One of the things Liverpool supporters get to be extremely proud of, other than of course our history in the domestic and European leagues, is the passion and loyalty of the home grown players our academy has produced over the decades. While ours is one of the greatest in the league, and a dream for plenty of talented young lads, we do of course have to recognize the strength of some other UK football academies, and all in all, it is fair to say that here in England we have a system that works for spotting young talent and encouraging it, then beginning to integrate fledgling players into our squads.
Developing Players the American Way
In the US, the way young players are developed focuses on educational establishments, that is, high schools and universities. This is more widely known about in other sports more specific to America like American football, basketball and baseball, however the same sort of process is used in what they call ‘soccer’ across the Atlantic. You’ve probably heard of things like sports scholarships, which allow young athletes to attend a good university and get a solid education while representing that college in their sport. A successful career as a college player can lead to a professional career for a young player, but if things don’t work out, for instance if they get a career ending injury young, they also have a degree to fall back on.
Beneficial to Young Adult Players
Young athletes in the US are of course brought up with this being the route to take if you want to become a professional in your sport, and people from elsewhere who like the idea of a sports scholarship because they want to get noticed in a sport in the USA while also studying also seek out companies like Athletes USA who can help them find a good offer (if colleges are interested in their talent). It can help players find their feet outside of the environment of a professional level club, and allow them to mature playing at a regular competitive level that is suited to their age and abilities.
Where it is Weaker
While the American way does produce good players, as we are seeing more and more as MLS becomes a bigger part of the football world and US players begin to make names for themselves in Europe, it does have strong weaknesses compared with our own. For one thing, playing for a college will keep a player out of the professional game until he’s around 22 – far older than most English players will find themselves on the squad at a club, and college players don’t get paid. Where in the UK we see players as young as 16 occasionally cracking the first teams of major clubs, these lads would be two years away from even finishing high school and looking for a college in the US.
For some players, the US college scholarship route can give them the time they need to develop and mature. For others, it can hold them back when through the academies, they’d already be playing successful at a high level and earning the rewards.