May 31, 2007
New USSF youth plan would decrease reliance on ODP

The U.S. Soccer Federation looks set to dramatically decrease its dependence
on the Olympic Development Program, which is run by the state associations and
U.S. Youth Soccer. According to Washington Post reporter
Steven Goff, the Federation is creating a nationwide academy program and a national youth league for teenage boys that will involve up to 2,400 players at both the U-15 and U-18 age groups. "The federation plans to identify 60 to 80 youth clubs across the country," reports Goff. "Those clubs will then select players from the under-15 and under-18 age groups to participate in the academy."

Academy teams will play in a regionally structured national league in which the U-16 national team will compete. Goff reports that the plan,
reportedly approved by the U.S. Soccer Federation's board of directors, encourages each MLS club to field teams; that national team coaches will scout the games; and that teams will play a 36- to 38-game schedule, plus friendlies.

America's youth soccer landscape already includes national championships run by
U.S. Youth Soccer (cup and league), U.S. Club Soccer, the Super Y-League, and
Red Bull -- plus a myriad showcase tournaments. The USSF's ambitious move
into the grassroots level of player development has long had many advocates, but it will also further heat up what we call American youth soccer's Turf War.

May 29, 2007
Preventing ACL injuries

A torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) may be a soccer player's most feared injury. Writing for Soccer America's "Youth Insider," Dr. Dev Mishra looks at training methods designed to prevent ACL injuries.

Click HERE for the article, "How To Save Your ACL":

May 27, 2007
Vegas welcomes Youth $occer

Las Vegas expects a $14 million economic impact by hosting US Youth Soccer's west region championships - and that's not including money left in the casinos by the 5,000 visitors (players, coaches, team and tournament officials and family members) for the June 18-24 games. More than 250 boys and girls teams, U-12 through U-19, will be vying to advance to the national championship tournaments. Vegas figures on 35,000 "room nights" being booked at area hotels during the seven-day event.

May 24, 2007

Ronaldinho, whom Pele has called "a true artist with the ball," grew up playing soccer daily on the dirt roads of his Porto Alegre neighborhood and in fields near his house. When his friends got tired of playing, he would play soccer with his dog, Bombom.

Bombom was a mutt, a dark mixed-breed dog whose name means "chocolate candy" in Portuguese.

"Bombom loved to play with me," Ronaldinho says. "When all my friends got bored, I would play with him. We would stay battling for the ball all day. I had to work hard on my moves to keep him from getting the ball. We were inseparable. He was my great companion."

Nothing kept the young Ronaldinho from playing soccer.

"When it was raining," he says, "I would stay in the house dribbling past chairs and tables. I always spent most of my time as a kid with a soccer ball. That helped me become good at it."

Ronaldinho played soccer of all forms -- with large balls and small ones. He played indoor "futsal," which uses a small heavy ball that hardly bounces. When he joined an organized outdoor club team, his coach, Claudio Roberto Pires Duarte, said, "We couldn't teach him anything. He already knew it all."

Even after joining the youth team of professional club Gremio, Ronaldinho practiced his skills on his own for two hours every evening.

Ronaldinho's favorite move is the "Elastic." He caresses the ball with the outside of his right foot, then the instep, before changing directions in a split second and leaving the defender in the dust. He says he learned that move by watching video tapes of 1970s Brazilian star Roberto Rivelino.

The "Stepover," known in Brazil as the pedalada, is the one defenders fear the most. With a stationary ball at his feet, Ronaldinho steps over it With his right foot, then his left, and continues alternating until the
Defender is dazed, which is when Ronaldinho darts downfield.

Besides his amazing dribbling moves, during which Ronaldinho utilizes all parts of both feet, Ronaldinho's passes create countless opportunities for teammates.

One of his trademark passes is the "Blind Pass" or the "No-look Pass," when he looks one direction but releases the ball in the other.

He says he learned it by watching American basketball games on TV as a child, when he was enchanted by the NBA's Magic Johnson.

"You always have to think of ways to complicate the lives of defenders," Ronaldinho says. "The Blind Pass is a perfect way to change the direction of the play and unbalance defenders."

"Ronaldinho is able to transform pressure into fun," wrote Spanish Newspaper Marca. England's Guardian newspaper wrote, "People love Ronaldinho because he embodies the soul of the sport rather than the science."

