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As of this morning, futbol has its final four and much of the world will be tuning in when France and Belgium face off today at 1 p.m. CST.

Tomorrow, at the same time and in the same country (Russia) Croatia and England meet to see which country has the biggest party Wednesday night.

Futbol, soccer as he we know it, is as close to the world's game as there is, and despite the fact that America has more youth playing the game, 4 million, it didn't qualify for the World Cup.

Since 1930, USA has not qualified 11 times -- mostly in the 1950's through 1986 -- for the soccer tournament that is so big that it is played once every four years.

There are story lines for the four finalists, such as England firing its manager for revealing how to cheat to a group he thought were soccer organizers but turned out to be investigative journalists.

England went with a youth approach and became respected worldwide. It and Belgium came out of Group G, which means England, who lost to Belgium 1-0, had to have some luck like it did in its win over Sweden when it won a shootout. England had lost its six previous shootouts.

Croatia had to win a shootout to eliminate host Russia on Saturday.

France, though, was the second favorite along with England, behind Brazil, to win the World Cup. In fact the final four were Nos. 2-5 on the odds boards. They are the top scoring teams in the World Cup, although Russia did tie England for second most.

My generation didn't grow up playing or watching soccer, but there is something about the World Cup that attracts even the least knowledgeable of the sport. Enough so to get yours truly up at 8:30 in the morning just one day removed from vacation to watch Russia and Croatia.

From the time Iceland scored its only goal to tie Argentina in pool play, time was spent daily keeping up and reading many opinions on why the U.S. didn't qualify.

The general belief was the American team was too old and set in its way.

When an interim coach was hired last year shortly after the U.S. didn't make the World Cup, he did exactly what England did two years ago when it convinced Gareth Southgate to be in the interim coach. Southgate, who recently signed a four-year contract, went with youth.

Last month Team USA hired Earnie Stewart to manage its team. No one knows for sure what he'll do, but after watching CBS' 60 Minutes Sunday night it looks like the future of USA soccer could be focused on a 19-year-old phenom named Christian Pulisic from Hershey, Pa.

Pulisic has been playing professionally for German club Borussia Dortmund since he was 17 and is already being declared America's GOAT.

The feature on TV made him sound like an everyday kid -- who talked his dad into flying him home in a private jet so he could go to his prom -- who played on one team and practiced twice a week.

Well, he's also the youngest pro to ever score a goal (he wasn't quite 18) and is the son of Mark and Kelley Pulisic, who were college soccer players at George Mason University. Mark went on to play professionally and is a soccer coach.

Pulisic, who plays on the wing or as an attacking midfielder, possesses great speed and vision, making him not only a prolific scorer but passer. He's currently making $8 million a year but reportedly has an offer of $40 mil on the table from a team in the USA.

Sounds like a good person to start the future of American Futbol with.

Sports on 07/10/2018

Print Headline: U.S. Soccer might try the youth movement

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  • Whippersnapper
    July 10, 2018 at 8:33 a.m.

    The problem with U.S. soccer is that it has been an elitist sport for so long that the youth system is fundamentally broken due to the financial system built up around it. Starting at 8 or 9 years old, players' families are expected to pay $1,000 or more per year for the right to play on a team where they can develop their skills. Sure, kids can play in a rec league for $100-$200 per year, but the rec leagues tend to be all volunteer coaches, many of whom have no licensure or knowledge of the game.
    When you price a sport at $1,000+ per year, you price 80-90% of the kids who might otherwise play out of the sport. This is why there are phenomenal participation rates until they hit the U9/10 age and then drop off at U11+ (which is where Classic soccer really takes off). 80-90% of the kids who might be really really good are forced out, and to keep the numbers (and money) up, the coaches recruit kids who ought not be playing elite soccer and simply take up time and energy from their teammates and coaches.
    What's the solution? Burn it all down and start from scratch. How can you effectively do that? No clue, because our free market and free society have created this.

  • Messidona
    July 10, 2018 at 11:51 p.m.

    Wally, I sincerely appreciate your column on the worlds game today. However, it is riddled with inaccuracies. England, was in no way a favorite to win this tournament. Not one person on the planet would have had that opinion. Team USA did not hire Ernie Stewart to manage the team. The US soccer federation hired him to be the GM of US soccer.