Is It Possible For American Youth Soccer Players To Find Roster Spots Abroad?
Dreams are made of hopes, opportunities are made of hard work and taking chances. Is it possible to find a European club to train with? A scout who would be interested? SoccerToday looks at the many paths to discovering opportunities abroad.
Soccer News: Europe is still the mecca of player development for the world’s most popular sport and while U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy and the MLS have significantly improved the player development environment in the USA, the lure of Europe shines as bright as ever.
For a youth soccer player, training in Europe can be complicated. Unless the youth player has a foreign passport, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to gain a roster spot at a top tier European club — but that is not a reason to stop the dream.
Exploring player development and training opportunities in Europe is an excellent approach to taking one’s game to the next level. Experiencing the European culture and the immersion into a soccer culture that has spanned more than a century, and not just a few decades, is life-changing. And, you never know what can happen.
Is it possible to find a roster spot abroad and what are the training options? Europe has developed World Cup winning teams and world-class players — what can we learn from across the Atlantic?
We asked The Europa Challenge‘s Director and Founder Gerold Kent to tell us why he believes training in Europe is valuable and what his international opportunities are for talented youth soccer players who want to work on reaching their potential.
SoccerToday’s Interview with The Europa Challenge’s Gerold Kent
Diane Scavuzzo: What needs to change in American youth soccer to get the USA to be able to compete internationally and win?
Gerold Kent: American soccer organizations need to partner with European development academies, providing American talents to develop in Europe would be a start.
Many players like Matt Miazga playing for (Vitesse), Rubio Rubin (Utrecht) Desevio Payne (Groningen) and the great Landon Donavan, have trained and competed in Europe and returning successfully to the USA. We need programs to allow more American players to develop in Europe.
Diane Scavuzzo: What are your goals?
Gerold Kent: Our goal is to promote talented players to reach their potential and to find them opportunities abroad.
We have achieved our goals with Misael Miranda from Oceanside Highschool in San Diego County, California, now playing professionally in the Maltese League, and with Jonathan Hernandez from El Paso, Texas now playing in the Mexican league.
After a three to five-month preparation, these boys achieve the professional level.
My immediate goals are to partner with American soccer clubs at the grassroots level, to provide opportunities and create programs for hard working ambitious players to develop in European academies, or clubs. Also, to invite my European partners to provide training to coaches and players in the USA.
Diane Scavuzzo: How do you continue to push the envelope?
Gerold Kent: Through self-generated funds and the generosity of friends — former professional players — we are able to offer affordable programs in Europe.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is your philosophy on player development?
Gerold Kent: We can’t dictate and decide every decision a player makes on the pitch, when he needs to pass the ball, etc. You can see it on the sidelines in the majority of our American leagues —
coaches are trying to play the game through the bodies of their players.
The Europa Challenge program strives to give players the feeling of being incapable to be defeated or subdued, to show leadership on the pitch. Functional technicality combined with “street mentality.”
Train good instead of training hard. Do not be afraid of anything and yet have respect for the opponent. Chin up, chest forward and go!
We focus on the total player.
One soccer coach assigned to a team cannot provide all the training needed for players to reach the top level. You can only develop a player to your own ability, therefore we call in the support of the different experts to assist players in our program — usually former pro-players — like Gerald Vanenburg (Ajax, PSV, Netherlands National Team), Kenneth Monkou (Chelsea, Southampton), Dwight Blackson (Feyenoord) and Orson Naarendorp (Dream Team Academy).
Most important we respect the player in his or her own abilities and allow them to enjoy the sport.
Diane Scavuzzo: Who should try out for your trip?
Gerold Kent: Talented hardworking and boys and girls ages 10-17.
Diane Scavuzzo: What type of players are you looking for?
We are looking for Academy players or players that have the ability to play at the academy level, flight 1, flight 2 and perhaps a few, high-level Presidio Soccer League competitive player.
The next talent scouting camp will be on November 19th, 20th and 21st. Hosted by FC Utrecht’s Denchio Narcisio who is coming from the Netherlands. The scouting camp will be held at Connors Park in San Marcos, CA. Click here for More information.
Diane Scavuzzo: How many players?
Gerold Kent: We are creating four teams for March 2019. U17, U15, U13, and U11 a total of 64 players.
Diane Scavuzzo: What are the details on the trip and how much does it cost?
Gerold Kent: Departure date will be March 24th returning April 3rd.
Our destination is the Netherlands.
Players will participate in several training sessions and compete in three high-level games.
During these games and training, several players will be selected in our follow-up program for an internship in August 2019 for 30 days.
The focus of the program is not a vacation, we expect players to do their job on the field. We do enjoy side seeing and visit several beautiful cities where our games are also played.
Transportation to and from the Airport in the Netherlands and all games, training, and site seeing and meals. The cost: $2000 per player, exclusive airline ticket.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is the value of training in the Netherlands?
Gerold Kent: American players are known for their work rate and ambition to progress in their development, which is an inspiration for Dutch coaches.
For every player, a customized training program is designed — based on what is needed to close the gap between them and Dutch players. Training sessions are both individual as well as group sessions. The training is goal oriented, according to a timeline to achieve player development.
Diane Scavuzzo: Where will the training be?
Gerold Kent: The Training will be in Amsterdam, and the games in Amsterdam, Volendam, and Rotterdam.
Diane Scavuzzo: Will there be professional scouts from pro clubs?
Gerold Kent: Yes, amateur and pro clubs scouts want to come to see the talent we bring to the Netherlands on every tour.
Diane Scavuzzo: What motivates you?
Gerold Kent: American youth players are talented, hardworking and well-behaved players, that only lack the competition system, environment, and coaching that is currently available in Europe. When players enter our program, they develop more rapidly than if they were to remain at their current club.
Diane Scavuzzo: How long have you been involved in soccer?
Gerold Kent: I have been involved in soccer in the USA for 10 years.
Diane Scavuzzo: When did you first start coaching?
Gerold Kent: I first started in the amateur league known as the Mexican league. I have worked with AC Milan and several other well-known professional soccer clubs.
Diane Scavuzzo: How has soccer changed, if it has since you became involved?
Gerold Kent: The tournaments for youth soccer players have changed. Now, American clubs can measure against foreign top clubs and find success on the field. And, today’s youth soccer players — and their families — have become more aware, knowing that in order to develop, they have to be in an environment where this can happen.
Diane Scavuzzo: You have a son who dreams of becoming a professional player — How is he doing?
Gerold Kent: Joseph Kent is doing tremendously well, in the past two years we have traveled to the Netherlands for training with the famous Dream Team Academy or with the Seedorf Talent Development Group. Joseph’s development is fast, and he has become a more intelligent player. At the moment, he is being prepared for an internship with FC Volendam.