When he was profiled in Germany's Spiegel Magazine, reporter Dirk Kurbjuweit wrote, "Ronaldinho is one of the very few players to have brought new qualities to the sport, accomplishing something entirely fresh and unknown, yet unseen. He casts his spell with his dribbling, his passing and his goals."

Ronaldinho, born in 1980 in Porto Alegre, has won World Cup, Copa America, Spanish La Liga and European Champions League titles. He is two-time FIFA World Player of the Year.

-- By Mike Woitalla

More upheaval in Red Bulls youth program

First the Red Bulls fired someone who had turned their youth program into one of the league's best. Then they hired someone whom their club had already once fired. So they had to fire him:

Despite having established a reputation as the leading youth program in MLS, the New York Red Bulls inexplicably fired its youth development director, Giovanni Savarese, last March. Savarese, the most popular player in New York Red Bull (nee MetroStars) history, had deep roots in the Tri-State area, is a former Venezuelan national team player, and played professionally in Britain and Italy in addition to MLS and USL ball. In early May, the Red Bulls hired Armen Simoniants as youth director to "move the program in a new direction." But two weeks later the Red Bulls were informed by the Herald News that the Simoniants' resume included "false or inaccurate information." Among the discrepancies that the Red Bulls apparently didn't notice: Simoniants was not the head coach of the MetroStars reserve team in 2000-03. Moreover, the Herald News discovered that he had been fired by the MetroStars as the reserve team's assistant coach. Ives Galarcep's article in the Herald News quotes from the team's internal memo regarding his performance during his first tenure with the club. The Red Bulls fired Simoniants on May 22.

Click HERE for the Herald News article.

May 23, 2007
The rise of 'cascarita' kids

How a story about immigrants in small-town North Carolina turned into a soccer tale.

By Mike Woitalla (from Soccer America Magazine, May 2007 issue)

Big-city journalist Paul Cuadros went to North Carolina after receiving a grant in 1999 to report on the dramatic demographic shift in the rural South. He ended up a state championship-winning high school soccer coach.

"I set out to report on the Latino Diaspora to the Southeast and not to write a book about soccer or coach a team," says Cuadros in the introduction to "A Home on the Field: How One Championship Team Inspires Hope for the Revival of Small Town America."

Soon after his arrival, Cuadros started paying close attention to the children of laborers who had been lured to the area to work in the poultry industry in Siler City. They loved playing soccer, which for them took the form of the cascarita - the informal pickup game.

"Futbol for these kids is everything," says Cuadros. "They have a passion for it. They play it whenever they can. When they actually come here, they find themselves alienated or they may find themselves in an ethnic enclave. They find that they're isolated, but they have futbol."

What they didn't have, Cuadros realized, "was an organized outlet for the sport they loved. … There are giant private leagues that provided good coaches, organized games on manicured fields, with shiny uniforms and referees. But these leagues had very few Latino boys or girls because of their cost.

"The Latino boys wanted to play. It was all they ever did. But they were relegated to the dusty dirt fields of the Siler City parks to play where no one would see their talent or cheer their goals."

While Mexican and Central American immigration to metropolitan areas in the USA has a long history, what Cuadros calls the "silent migration" to the rural South began in the mid-1990s, spurred by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

NAFTA allowed heavily subsidized U.S. agricultural products into Mexico, where farmers couldn't compete with the low prices of the imported goods, writes Cuadros. That sent millions of rural Mexicans to seek work in urban areas, and when they couldn't find work there, they migrated to the USA to work in the meat-packing and poultry-processing industries, which welcomed the cheap labor. But not everybody greeted them eagerly.

One response to the growing Latino presence was an anti-immigrant rally in Siler City featuring former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke. In this climate, and in a town where soccer was perceived as a threat to football, Cuadros campaigned to create a soccer program at the local high school, Jordan-Matthews.

After a three-year effort, J-M's Jets finally fielded a soccer team.
Cuadros, who was assistant coach the first season and head coach by the second season, had to first educate the players, mainly Mexican immigrants, on eligibility rules, particularly the importance of class attendance.

That many of the boys already held jobs or helped take care of younger siblings often kept them away from school or practice. And then there was the transition to playing organized ball and facing athletic, tactically savvy opposition. The players expected more cascarita at practice and had to adjust to fitness and tactical training.

