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Podcast Scripts - Tarik Benfquih
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Podcast Scripts

Podcast Script 1: Coaches and Directors and future challenges

Speaker 1:

So, let’s just jump right in.

Speaker 2:

What do you want to talk about?

Speaker 1:

I think we could start with coaches and directors and what they could be doing differently than they’re doing right now.

Speaker 2:

Gotcha, so what about these academies? What do you think they could be doing differently?

Speaker 1:

So, I think a big problem with US Soccer is that, at the youth level, you’re not really setting your kid up for the best success in a way. It’s set up that you pay to play for your local team, or you find out that there’s a travel team or more expensive team, ultimately, that will get you better exposure, which is not always true. I think that’s a big problem with how we do soccer in this country. These kids growing up, really only think they have one option, so I think it’s important to talk about how the coaches and academies and the soccer programs could be a little bit different, wouldn’t you agree?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean, what do you think could be different about them, though?

Speaker 1:

I think one thing that’s interesting is in other countries, per se, you can use one like Claremont Academy in France, for example. They invest in their youth, as opposed to in the United States, we invest in the academy. So, these academies will be working for a parent club, and they’ll go out and they will find the best kids, you know, age eight to 12 around there. If they see they have enough talent, they’ll bring them into their academy, they’ll talk to the family and make sure that it’s okay. It’s essentially like signing your first contract. You basically go to boarding school, where they’ll teach you education. Isn’t Barcelona’s Academy just like that?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, they have a youth team or youth teams, and they basically live there. They go to school there. They live at the academies, essentially, in boarding school, but they play soccer too. It’s just like being in regular school, except you’re working a second job or a job while you’re at school. But the job is to play soccer.

Speaker 1:

It’s kind of like you’re learning what is required of you at the professional level from a youth age. Whereas I think one big disconnect in America is that, like I just mentioned before, in these other countries, the academy invests in you, whereas in this country, we invest in the academy. I think that puts a lot of kids at a disadvantage, who don’t have money or access to teams and resources to get themselves scouted because of various other factors that they have to deal with, and I think that’s a huge issue.

Speaker 2:

I think that’s a really big issue in America, just having pay to join these teams. But I always wanted to know in general, if we did invest in the youth or say the academies did invest in the youth, rather than have youth invest in the academy, what would happen? What would be the outcome of investing in academies from the youth level?

Speaker 1:

Well, I think there’s a good point and tell me if you disagree, is that this starts from the bottom to the top. At the top, there’s issues where these clubs don’t, or aren’t looking for these players from a young age. And at the bottom, these players don’t know they even have an opportunity to go a different route. So, I think starting from the bottom would be potentially the best. It’s a change by the top that will affect the bottom. I think that’ll make these teams start to be more competitive. I think it’ll add an edge to all these little youth soccer teams, people will be joining, not for the purpose of only having fun, yes, that element will still be there. But for certain kids who want to take it more seriously, they can.

Speaker 2:

Do you think this will directly correlate to the level of play increasing within the country?

Speaker 1:

Yes, I think that would directly raise the level of play. If you have eight, nine-year-olds, you know, really competing their hardest to get noticed by these academies so that they could be brought in, I think it would add a different element to the game. And you’d have scouts from these top clubs that want to get the best for who they work for. So, I think that can make the talent rise in the MLS as well, because people will stop feeling like they need to go out of the country to play. Right?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think so. I think that’s a good point, to be honest. And I think it would also just open up the pool of players, you know, like, because you’re not just opening it up to wealthy families and stuff like that. You’re opening up to people who can’t necessarily afford it, which I think brings in a lot more players and more talent because you know you have a bigger selection.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, Soccer is for everyone. I mean there’s no physical limitations on soccer, and I don’t think there should be economic limitations either. I totally agree with that.

Podcast Script 2: Players and different routes they can take

Speaker 2:

All right cool, So the next topic that I think is worth talking about would be: What do these kids growing up playing soccer in America have as options?

Speaker 1:

If you think about it, they start at a young age, it’s not like overseas, where they’re playing with academy teams, you know. Those academies overseas are producing younger talents because of the environment that they’re exposed to. Whereas in the US, you’re playing maybe a recreational league, and then you play high school. Then you don’t really go anywhere from there because there’s not a lot of scouting that comes at that level.

Speaker 2:

That’s a huge problem for a country trying to grow the sport.

Speaker 1:

Exactly. I know you played for your High School, what were your options after? Really just go to college, right? Do you want to further your education and maybe play sports at the same time?

Speaker 2:

Totally. You have to try and play on your school team. But if you just want to go and play for fun, you can do club soccer which is cool. But like a lot of the professional teams, they only take from Division One schools, and even then, it’s still pretty limited.

