USASA’s Executive Director Duncan Riddle on What Needs to Change in American Soccer
Charming, intelligent and passionately committed to growing the game on all levels, Duncan Riddle – the Executive Director of the United States Adult Soccer Association – is a man who advocates for positive change. The former Head of Community Affairs at England’s Aston Villa Football Club, Riddle has years of experience in soccer on both sides of the Atlantic.
The United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA) is the official governing body of adult soccer in the United States and is challenged with the responsibility to help grow the beautiful game – a challenge Executive Director English born Duncan Riddle welcomes.
Responsible for growing the game of adult soccer across America, Duncan is one of the few leaders in today’s American soccer world with a clear vantage point affording tremendous insight on what is working and what is not.
USASA’s mantra is “Soccer — your game for life” and while the sport can extend the lifetime of a player, all too often players are dropping out of the game. Riddle wants to see this country embrace the beauty of the game and have our adult players immersed in the passion for the sport that unites a planet.
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GoalNation’s Diane Scavuzzo interviewed Duncan Riddle, Executive Director of the USASA on the future of adult soccer in America.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is right and what is wrong in American youth soccer?
Duncan Riddle: What is right and wrong in American soccer depends on what you are measuring against.
If we are talking about developing top-level professional players able to compete in the later stages of World Cups my analogy is this:
The USA has the right ingredients but not the right recipe.
We have a large pool of players & qualified coaches — many with overseas experience — great facilities, great weather and professional administrators running soccer clubs.
We just need to work together to develop our players.
Diane Scavuzzo: What needs to change in American soccer?
Duncan Riddle: What needs to change is the opportunity for our young players between the ages of 16 to 23-year-olds to be in the correct environment to enable them to fully develop.
In 2018, there will be approximately 60 professional teams across the country & many of them are MLS ‘reserve’ teams.
Compare that to England where there are 160 teams in an area the size of Alabama.
In England, there are 92 teams in four professional leagues plus another 68 teams in three semi-professional Leagues.
All 160 teams give players the opportunity to earn a living playing soccer. And, at least 120 of these pro teams have full-time youth academies.
The best English players leave school and go into a full-time soccer program. The best American players go to College.
Diane Scavuzzo: Where have we fallen short and how can that be improved?
Duncan Riddle: Change is taking place — the MLS clubs continue to improve their youth Academies although the distance between clubs makes it difficult to have competitive games every weekend.
The number of professional soccer teams in the USA will increase when the new USL Division 3 kicks off.
Diane Scavuzzo: Is amateur soccer in America growing as well?
Duncan Riddle: Yes — the major amateur leagues continue to grow and steadily improve.
We, at USASA, are introducing new standards & criteria in 2018 to bring greater structure to the amateur soccer pyramid.
The criteria is designed to raise the standard of operations of the growing national leagues and also assist the players better understand the level of play each league offers.
Currently, many leagues revolve around the availability of College players — meaning the leagues have very short seasons.
Hopefully, as a result of the new standards, we will see leagues playing over a longer period of time, helping teams generate extra income that can be invested back in their teams.
This, in turn, will raise playing standards — wouldn’t it be great to see strong leagues featuring ex-pros helping the young players gain knowledge!
Diane Scavuzzo: To reach our goals of having soccer become the predominant sport in the USA, what do you recommend?
Duncan Riddle: The soccer market in our country is a complicated with many different organizations and often competing associations. Each one has to continue to evolve and improve and ideally start working together!