"The cascarita," writes Cuadros, "had taught the team to play a tight ball-controlled game with good touches, flicks, and passing. That was the good thing about the cascarita. The bad thing was it taught them to be selfish - to be individuals and hog the ball. We needed a system that brought the strengths of the cascarita to the middle and eliminated the egotistical play."

Having observed the soccer of the giant youth clubs ("too large and regimented to develop good creative soccer") and the soccer of the kids who ("taught themselves [and] didn't need a coach or uniforms as prerequisites for play"), Cuadros knew what kind of style he wanted to see.

"America is the home of rock and roll," he writes, "but American soccer has been played more like a dirge. American soccer should be bold, it should be brash, and crazy, and creative, and wonderful. And it should be open to everyone."

In their third season, Los Jets won the state championship. When their bus rode into Siler City, cars honked in celebration, people came out of stores, shops and homes to wave congratulations.

"I saw white folks cheering, black folks clapping, and Latinos shouting happily," writes Cuadros, who with his team was featured with a large photo on the front page of the local newspaper the next day. They later marched and were cheered at the Siler City Christmas parade.

Cuadros, who now coaches J-M's boys and girls teams, reported that animosity toward the immigrants subsided as residents comprehended that the newcomers had created an economic rejuvenation.

But Jets players, despite their success, aren't finding many opportunities to continue their soccer careers beyond the local adult league.

"That's part of their story," says Cuadros. "Their access to higher education, access to their soccer ambitions have been impeded. They can't seem to break through."

Cuadros continues trying to convince college coaches to scout high school games rather than just relying on picking talent from the club system. But also keeping some of them out of college, despite their academic eligibility and soccer talent, is their residency status.

Cuadros believes college coaches, who frequently sign international students, could still find an avenue for such players. Meanwhile, legislation such as the Dream Act, which would create college opportunities for students in good standing who were undocumented when they arrived as children, has been stalled in amid the politically charged immigration debate.

"It's a hot-button issue," Cuadros says. "But for me it isn't. For me it's just about kids."

May 22, 2007
Keeper's curse proves costly for Iowa high school

The Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier didn't report exactly what the word was that Waterloo West's goalkeeper uttered after he misjudged a ball and gave up a corner kick. But the referee deemed it worthy of a red card, which was enough to eliminate the Wahawks from postseason play - because Iowa High School Athletic Association rules dictate that a team loses playoff eligibility if it collects four red cards during the season. Frank's ejection made it a quartet for the Wahawks and meant a forfeit in the regional game against Dubuque Senior while they were leading, 2-1.

"I had to call the association, and they said it's automatically done, right then and there," West athletic director Jeff Frost told the Courier. "It's a bad situation for everybody and a tough way for our seniors to go out, but the rules are the rules. Even if we would have continued playing, the state would have stepped in anyway and made us forfeit the game."

The assault on free play: drills for tykes

"When play becomes beset by rules ... kids can lose their natural enthusiasm and willingness to try new things" is the response exercise physiologist Michael Bergeron gave when The Los Angeles Times asked his opinion on organized soccer programs for 3- and 4-year-olds. Reporter Jeannine Stein, who even tracked down soccer classes for 18-month-olds, noted that AYSO lowered its starting age to 4 in 2004. A Herald Community newspaper report on a "pro" coaching program for children as young as 2 quoted one of the coaches as saying, "It teaches them discipline." One mother described the lessons: "It's non-stop, they're always doing drills back and forth."

-- Mike Woitalla

May 20, 2007
Affordable youth ball in Indiana

"How can a family that is working hard but only making $7 an hour afford the $100 it takes just to sign up for some of these leagues?" was the question Jose Alvarez asked when he created an affordable youth league in South Bend, Ind. The South Bend Tribune reports that Alavarez got support from Notre Dame women's soccer coach Randy Waldrum: "I used my connections through the NSCAA to get them set up, and over a period of time we have been able to get them about 60 balls as well."

Click HERE to read more.

May 19, 2007
Million$ for hosting regional championships

The Kennebec Journal reports that hosting the U.S. Youth Soccer Region I Championships (U-12 to U-19) in June will have a $9 million economic impact on the Portland, Maine area. It's estimated that 15,000 people will visit during seven-day event.

Click HERE for the article.

May 18, 2007
WORDS OF WIDSOM: Manny Schellscheidt

"The game is the best teacher. The coach is really a substitute voice. We want the players to hear the silent voice, the game. The game is actually talking to you."