Speaker 1:

What is club Exactly? Is that more like intramural?

Speaker 2:

I would say that it’s a little bit more competitive than intramural because you’re still playing other schools and stuff like that. You have a whole league and tournaments, which is cool.

Speaker 1:

That’s good to get kids exposed to tournament style play. It just sucks because then you have kids going Division One, but those Division One schools are pretty usually expensive, right?

Speaker 2:

Of course.

Speaker 1:

So, then the schools like Penn State, or like Notre Dame, those schools are a lot of money, you know. You have some kids that are really good on a club team at a small school, or even like a Division Two or Three school that doesn’t get exposure. In America, money really talks when it comes to sports and development.

Speaker 2:

Money has always been a huge problem for American youth sports. It’s sad that it hasn’t become widely accessible yet.

Speaker 1:

Agreed. So now that we know there really is only one pathway for you in the US. Maybe you get brought up to a travel team, which, again, you don’t really get too much exposure other than high school and college. So where should people go from there?

Speaker 2:

I mean, I’m not too sure. What are like the options they have? I think that’s where we have to evaluate it.

Speaker 1:

First off, I think one of the things to consider is that in the US, there are only five major leagues. Whereas in Europe (just Europe), there’s over 37 Major Leagues. You can go you can play in Italy; you can play in France; you could play in the Czech Republic you can play in so many different places. Whereas in America, if you don’t make the MLS, you’re kind of playing nonsense league soccer.

Speaker 2:

America is just not as well represented, and I guess that’s one of the pros and cons of playing here, right? The pay especially.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, the pay would be a big gap. I was looking at some numbers and if you look at soccer players around the world, they make about 60,000 a year on average.

Speaker 2:

Which for a soccer player, I mean, you’re still getting 60,000 a year to play a sport. You can live off that.

Speaker 1:

That’s definitely livable especially because it’s not full time. But, if you do compare it to say the top league in the MLS or the top leagues in Europe, you can see a difference. In the MLS, the average salary is just under 500k. And if you played in the second division, like the USL United Soccer League, you only make 43,000.

Speaker 2:

Crazy. So not making it to the MLS is essentially costing you money rather than going to play elsewhere?

Speaker 1:

You could look at it from that angle. If you played in the top five leagues in Europe, the average salary is over 1.25 million (England, Germany, Spain, France, Italy).

Speaker 2:

That’s crazy. And again, with what we know about the global salary being 60k, you can go play elsewhere and make more money than you would playing in the second division of American soccer. I guess would bring us into the pros and cons of people wanting to expand their football journey past the US.

Speaker 1:

Precisely, I think one of the pros would be just seeing a different culture. I think that’s one of the best things about traveling and learning, is that you get to learn a new language, meet different people, and eat different foods.

Speaker 2:

That’s one thing that everyone could benefit from no matter where you’re starting from. I definitely agree with that.

Speaker 1:

Notably, one of the cons to that we have to mention is just the exposure that people from the MLS really get because it’s hard. You see these other teams in Europe, and they’re playing all over the world. Sometimes playing South American teams, sometimes they’re playing Asian teams or Eastern Europeans. Whereas Americans really just play domestically, and they don’t really expand their horizons.

Speaker 2:

They don’t have any tournaments between themselves and nearby countries?

Speaker 1:

As of recently, the MLS started doing a league where we’re playing more South American teams which is good progress.

Speaker 2:

Is that some sort of Champions League equivalent?

Speaker 1:

I would say so, but it’s just not as many teams. It’s only two regions. You have the North American teams, which is the MLS, and then you just have the, I believe, the Mexican teams. Whereas again, it’s only two leagues, whereas Europe, you’re getting five or six leagues and probably more in the Champions League competition.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so in that sense you don’t see a lot of players getting the recognition like they do in these other leagues around the world. You can tell that the other players in Europe are just playing a lot more and higher-level competition.

Speaker 1:

Well, I think that’s really some interesting insight into what Americans can do to try and boost the sport here and in specific, what players have as their opportunities going forward. It doesn’t have to end with collegiate soccer or joining a lesser professional travel team. You could still go abroad and make as much money, if not more than you would here.

Speaker 2:

Probably more honestly. Most of the time MLS players are in those lower division teams and they’d have to get a second job because they got to pay rent, and all that.

Speaker 1:

In those other leagues in Europe, some clubs have academies where they’ll have their players come in, pay for stay and housing and stuff like that. So, I feel like that’s another con for American soccer. The players are thinking they don’t have the support behind them.

Speaker 2:

Agreed.

Speaker 1:

All right, awesome Danny. Thank you so much for taking your time to come out and talk on the show. See you next time!