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Landon Donovan on the U.S. youth qualifying failures

Apr 19, 2013, 10:23 AM EDT

Mexico v United States Getty Images

We are all thinking it. Some of us are saying it. And now none other than Landon Donovan is broadcasting it.

This ongoing failure to qualify for FIFA youth tournaments is cause for big concern, and something needs to be done about it.

The latest pressure point here is the United States’ under-17 team, which was just eliminated by Honduras in the CONCACAF qualifying for the upcoming FIFA U-17 World Cup. Canada, Honduras, Mexico and Panama will represent the region this fall.

The United States under-20 team just qualified for the FIFA U-20 World Cup this summer in Turkey. That was important because the U.S. under-20s had failed to qualify for the 2011 FIFA tournament.

And, of course, the United States flubbed its big chance to represent the country at the 2012 London Olympics, crashing out of a qualifying tournament that was being held on home soil.

Here’s what Donovan said after Thursday’s practice at the Home Depot Center:

It’s sad for those players and for [head coach] Richie Williams, because it’s such an awesome experience and opportunity. I’m sad for those kids, that they don’t get a chance to experience it. For me, it was some of the best memories of my life.

“It’s disappointing. At the same time, there’s no question with Olympic qualifying, 20s and 17s, we need to take a pretty honest look at what’s going on, and we all have to do a better job. That falls on all of us. It’s not one coach or a few coaches or certain players, it’s everybody who’s involved in soccer in this country. We need to take a look at ourselves and do a better job. No question.”

Donovan knows about this stuff. He was part of a bright under-17 group in 1999 that finished fourth in the 1999 FIFA U-17 World Championship in New Zealand. That group included Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Bobby Convey, Oguchi Onyewu and Kyle Beckerman.

Donovan was also part of the 2000 Olympic team that did so well that summer in Sydney.

  1. dfstell - Apr 19, 2013 at 11:06 AM

    I guess what I don’t get is that I hear knowledgeable people say, “It’s cause for concern.” but what I’d like to know is (a) what shortcoming was exposed in these youth teams and (b) what can be done to fix it.

    I’d just like to hear what the basic problem is beyond “not winning”.

    • boscoesworld - Apr 19, 2013 at 12:12 PM

      The soccer federation may not say it but my take is this. Every other countries BEST athletes play soccer because it is the main sport everywhere but here. Not to say our players are not good athletes, they are not our best. This country has been in denial about our training programs at every level for years. We are light years behind in our tactical and technical training. Is it improving? Yes, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. There is also a sense of blind loyalty to certain players with diminishing returns. We have never produced a world class striker for instance. We keep seeing the same old tired names being trotted out.

    • charliej11 - Apr 19, 2013 at 2:52 PM

      Agree with boscoesworld about it not being the only and top sport and I don’t think it changes. All the good youth soccer players play more than one sport, just the way it is. Are they good enough by 17…I guess not ;-)

      Combine that with the top atheletes not playing soccer because there is more money in all the other big sports.

      Mix it together and you have fodder for boscoesworld second part of his comment which I partially disagree with. US isn’t doing it right. The first two points override everything else in my opinion.

      US soccer will be fine. Maybe not the best in the world, but fighting their way to get there eventually.

  2. jpan007 - Apr 19, 2013 at 4:17 PM

    Agree with LD

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