both

6) Michael Bradley — 5 percent — The sentiment behind Alexi Lalas’ “Zen burn” is perhaps the reason Bradley doesn’t get enough love and has become a critical magnet amongst USMNT fans, but Toronto fans understand that Bradley’s skill set is still vital. Bradley plays calm and composed, a central midfielder who can make big tackles but usually gets to the ball before one’s needed. His USMNT performances recently make the argument for European football, but Bradley is the top American player in Major League Soccer.

5) Other — 10 percent — Wood was the leader here despite losing steam at Hamburg this season.

4) Clint Dempsey — 16 percent — Perhaps the closest thing U.S. Soccer has to a folk hero outside of Tim Howard’s Belgium performance, Dempsey’s five years between Fulham and Spurs are rarefied air for American attackers abroad. He returned from a serious heart ailment to bag 14 goals and four assists as MLS Comeback Player of the Year, and has helped Seattle not miss injured striker Jordan Morris. Also overlooked: He has five goals and three assists for the USMNT since coming back in March, and three of those goals came in an inspiring hat trick versus Honduras.

3) Geoff Cameron — 17 percent — One of Stoke’s most valuable player, Cameron’s club and country look entirely different without him. Cameron leads the Potters in interceptions per game, offsides won per game, and is behind only Joe Allen, Jese, and Eric Choupo-Moting in dribbles per game. He followed up perhaps his worst match as a USMNT player by being a game-changing sub, only to see Bruce Arena ignore him for the two most important matches of the qualifying mess.

2) John Brooks — 23 percent — The big American center back was a key part of Hertha Berlin’s strong defense last season, and is perhaps under the radar having missed the better part of this early season and the World Cup qualifying debacle. Now at Wolfsburg in a record transfer involving an American, Brooks doesn’t turn 25 until January.

1) DeAndre Yedlin — 26 percent — More than a quarter of you tabbed the Magpies right back, who took his first steps in Europe with Tottenham less than three seasons ago. Still just 24, Yedlin is the most promising American full back/wing back in some time.

PST survey: Who’s to blame for USMNT’s World Cup failure?

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The results of PST’s Big American Soccer Survey are in, and our staff will be walking through the results of thousands of votes in a series of posts this week.

We didn’t realize you could acronymize it to BASS, or else we would’ve done it sooner. So we continue BASS with one key question that is at the heart of the American soccer community right now: who is most responsible for the USMNT’s failure to make the 2018 World Cup?

We provided the following five answers in our survey.

  1. Sunil Gulati
  2. Youth development
  3. Bruce Arena
  4. Jurgen Klinsmann
  5. Other

Here’s who got the ultimate blame: Sunil Gulati with 36 percent of the vote.

Yes, it isn’t rare for the head of the organization to bare the brunt of the blame for a nation not qualifying for the World Cup but in this instance Gulati has well and truly had the blame put at his door.

It is worth noting that only 16 percent of voters blamed Bruce Arena and eight percent said it was Jurgen Klinsmann’s fault (let it go, guys).

Yet Gulati only just topped the pool ahead of an area which is the biggest issue for American soccer right now: youth development.

That doozy of a topic accounted for 31 percent of the votes and points towards a much larger debate than just a team playing poorly, or being poorly coached.

Gulati is of course responsible for hiring and firing coaches and his decision to oust Klinsmann after two games of the Hex, or even hiring him in the first place, has been severely questioned.

His decision to then bring in Arena as his replacement was ultimately the wrong one, even if, in Gulati’s words, the U.S. was “two inches wide or two inches in” from being at the World Cup after Clint Dempsey‘s late effort against Trinidad & Tobago hit the post.

“You don’t make wholesale changes based on the ball being two inches wide or two inches in,” Gulati said. “We will look at everything, obviously, with all of our programs from the national team to development. We have a lot of pieces in place that we think are very good and have been coming along. Tonight wasn’t what we hoped for.”

Well, the American soccer community does want wholesale changes.

First, they want Gulati to leave his role (which seems likely), and secondly, a wholesale change to youth development with the “pay-to-play” model continually lambasted as the root of the USA’s problems in not producing enough quality talent.

Simply put, the overwhelming majority of U.S. soccer fans believe the real reason the USMNT isn’t heading to Russia next summer is due to problems with youth development and the decisions that Gulati, the one who oversees the entire U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF), made.

Of course, Gulati is likely going to be out as USSF president in February 2018 when the presidential election is held. He has yet to declare his interest in running once again to lead the USSF after 11 years unopposed, but it is deemed highly unlikely he will run for re-election.

Should Gulati get the blame here?

The fact that he, Arena and even interim USMNT coach Dave Sarachan still believe that there isn’t much wrong with the way the U.S. is developing players right now is the biggest issue. Yes, there are some talented groups of youngsters coming through the system right now, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams proved that during the 1-1 draw with Portugal this week, but the main issue is that U.S. Soccer believes it can continue to do the same things and get different results.

That’s why Gulati must go in February and fresh ideas should be implemented to eradicate the “pay-to-play” model and allow the best players to get opportunities despite the social or economic background they’re from in the USA. End of discussion. That’s what needs to happen for the U.S. to move forward and it will be a long, arduous road ahead.

Gulati will not oversee that as he pushes on with his plans for the 2026 World Cup in the USA, Mexico and Canada, and when all is said and done, his role in the 2018 World Cup qualification debacle is clear: he should take the blame.

Time will tell if that’s the case but right now the American soccer community believes Gulati’s poor leadership was the main reason the U.S. won’t be in Russia at the World Cup next summer.