-- Manny Schellscheidt, head of U.S. Soccer's U-14 Development Program.

May 08, 2007
The Value of Juggling

Excerpted from "More Than Goals: The journey from backyard games to World Cup competition" By Claudio Reyna with Mike Woitalla

Sometimes kids ask, "Why should I juggle? You never do it in a game."

Juggling trains you to become comfortable with the ball. To tap the ball in the air over and over means you're hitting the sweet spot. How can a player volley a ball that comes flying across the field if he can't connect well on a ball he's knocking a few feet or inches in the air?

Just as juggling with the foot helps a player acquire the skills for trapping and striking the ball, juggling off the thigh helps him become comfortable with bringing down the ball at that height. Remember - a player can't dictate how a ball is going to arrive during a game.

Besides training foot-eye coordination, juggling is a great way to work on balance. Standing on one foot and hitting the ball with the other. That's just what a player does when he shoots, passes, or traps the ball. And good overall balance is a key ingredient to being a superb athlete.

To this day, I love watching a videotape of Diego Maradona juggling the ball with every part of his body except his arms and hands. It's as if he has a spell over the ball.

One reason juggling is so much fun is that you improve so quickly. First, you try to keep the ball up a couple times. When you can do it 10 times, you try for 20. Then 50, and so on. Do it enough, and you can juggle the ball 100 or 1,000 times.

If you can juggle 20 times with your right foot, try 10 with your left foot. Alternating feet when you juggle is excellent practice. Juggling is the greatest thing players can do to work on their skills.

Being a good juggler doesn't necessarily make you a great player, but I've never seen a great player who's not a good juggler. I think that tells you something.

May 06, 2007
The Latino Equation

How far has American soccer come in providing opportunities for young Latino players?

By Mike Woitalla (Soccer America Magazine)

"Financially, it's a struggle," says Paul Walker, the founder and president of Southern California youth club Barcelona USA. "But I come from the point of view of being the underdog. I don't know why, it's just the way I grew up. I took on all challenges."

Nearly 90 percent of Barcelona USA's 500 players are Latinos. That many can't afford the high costs of American youth soccer is no surprise. In the world of paid coaches and tournament travel, it can cost more than $20,000 annually to run a competitive team of 15 players.

Three years ago, when the U.S. Soccer Federation commissioned an extensive participation study, one of its conclusions was that, "Among whites, the higher the household income, the higher the likelihood of playing soccer. Among Hispanics, just the opposite is true."

Because there's no shortage of non-Latino players whose parents can afford elite youth soccer, and these players have become increasingly better, it would be tempting for youth clubs to ignore low-income Latino youth. But that's not how Walker saw it.

"Our club was founded on the basis of going out into the community and bringing these kids into organized club youth soccer," Walker says, "which then gives them an avenue to not only develop their talents but to get into colleges."

In 1999 he enlisted longtime Southern California youth coach Cherif Zein and launched Barcelona USA. Walker grew up in Los Angeles playing basketball and didn't get involved in soccer until his children started playing in the early 1990s.

"When I first got involved," he says, "I thought there has to be a way to link these kids, who have so much to give, and soccer is all they care about, to provide them an avenue to get those levels - and why is it that they don't get there, and what is the problem?"

Walker, whose mother was an immigrant from Mexico, is fluent in Spanish and felt a link to the Latino community.

"In a nutshell, the parents are uneducated about the system," he says. "Two, financially they can't even think of getting involved. Three, the parents often may not speak English well enough so they stay away and it's hard to get close to them. So all those factors add up and the kids end up playing in their little local community league and that's it, they don't go anywhere. And the cycle repeats itself.

"What we did is go into the communities, talk to them in their native tongue and invite them out, no strings attached, no money involved and get them to see something they love. And once they see it, they want their kids to be involved."

Barcelona USA, based in Pasadena, must raise $100,000 annually for players unable to pay.

THE BARRIERS. The landscape of American soccer is a peculiar one, especially when compared to other soccer powers. It has been called a country club sport, because the youth game has been the domain of the white middle-class since its boom in the 1970s.

Elsewhere in the world, stars tend to come out of poorer communities, as they often do in traditional American sports. In the United States, youth soccer is a pay-to-play venture. Somewhere along the way, youth soccer in the USA was privatized.

Whereas interscholastic play in football, basketball and baseball provides pathways to higher levels for standouts in those sports, it generally doesn't in American soccer.

