In this post I refer to culture in a sporting context, but there are many types of cultures, and cultures inevitably influence one another. In Brazil the sport of soccer is like a religion, it is built into the very fabric of the Brazilian society, even their style of play is passed down from generation to generation. I have had the pleasure of coaching many Brazilian players over the years, and they have more than lived up to the high expectations associated with their soccer culture. The question of relevance is, what makes Brazilian soccer players so good? Do Brazilian Coaches have some magic training methods? Do the players have access to some special knowledge? In a way they do, if they are willing to put the time in. Let me explain. Where I grew-up, virtually nobody played soccer, and maybe once a week you could find a game on television, if we were lucky; there wasn’t even a professional league in the country at the time, now compare that environment to Brazil and you will see a massive difference. In Brazil at the age of five, most kids are playing street soccer with their friends for 4-6 hours a day, and the Brazilian professional soccer league is on television all year, as every town enthusiastically supports their own team. Organized futsal leagues start at the U5 level in Brazil, this added to street soccer, roughly adds up to about 30+ hours of soccer a week! That’s 10,000 hours of training before a player signs a pro-youth contract at 14 years old. That might sound a little bit extreme but remember it’s not mandatory, the kids are playing because they love playing, not because they have to. Also, on the street and in the futsal leagues, the kids are emulating their heroes, which they see on television every day. Wherever you look in Brazil there are top players, making access to skill development (emulation) even easier.
It’s my opinion that “culture” is the single most important factor in the development of high level soccer players in the United States. We can talk about the USSF Coach, the players, the USSF President, the ridiculous USSF coaching licensing costs, college soccer, pay to play, academy coaching mandates, no relegation in the MLS, not recognizing the NASL and much much more! However, the fact is that the United States has never been a world powerhouse in soccer. We have never been close to the level of the world’s top teams. Have we ever produced a world class striker? How many world class players have we ever produced, outside of keepers? Regardless of the coach, the United States is probably best suited for a sit and counter style, if we expand the field against top national teams, we will be exposed. The USSF national team coaches job isn’t so difficult, pick our top players, organize the team, counter attack, keep the attitudes positive and bring energy! I see these huge rants about formations, coaches, lack of heart and so on, but for me it’s all about culture. Until the culture changes in the United States, don’t expect us to become a soccer powerhouse.