Sorry for the length. I came across this fantastic explanation of why the USA MNT doesn't perform with the best of them yet. For those of you non-soccerites, you can take solace that it's the NCAA's fault. It's a pretty good debunking of the argument that we divert our best athletes to our 'big 4' sports. Sorry it's long, but timely and worth thinking about. I wasn't aware that college soccer allows subs to re-enter the game. Here's the link to the thread on Reddit "In my opinion as someone who has risen through the ranks of American soccer including 5 years in college and some trials with MLS teams, the argument that America fails at soccer because we have our best athletes playing other sports like football and basketball is actually an argument that is largely false. Don't get me wrong, I think the likes of Chris Paul, or Russell Westbrook has the makings to be world class players (and could you imagine if Lebron James spent his life playing keeper?). However, the reason why America hasn't risen to the elite level of international soccer is much more nuanced and complex. Here are the two main factors that prevent America from becoming elite. The next time you meet someone who was born outside of the US, ask them to kick a soccer ball. No matter how athletic they are, or how much soccer they have played in their life, chances are they will have the basic motor mechanics to kick a ball properly (more or less). Now ask your average American friend to do the same thing. Odds are, unless they were a soccer player in their life, their mechanics will be laughably poor. Now, ask your foreign friend to play catch with a baseball or a football. Or ask them to shoot a basketball. Odds are, they will be laughably terrible and won't even have the proper mechanics for such a motion. Now ask your American friend to do the same thing. They will probably be able to at least have some grasp on the arm mechanics needed to throw a baseball or shoot a basketball somewhat competently. This example points out that certain games are embedded in the culture and therefore nearly everyone (or at least the people who care about sports) have both a physical and conceptual grasp of the rudimental aspects of that game. It's not just that their elite players are better, but their entire population is better. A rising tide lifts all boats. The problem with American soccer is that we have put so much emphasis on elite development, while the rest of the population remains ignorant to the basics of the game. We are trying to build bigger boats, while our tide is much much lower. It takes a lot of resources to develop any elite player, but as a culture we are starting from a disadvantage. Even if Adrian Peterson chose to play soccer from a young age, he would likely not have even begun to develop his rudimental skills until he was around 10 or 11 when he started to play seriously, whereas another soccer culture teaches these things to their kids when they are 3 or 4 - the same age when Americans are teaching their kids football, basketball, baseball, etc. This builds to the second point. Because American soccer (i.e. the federation, which is responsible for developing the national team that competes in the World Cup) focuses on elite development almost exclusively, we as a country actually do quite respectably in international competition up until around the u-18 level. That is to say that our youth national teams can compete with almost anyone in the world until they turn 18. The drop off is easy to explain. It is all because of college soccer, where the vast majority of elite players in America end up. I could write an entire book on how college soccer destroys the United State's ability to compete on the world stage, but I will boil it down to this: The NCAA only allows college soccer teams to compete for 3-4 months of the year (with spring exhibitions allowed). So from a sheer numbers perspective, while other countries make their 18 year olds pro players with salaries who play year round, we limit our elite players in the prime of their professional development to 3-4 months of high level training and games a year. Alongside the sheer numbers disadvantage, there is also one glaring issue with college soccer, which has to do with substitutions. For those who don't know, international soccer at the professional level allows for 3 subs a game where if you come off, you can't come back on. In college soccer, you can basically sub freely - If you come off the in first half, you can't come back on until the second half, but in the second half you can come off once and come back on in that same half. What happens as a result of this is that in their prime professional development age, American soccer players don't play by the same rules as the rest of the world. Whereas soccer at the top level is largely a players game, college soccer gives much more power to the coaches. As a result, our players don't learn how to think and read the game in real time because in college soccer, if something isn't going right, the coach can make a sub. If someone is tired, the coach can make a sub. This creates an unrealistic picture of the game at the college level which has much more to do with coaching decisions and physical exertion than it does with playing the nuances of the game. For example, the college game usually is high press, intense, and brutally physical because guys can essentially run their heads off and then get subbed off when they are tired, then come back on and do the same thing. This is completely unrealistic at the elite level when you have to conserve energy and think about what you are doing in real time. As a result, American soccer teams, even at the elite level, tend to be incredibly fit, strong, and organized, but we lose because we are very unoriginal, unintelligent (soccer wise), and technically not as good as the teams we play. Ultimately until soccer becomes more of an institution where the vast majority of the population is knowledgeable about the sport and its fundamental tactics and physical requirements, AND we fix the way we develop the young adult (i.e. college aged 18-22) players, we will never as country reach that elite status that every 4 years we want to have. tl;dr - Our lack of cultural appreciation and knowledge for the sport makes America start developing our players from a disadvantage AND the college system which develops most of our elite players is poorly constructed to create professionals in the game at the elite, global level. Secondly, there have been some interesting and thought provoking responses to my analysis. However, it seems that I need to clarify something. A lot of you seem to have taken exception to my assertion that, "America fails at soccer because we have our best athletes playing other sports like football and basketball is actually an argument that is largely false." What I was really trying to say is that I don't believe that the American soccer team is losing on the international stage because we are less athletic than Germany, Portugal, Spain, Brazil, or any other team that we might play. In fact, I think most people in the international soccer scene would place the American squad as one of the most athletic. The point I was trying to make is that American soccer doesn't suffer from a lack of athleticism. The problem is with the current United States soccer culture and system of development. Having Adrian Peterson at striker for the USMNT right now would in all likelihood not bring us closer to winning the World Cup (though it would be awesome to see and I would love to be proved wrong on that!) To reiterate my point, I think that American soccer suffers from a lack of enough kids playing youth soccer with a high level of understanding about the nuances of the game as it is played at the professional level (there are probably way more kids in elementary school that can tell you the tactical differences between a nickel and dime defense than the differences between a 4-4-2 and a 4-3-3...) and that our system for developing young professional players (college soccer as it currently stands) is not set up to develop elite players. That being said, I appreciate the debate! Go USA!"