Young soccer players who aren't part of a major competitive club have little chance of being discovered. And although in Southern California many elite clubs field Hispanic-laden teams, by some estimates there are well over a 100,000 Latino kids playing in unaffiliated Los Angeles leagues.

And because it is practically unheard of for a competitive youth club not to use paid coaches - or to employ what they call "professional trainers" - cost will continue to exclude players.

Paid youth coaches -- who can earn $150 every time they show up for a practice or a game - are the main reason for the high cost of youth soccer. But there's also the travel to tournaments. It cost Barcelona USA more than $15,000 per team to compete in the 2007 Dallas Cup.

But the high costs are only one of the barriers facing many Latino players.

Paul Cuadros, the author of "A Home on the Field," which chronicles his efforts to create opportunities for Latino youth players in North Carolina, lists the other obstacles.

"Even requiring something like proof of medical health insurance," he says. "Hispanics as a group are the largest group in the United States that doesn't have health care coverage. A lot of that is due to the fact that many of the families are working in jobs that don't provide that coverage.

"Even if a child's family has scraped up the money to join an elite team, or if that team offers him or her that scholarship, you get to that medical health insurance proof and it stops them in their tracks. "Then there's the travel. Because they're working, parents just don't have as much time as some other families might to shepherd their kids around.

"Many of these clubs have registration where you sign up online and that technology gap is also another barrier for the Latino player who may not have access to a home computer and to an Internet service provider. So all these sorts of barriers exist."

Linda Lara runs the Strikers FC club in Las Cruces, N.M. She says her players come to her house to use her computer for tasks such as contacting college coaches.

While elite clubs in major metropolitan areas often "scholarship" low income players, Lara had to start her own competitive club to provide opportunities for Las Cruces children. It's meant spending her life savings on team travel and funding players' trips to ODP tryouts.

"There are some funds made available by ODP," she says. "But just to be eligible, you have to come up with $250 for the first tryout, which is a lot of money for my players.

"And if they waive a fee, the kid still has to get there. We had to send one boy to a tryout in Idaho. That's not an easy place to get to from Las Cruces. It means coming up with $800."

Thanks to the hard work and generosity of Lara, many Las Cruces players have moved on to play in college and some into the pros, such as New Mexico native Edgar Castillo, who plays for Mexican First Division club Santos.

In North Texas, which has one of the most competitive youth leagues in the country, the Classic League, leading clubs often waive fees for low-income players, who are essentially subsidized by the other parents. There are even cases around the country in which the girls' player fees subsidize the boys teams that recruit low-income kids.

Eleazar Jepson is the director of coaching of Sapitos y Ranitos FC in the heavily Latino south Dallas area of Oak Cliff. The club was founded by restaurant owner Raul Estrada and is supported by the Hispanic Youth Foundation.

The impetus for its creation was to create competitive teams for Latino youth so they can remain in their community rather than depend on recruitment from North Dallas clubs.

"I don't buy the claim that Latino talent around here isn't being overlooked because the big clubs offer scholarships," says Jepson. "Those go to a handful."

The Sapitos y Ranitos field more than 20 boys and girls teams, including three in the Classic League, which requires a long drive to Frisco, Texas.

"I drive a lot of players around," says Jepson, who points out that parents often work in the service industry, which requires weekend work.

Running a team in a low-income area requires much greater effort from administrators and coaches. When Jepson coached in North Dallas, he'd shoot e-mails out to parents with scheduling and other information.

"Now I do a lot of calling," he says. "Or I text message, because the parents are at work and can't answer their phones. Or I call one of them, who has to track down the others who don't have cell phones."

THE FEDERATION'S CHARGE. Before Sunil Gulati was elected U.S. Soccer President last year, he described the Hispanic community as a "huge constituency we have that isn't represented as a constituency in our organization, but it does have a much greater connectivity to the other parts of the game because of the heritage, the tradition, and roots."

As the governing body for the soccer in this country, U.S. Soccer certainly has an obligation to be inclusive - to represent and provide opportunities to the nation's entire soccer community. And of the U.S. Hispanic population of more than 40 million, a vast majority hails from soccer-loving nations.

The conclusion of the U.S. Soccer's Participation Survey included, "There's clearly a lot that can be learned from the foreign-born Hispanic population. But, unfortunately, this segment has a very loose connection to USSF today ... there's a real need for the USSF to forge a bond with them. Foreign-born Hispanics could prove a very useful model to follow for strengthening participation and fan interest in the USA."

