Right Now: Kraaz Forges Alliances and Scouts For Talent In The USA
How Good Are American Soccer Players? What do they need to be able to Successfully compete on an international stage? Eintracht Frankfurt’s Armin Kraaz speaks out on what needs to change and what it takes for a player to become a professional soccer player.
Armin Kraaz is the former head of the Bundesliga’s Eintracht Frankfurt Youth Academy and stepped down in 2019 after nearly ten years to take over the role of the Head of Sports Projects America.
As the man in charge of Eintracht Frankfurt’s efforts to build youth soccer development in the US, Kraaz is in the county right now and visited with the Dallas Cup last week. Now scouting for the International Soccer Academy‘s integrated program at Eintracht Frankfurt with Eddie Loewen, Kraaz will be onsite across America — from New Jersey to California — at tryouts for highly talented boys born in 2005 and 2006.
Want to Train in Germany? This Could Be Your Chance if you were born 2005 or 2006
The Integrated Residential Academy at Eintracht Frankfurt starts August 16th and the twenty student/athletes selected will train at the Bundesliga academy for the full season, returning back to the states in May (with a break for the holidays). This program was launched, in part, with the hopeful eye of discovering talent that Eintracht Frankfurt could recruit.
What does Kraaz believe are the critical and required attributes of a successful youth soccer player on the pathway to becoming a professional?
We asked the man who has influenced the fate of many highly talented youth soccer players in Germany.
It is important to know that Kraaz embodies the Eintracht Frankfurt philosophy. Kraaz joined Eintracht Frankfurt when he was 15-years-old, and played on the U17 and U19 teams before making his first team appearance in 1983. Kraaz went on to make 123 Bundesliga appearances over the following five seasons. In 1996, Kraaz became the Under-19s coach. He also was the first-team assistant coach and even enjoyed a brief stint as head coach.
According to the Eintracht Frankfurt website, “Under Kraaz, the Eintracht academy has been awarded the highest possible rating by the DFB on four separate occasions.” The rest is history, as we say.
Familiar with the American youth soccer landscape, Eintracht Frankfurt has entered its youth teams in the annual Dallas Cup tournament since 2004. In fact, Kraaz is so knowledgable on youth soccer, he assisted the MLS’ New York Red Bulls set up their youth department in 2002 when the team was known as the New York Metro Stars.
Interview with Eintracht Frankfurt’s Armin Kraaz
Diane Scavuzzo: How do American youth soccer players compare with their counterparts in Germany?
Armin Kraaz: It is diffucult to compare American youths on an international level. There has been great development in last ten years, but there is still a long way to go.
Diane Scavuzzo: What do American youth soccer players need to do to improve? What is the most critical aspect?
Armin Kraaz: While there are a lot of qualified, good coaches in the US, there are not enough. American youth soccer players need better coaching and more of it.
Diane Scavuzzo: What are the advantages of the German youth soccer system in comparison to what we have in the US?
Armin Kraaz: In Germany, there are alot of good coaches and our youth soccer club system is not comparable to what exists in the USA. The youth and amateur soccer clubs are public — which makes it less expensive so every talent — every kid can play soccer in Germany. It is not a matter of money.
Diane Scavuzzo: How do you find your talent for they Eintracht Frankfurt Academy?
Armin Kraaz: Clubs tell us when they have players for us and there is great pride is having a player accepted by a pro academy. We also have many scouts — and, we have youth players who are pre-scouted by the German Football Federation.
Diane Scavuzzo: What age do you start scouting players for the Eintracht Frankfurt Academy?
Armin Kraaz: Eintracht Frankfurt starts scouting players at 9 years of age for our under 10 team, which is our youngest team.
Diane Scavuzzo: What do you look for in a youth soccer player?
Armin Kraaz: We look at technical abilities as well as speed when we scout younger players. For older players, we have to look at their physical ability as well.
Diane Scavuzzo: A player who wants to join the Eintracht Frankfurt Integrated Academy residential program in Germany — what skills should he have?
Armin Kraaz: It is the same — and they must be mentally strong.
Diane Scavuzzo: It goes without saying a player must be very talented and strong mentally to want to move away from home and train in Germany …. What attributes does a player need to successfully make the transition from a talented youth soccer player to a professional soccer player?
Armin Kraaz: The mentality, the technical abilities, the physical abilities — they have to have the whole package to have the chance to go pro.
Diane Scavuzzo: What are the challenges in scouting younger players?
Armin Kraaz: It is difficulty to tell if a player who is 13-years-old will have the mentality at 18-years-old to become a professional player.
Diane Scavuzzo: What are you most proud of?
Armin Kraaz: The moment I am most proud of is when an academy player plays for the first time in our stadium.
Diane Scavuzzo: That is the moment they have joined the first team and become a pro?
Armin Kraaz: Yes, and it is a great moment to be proud.