State of Affairs …. Changes Are Coming
A new column from Stanley Holmes on the ever changing State of Affairs in youth soccer – and the news you want to know that impacts the game. The issue of player compensation is red hot at the moment. Alfonso Mondelo, MLS’ Director of Player Programs, said that compensating clubs for training fees needs to happen if the U.S. wants to develop pro players.
A top official for Major League Soccer says the MLS is open to compensating youth soccer clubs for training players who make it to the professional level – saying such a move is a natural “evolution” of the sport in this country.
Alfonso Mondelo, director of Player Programs for the MLS, said recently that compensating clubs for training fees is part of many changes that need to happen if the U.S. wants to develop better professional soccer players.
If this is a belief widely held inside MLS headquarters, then this could be a hugely positive step for American soccer. It could lead to a resolution of this entangled mess that only hurts talented U.S. soccer players and the youth clubs that first trained them.
“If the MLS can find high-caliber domestic players, it would pay for the ones that come from clubs here — as long as you can do that,” Mondelo said.
“This would push players from the bottom up, and it would change everything.
Mondelo’s comments are the first that hint that America’s top professional soccer league could be softening its stand. It is one of many solutions, Mondelo said, that is needed to vastly improve the youth development model in this country.
The issue of player compensation is red hot at the moment. Crossfire Premier has sought FIFA intervention or permission to sue MLS and U.S. Soccer over unpaid training, or “solidarity,” payments. It contends that Crossfire should have received compensation from Tottenham Hotspur when it paid a transfer fee to the MLS for DeAndre Yedlin, as required by FIFA rules. READ MORE
The MLS grabbed 100 percent of the transfer fee for Yedlin, even the portion that should have gone to Crossfire and to his other youth clubs. So far, the MLS refuses to pay any youth club solidarity payments to MLS players that come from American youth clubs.
With the backing of the U.S. Soccer Federation, both organizations say U.S. labor law supports their position – laws that Crossfire attorneys say do not apply. The federation and the MLS say a 1996 sealed consent decree ruled that U.S. youth clubs couldn’t receive solidarity payments.
But Crossfire attorneys continue to question whether the so-called consent agreement – the ostensible controlling document over this matter – actually says that. The U.S. Federation has declined to provide a copy of the alleged agreement to the attorneys.
Mondelo, a thoughtful and experienced steward of the sport, knows the current pay-to-play system of youth development cannot continue in its current iteration. Much change is needed, he said, on a variety of fronts.
“We are at a crossroads in the youth game,” Mondelo said.
“How do we transfer from the youth college-based model to a professional development business with a destination for our best players?”
One way is for the U.S. Soccer Federation and the MLS to step up and do what’s right – pay the youth clubs what is owed them for training some of our best players such as Yedlin and Clint Dempsey.
Like every other soccer country in the world, such solidarity money would replenish club coffers and help reduce expensive player fees. It would give top clubs a real incentive to change their model to focus on developing players first rather than believing they need to win games to stay in business.
It is not the only solution to our much fractured and wildly discombobulated youth soccer business – one that US Club Soccer‘s CEO Kevin Payne says is a $4 billion annual industry.
Now that the U.S. Soccer Federation announced it has invited youth soccer clubs to a meeting in October, this would be the perfect time to show real leadership.
If our top two leaders can agree to compensate youth clubs for molding our best and brightest players into professionals, then it would serve as a big step to reshaping the future of youth soccer in this country.
For more than 20 years before becoming immersed in running a 20,000 player soccer league, Stanley was involved in a different kind of sport —– the winners and losers of global business. All the while he was harboring a secret desire to write about the sport he has played, coached and watched since childhood when the only soccer on TV could be found on Sunday mornings on PBS — — “Toby Charles Soccer Made in Germany.”‘ To say it was a near religious experience is putting it mildly.
Meanwhile, Stanley climbed the ranks of journalism, covering business for The Chicago Tribune, The Rocky Mountain News, The Seattle Times, The Los Angeles Times and Business Week Magazine, where he was named a 2004 finalist for National Magazine and Gerald Loeb awards.
Stanley grew up in the Seattle area, graduated from Western Washington University with a bachelor’s and earned a master’s degree from Columbia University School of Journalism. Among his proudest soccer and journalism moments was being the first Business Week writer to publish a business story about soccer in the magazine’s then 77-year history: “Can Britain’s No. 1 Soccer Club Score in America? Hugely Profitable Manchester United wants to crack the U.S. market.”
His other Kodak moment: playing soccer for a small village in the south of France where the wine was better than the team. Now, Stanley joins SoccerToday as Editor-at-Large and will write a regular Opinion column.