U.S. Soccer Legend Paul Caligiuri’s Advice on Developing into a Great Soccer Player
Paul Caligiuri is a U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame Inductee and has been with the United Premier Soccer League as the Director of Player Development since 2018. A legendary soccer player, Caligiuri began making a difference when he was a youth soccer player.
Youth Soccer News: Who has made a difference for America on the soccer field?
In recent years, Christian Pulisic‘s name has been in the headlines and there have been several teenage youth soccer players who have earned professional MLS contracts recently. What do they have in common? What does it take to become a professional soccer player who can make an impact on the field?
Paul Caligiuri‘s goal literally changed the trajectory of American soccer. He is the “Man Who Got the USA Back in FIFA World Cup after a 40-year drought.” Caligiuri signed his first professional contract was at 22-years-old after playing for UCLA.
Paul Caligiuri is famous for scoring the winning goal for our country’s historic victory over Trinidad in a World Cup qualifier in 1989.
Caligiuri’s goal was heard around the globe and clinched our county’s entry into the MNT’s 1990 World Cup Qualifying campaign … and America had been out of the World Cup since 1950. Peter Vermes, Tab Ramos, Tony Meola, and many other familiar names today were on that roster coached by Bob Gansler — together with Caligiuri, this team made it happen and secured a berth for the USA the World Cup.
Caligiuri is a man known for making a difference. The first American named to a FIFA World All-Star team, Caligiuri was also one of the first American players to play in the German Bundesliga.
Caligiuri retired after a six-year MLS career playing for the LA Galaxy and the Columbus Crew, winning the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Championship in his final Galaxy match in 2001.
Caliguiri knows America can be a great soccer country but recognizes that we still have a long way to go.
SoccerToday’s Diane Scavuzzo’s exclusive interview with Paul Caligiuri
Diane Scavuzzo: How old were you when you first started playing soccer on a soccer team?
Paul Caligiuri: I played in AYSO for three seasons and started when I was 7 years old. All I ever wanted to do was score goals and I was a goal-scoring machine until I was 18 years old.
Diane Scavuzzo: When you were young, were you always a forward?
Paul Caligiuri: Yes, that was my position until a coached moved me to defense.
Diane Scavuzzo: Why was your position changed?
Paul Caligiuri: I was always hungry for the ball. My determination to keep possession and to win the ball back was really a valuable skill, I guess.
I can still clearly remember walking out for a state team tryout and my name was not on the list but I smiled at the girls at the check-in counter and walked by. A coach said announced he needed a defensive player and I saw that as my chance.
Diane Scavuzzo: So you changed your position so you could get selected to play by the coach? Were you good as a defender?
Paul Caligiuri: I wanted to play – and that is what I want to remind today’s youth soccer players. It is your drive that will help you succeed.
If you really want to play – push yourself to be your best.
If you want to make an impact on the soccer field, you have to work hard and always try your best, even when you have made a mistake.
I would never have made ‘The Shot Heard Round the World’ if I had not tried so hard.
I wasn’t a great impact player but I always tried my best
Diane Scavuzzo: What advice do you have for today’s youth soccer players?
Paul Caligiuri: Always keep learning. Be coachable. Do better than your best. As I have said before, the ultimate goal is to make a difference. Make a difference and exploit risk and getting forward.
Speed is an important part of the modern game. Speed is something a player can work on individually, without their soccer coach.
And, it is important to have confidence.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is the most important advice you can share?
Paul Caligiuri: Practice harder than you need to play in a match. Then the game will be easier.
Diane Scavuzzo: What are you doing with the UPSL?
Paul Caligiuri: I am super excited to be part of the UPSL, an organization that is achieving much success in multiple areas of soccer in the USA.
There is so much potential in this country and it’s great to be part of an organization that is committed to players, coaches, and teams across America.
Just in Southern California alone, there are over 500,000 high school soccer players, and many of these players are being ignored and bypassed.
The UPSL will always have its doors open to all teams and players to showcase these great, young talents so that we as a country can achieve higher levels. I look forward to playing my role with the league and its players.
Source: UPSL/ Interview with Paul Caligiuri