The Transition — US Soccer from Captivity to the Wild

Male Lion I Masai Mara Kenya is a photograph by Regina Mueller

Transition by dictionary definition is “the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another”

In the wake of what many speculate to be the expected defeat of the US Men’s national team, a loud cry is being heard through the vast sea of self-acclaimed soccer experts, consisting of journalists, and fans.

Any remaining dreams of the US experiencing 2018 World Cup in Russia will be confined to a bowl of beef stroganoff in front of the TV on US soil. Listening to all the chatter on social media, radio and television, the common denominator is that change is needed and the hope and dream is that change is coming. But are we ready for that change? Is the US prepared for Change? Change could be a great thing and also could be a very bad thing, if not conducted in a proper fashion. What needs to be changed? People are waiting for what many hope and prophesize to be someone that will change the whole system and give new hope like Neo did in the Matrix.

US soccer unfortunately is not too far off from what we see in the movies. We are living in a society of clones that know nothing more than what has been spoon fed to them for decades. There are many players, parents, practitioners, and investors in the US game that are enlightened and awakened to the reality that we live in. When the final whistle blew against Trinidad at that moment the plug was pulled out of the heads of every person in the US soccer landscape and everyone’s perception quickly turned into a dark and cold reality of what the world of US soccer currently is.

Awakening to Reality

People now realize that US soccer and all it’s programs and platforms are nothing more than smoke and mirrors and gimmicks to suppress the hotbed of the best talent in the world living in the US and monetize on the wealth of those that are clueless. US is looking for a savior but who will lead the change? These are questions that I don’t have any answers to, and I believe that no one has either. I hear talks of making the US an open soccer system like the rest of the world, for example, using models like promotion & relegation. Looking at this objectively, can this course of action be taken in America today? Is the market ready for this.

Here are questions we need to address and think hard about:

1) Is promotion/relegation really what’s best for the US today?

2) If so why or why not?

3) Are the conditions correct for this environment?

4) How do we transition and progress vs transition and regress?

Hopefully we can all reflect on the time when you visited the zoo during a field trip or on a nice summer day and enjoyed all the wonderful animals from across the globe that are systematically placed there for our entertainment and enjoyment. The state of US soccer currently is like a zoo. I am not going to start by pointing out who are the trained monkeys, so I will leave that one to the imagination.

The game in the US inclusive of everyone tied to the game, have been held under captivity through a closed and contained system for a very long time. Let’s just say that the environment that has been created has been a “safe” environment here within the confines and boundaries of the US. Is that a bad thing? I think so if we want to compete in the wilderness of global soccer. But who the heck am I to say what is right or wrong? I’m just someone that is a player, parent of players, a club owner, principal of an agency that represents players and also a practitioner of the game as a coach. So I guess I am US soccer as are many of you that are reading this. One thing I can say is that we currently exist and the game exists in many cases because of the environment that has been created thus far. The game is alive in our country because the environment created has allowed it to survive without any fear of “dying”. But here is the real question that we all must ask of US soccer. Are we prepared to be released into the wild after being captive for so long?

It is scientific fact that ones survival/primal nature will kick in once placed in the proper environment and conditions. But don’t be deceived, exerting primal nature does not guarantee survival in the wild. If a captive animal, like a lion for example, has been fed his food all his life at 8am and 6pm daily, how is he going to learn how to hunt, chase and kill his prey in the wild if he has never been taught to do so. Science tells us that there is a high percentage that most animals when released from captivity will die in the wild. Now I am not saying by any means that the game will die if we go to a promotion/relegation or an open system but what I am saying is that the environment currently does not lend for these type of changes to happen immediately and many casualties will occur due to lack of training and preparation to survive in this environment. What the majority of the media and soccer fans are asking for to happen within the US soccer landscape, is something we are not ready for by any means. But then again who is? I don’t believe there has EVER been a country that has had to transition from a closed system to an open system. I believe we have the potential to be released into the wild like a pack of wild Cujo like dogs ready to take on anything and anyone in our path. Maybe there won’t be a correct way to do this but I believe we have some of the best minds to create new solutions to existing problems. Who will be the ones to guide us and try to analyze this, and make sense of this process that we must endure to prepare for what I call THE TRANSITION. Current leadership within the federation does not have the track record to lead this change.

