THE GAP BETWEEN American and European youth soccer sides was on display over a week this month in Orlando, where 24 U-14 teams (eight from UEFA academies, eight from MLS academies and eight all-star teams each representing a different U.S. state) gathered for World Cup--style competition in the inaugural International Champions Cup Futures tournament. After international visitors won five of the eight groups, just one domestic side, the New York Red Bulls, reached the semifinals, in which they lost to eventual champion Bayern Munich.
Organizers are banking on that changing thanks to an ambitious, long-term growth strategy. A world-class youth soccer tournament in the States, the thinking goes, could look something like baseball's Little League World Series. A bigger tournament means more interest, which means more Stateside talent—at least that's the hope.
At this moment, however, the issue of interest is far bigger than just one tournament. Though MLS continues to emphasize homegrown development, a recent study found the percentage of preteens playing soccer dropped nearly 14% over the last three years, and that was before the World Cup went on without American participation. An upstart youth tournament won't close the gap between the U.S. and Europe—not overnight, at least—but maybe it can help kickstart the counterattack.
Words of Wisdom
JAY CUTLER has finally become a breakout star—just nowhere near a football field. The former quarterback has stolen the spotlight in his wife's E! reality show, Very Cavallari, leaning into his persona as the indolent other half—spending hours watching live deer cams and offering quotable nuggets such as, "I'm not looking to do a lot of work right now. I'm looking to do the opposite of that." So, as a tribute to apathy personified, we offer the de-motivational sayings of Jay Cutler.
"When you come to a fork in the road, take it—or don't. Whatever."
"Some people want it to happen. Some wish it would happen. And others ... don't really care that much."
"I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I have stopped trying."
"It's not whether you get knocked down; it's how comfy it is down there. Is there a soft bed? I like beds."