U.S. Soccer plans to launch a Spanish-language Web site and the Technical Committee Gulati created will include a subcommittee to address the Latino issue. But some of the work, Gulati says, is done on the field.

"On Feb. 7 we had a great event," he says. "We beat Mexico, 2-0, which was good. We had 60,000 people in the stands, which was good. The ratings on Univision were phenomenal - the second highest rated sports event in the history of Spanish-language TV [in the USA].

"So more people, who in most cases [speak Spanish as] their primary language, and obviously that's going to be predominantly the Hispanic community, saw the U.S. national team than have ever seen them.

"That's a lot of outreach and a lot of marketing that we couldn't do if we set out to do it in a different way."

But that kind of awareness doesn't address the fact that young Latino players still face considerable barriers, or that the increase in Hispanic youth participation still hasn't been reflected significantly in the U.S. national teams. To that end, Gulati is starting to hold town hall-type meetings in large metropolitan areas. "One question is why do we lose talented players at young ages, why do they fall off," he says. "Especially from the ethnic communities and I'm thinking very much about the Hispanic community. Whether it's transportation, whether it's money, whether it's field space, all those sorts of issues. And we're asking, 'What would you do if you had resources?"

Judging in the future whether the U.S. Soccer succeeds in creating a greater link with the Latino community, Gulati said would be to see "far more communication, a marketing program. More players who look different when they play, and in some cases look different. It'd be nice to have a few players of the technical ability of Claudio Reyna or Hugo Perez or of Tab Ramos in some of our teams. That would big a big plus. More [Latino] coaches, more [Latino] referees."

It's been nearly 15 years since the U.S. Soccer Federation began dedicating a few staff coaches to creating liaisons with the Latino soccer community. They were charged with creating coaching clinics for Latinos who weren't familiar with the U.S. Soccer coaching schools and convincing unaffiliated Latin leagues to enter the fold.

Juan Carlos Michia (Region III) has been a regional coach for more than a decade and much of his work is creating "opportunity tryouts" for players from ethnic enclaves. Rene Miramontes (Region IV) returned to U.S. Soccer after a decade working as an assistant coach in MLS and coaching youth ball. Roberto Lopez is Region II men's coach.

But no U.S. national team at any age group has ever had a Latino head coach. Asked whether that's the reason why, despite significant numbers of Latino kids getting selected to some ODP teams, especially from Southern California, few make it to the national teams, Miramontes says, no.

"I've talked to the coaches," Miramontes says, "and they are seriously interested in the kind of player who's different than the players we generally have in the national teams.

"But one of the problems we have when we find an 'unknown' player and we take him out of his environment, is we dump him into this new environment. The game is faster. The game is stronger. You have the pressure of American coaches looking at this individual player based on the American mainstream. And it's not just the soccer, it's the cultural aspect.

"What I'm trying to figure out is there a way to get some sort of a middle step. We take this prospect out of the soccer culture he knows and now we want to put him in the American ODP or national team. I don't think he's going to perform the same way. There's going to be an adapting period.

"I think from that standpoint the coaches need to take into account the environment and culture the player's coming out of."

For sure, transforming the American style of play to include a greater Latin influence would be to emulate the world's most successful and entertaining teams. And to some extent, the groundwork for producing those kinds of players is being done at the grass-roots level to greater extent than ever.

Barcelona USA - one whose players, Eder Arreola, is in U.S. U-17 residency camp - sent four teams to this year's Dallas Cup, and all four reached the knockout stage of their division.

The oldest group, the U-16s, will be the first from the club to pursue college (or pro) opportunities, and Walker believes they all are capable of playing Division I college soccer.

Walker also believes that the trend of Coast Soccer League clubs to field a significant amount of Latinos, a trend he traces to within the last decade, will eventually lead to an increase of Latino players at the national level.

"It's hit the regional level but not the national level yet," Walker says. "At the national level they're still interested in selecting the big, strong athletic kid, not taking a smaller, technical, Latino kid.

"As the national program kind of wavers and doesn't really continue to progress on the international scene, more and more you're going to see these players getting chances.

"Or they hire coaches who have more of a mindset like that ... or it just evolves. The influx of creative players with flair will change the whole dynamic of how the national team plays."