The transition will be the period where we change from a closed system to open soccer system consistent to the rest of the world. Part of this transition will mean that there will need to be a transformation of thought processes, ideas and how daily business is conducted. How does this transformation occur for US soccer? The transition is already here and every day that goes by is another day that we could be building a massive plan to earn a place in soccer history as the true POWER HOUSE in the game. It’s a shame that we currently lead in so many sectors and sports and not in the one that has the biggest global impact.

Part of the transition will be evolution. When looking at this scientifically we need to understand the principles of evolution and how things evolve from one state to another. If an animal is placed into cold environments they eventually evolve into having thicker fur for example or a coat that is consistent with the environment such as a polar bear vs grizzly bear. In nature evolution does not happen overnight but is essential to the survival of a species. Evolution can take millions of years or in some cases an anomaly can occur that under the right conditions and environment could create a perfect situation for accelerated evolution. We may have ample conditions to begin change but the environment is still not where it needs to be. Andy Salandy, a good friend and business partner of mine in our sports management agency came up with something interesting during during one of our weekly long deep philosophical futbol discussions. He mentioned that we (the US)need to create something that he defines as a “disruptive environment.” After lengthy discussion and deeper understanding of this concept, I also agree that this will help the landscape evolve at a more accelerated pace.

We need to simulate, somehow, being out there in the wild and having to hunt and kill for the next meal. In Soccer terms create a system where if you don’t hunt, you don’t eat. Merit based. You win you are rewarded. Incentivizing the market with large monetary incentives to breed survival or success from the bottom to the top. This idea resonated with me as I saw what occurred with the USMT and then later watched the Honduras vs Panama game. You can see in the Hon vs Pan game for example something that lacked in our national team that October night vs Trinidad. The will to win and the will to survive at all costs. When you watch the Honduras vs Panama game for example you can see that the players are playing to survive. They know if they win and make it, their lives will be changed. Cars, luxuries, families being taken care of vs essentially the risk of being dead broke or just plain a nobody. They are playing like their lives and livelihood depended on it. You don’t see any of that type of primal instinct from the US side. It’s like they have been caged and captive for far too long and desensitized to the what it means to be in the wild and having to survive. Whether they win or lose they (US) still have their nice cars and homes to go back to. They still will have their local endorsement deals and such. Further repercussions will not occur as historically there is no penalty for failure nor any true accountability. You can see that they still have their young artificially created soccer poster players that they will continue to use for the masses through influential media to squeeze all the monetary juice that they can. Unfortunately once there is of no further use for them,like many others before them, they will be tossed away by the system like all things considered disposable and replaceable in the US. Sad but true. But change can and will happen, as we are living in the US. We must and will survive and thrive.

Back to the question at hand. How do we begin creating or simulating a disruptive environment? Do we start with Youth Leauges? Rec programs? Clubs? Academies? Pro Leagues? Facilities?

I guess that is the question I would like to throw out there into the cyber universe. Who is listening? Who will create it? Who is fit enough to endure a new and primal environment that has never existed? One that we know so little about here in the US. Who is willing to navigate though it tirelessly until they fully evolve and become something profoundly new. Are you willing to play a role in this process to begin THE TRANSITION? Are you and the rest of the US willing to allow yourselves to evolve with what a truly unknown environment will bear? Enough with all the chatter. Too many people are focused on the immediate battle vs total preparation for the war and how we are going to survive, win and dominate the war. I have not found too many people willing to risk everything to evolve from our current system and be free as it typically means potentially losing the comforts and luxuries that our current system has created for them. This includes coaches, directors, clubs, leagues, development academies and organizations. At the end of the day people have been milking the system and monetizing on the system. These same people have and are entitled to opinions but when asked to invest in creating something new, I have found that very few are willing to risk everything to survive in the wild. For those that are, I have too have been here preparing for a very long time waiting patiently to be released into the wild to play my role in the US domination of the beautiful game.

The Transition is coming and I suggest you, if you haven’t already, make all necessary preparations to endure the unknown of the wild and evolve into the predators we are fully capable of becoming.