Posts Tagged ‘NASL’

Traffic and FIFA training compensation solidarity

Traffic and FIFA training compensation solidarity

In Part 2 of my interview with NASL CEO and Traffic vice president Aaron Davidson, we spoke about the changing business of soccer in the United States and why the NCAA’s recently relaxed restrictions and FIFA’s training compensation and solidarity mechanism will likely play important roles in the development of the sport.

LE: There was talk of Miami FC [now Fort Lauderdale Strikers] building a residential academy, yes?Davidson: We’d like to, but right now we’re more involved with the stabilization and growth of second division NASL than I originally thought we’d be and that’s our focus right now. We’ve got to stabilize it, we’ve got to find the right ownership for the teams that we’re involved with.

We also have to decide if we build an academy as Traffic, where do we build it? There’s a lot of great options. There’s South Florida, with Fort Lauderdale Stadium right next to Lockhart Stadium, which we’ve renovated and converted mainly to soccer and that could be a great location for an academy. Carolina has a phenomenal facility, there’s a great opportunity to build out an academy there. Minnesota that facility has dorms and they have indoor soccer facilities as well. Weather wise, we prefer to be in the southern part of the United States, but we still haven’t made a decision if and where and when to place our academy.

LE: Would you bring young internationals into the residential academy to give them the benefit of American education or would you bring in American youth players?

Davidson: You bring up a great point. We talked about Brazilian players, not necessarily the best ones, making it to the United States at a younger age it’s a great opportunity to bring Brazilians to the United States and athletes from around the world.

How many Olympians train in the United States? There are hundreds of Olympians that either went to university in this country or trained in this country prior to the Olympics.

We’ve got the best training infrastructure in the world. Why wouldn’t we be a destination for athletes of any sport including soccer to come train, acculturate and prepare themselves for their pro careers? If you can give a Brazilian, an Argentine, a Mexican, Europeans, Africans, a chance to come and acculturate in the United States and train with the best not necessarily with the best soccer, but train with the best infrastructure, nutrition and everything else this country has to offer it’s just a phenomenal foundation.

LE: How important was the relaxation of NCAA restrictions last summer?

Davidson: I believe the relaxation in NCAA restrictions came in a large part from the NBA, but we now have the benefit of pre college players having a chance to play with the pros without losing college eligibility.

It’s a huge deal and something that hasn’t been significantly covered yet for any sport, but it’s going to change the face of soccer in this country. It has to change because soccer is a young sport, it’s young around the world. It’s younger than NFL where you have to have certain physical attributes to play on the pro level, and even NBA because you still can grow beyond 18, so it’s tough to compete with players that are 22 and 23. We need the best soccer players playing at 18 and younger.

LE: The next issue arising is development transfer fees for players coming up from a younger club to a professional club.

Davidson: You’re on the pulse. Solidarity and training compensation. There’s a rhyme and a reason for that. The problem is soccer was built during the original NASL at the grass roots level and it became a pay to play sport. The youth clubs, the way they developed they’re not related to pro teams because pro teams were pretty much out of commission between 1984 and 1996. So you had all these youth clubs growing unchecked by pro teams and they do whatever they want. It’s not a bad thing. Now the paradigm is shifting a bit and now the youth clubs and the pro teams are learning how to work together and how to complement what each other do.

LE: But the pro clubs are cherry picking top players without compensation to their clubs and then those youth clubs have to compete in the Academy Development League against the very players they developed.

Davidson: It’s a shifting paradigm. Ultimately, when an immigrant comes to Miami or New York or moves from market to market within this country, you’re going to want the point of reference to be the pro team. If a kid wants to play soccer at a high level he’s going to want to train with the pro team.

LE: But if a kid has been brought up through a development team that’s invested in him, maybe even carried him as a scholarship player by raising the prices of the other players, and then he gets picked off by an MLS club and there’s no fee back to the development club, that’s a problem, isn’t it?

Davidson: Absolutely. As soccer matures, and it’s still in diapers in this country, just like we’re going through some serious things with the NASL second division, these are not surprises. These should be fully expected growing pains for the sport in this country. People should be thrilled about what we’re doing with NASL and the second division.

And guess what, it happens at all levels. So as it matures at the first and second division level, the youth clubs what’s their role? We’ve got to figure it out and there’s got to be trickle down. In life, if there’s not an alignment of interests, it doesn’t work. Life doesn’t work if people’s interests aren’t in line. Everyone needs to know their role in the game in this country and we’re going to have to work really hard to define the role of the youth clubs, amateur clubs, fourth division, third division, second division and first division. People need to feel like they’re part of the system.

LE: How can professional clubs compensate youth development clubs for their players? What about affiliations ‘This is how we want players developed, we want that kid you have, and we’ll compensate you for developing him the right way.’ How is that going to work?

Davidson: The youth clubs, little by little they’ll start understanding their role in the system and they’re going to expect, they’re going to demand that they’re recognized for their effort if they play a role. As of today, the youth clubs are profit centers, whereas the pro teams haven’t made money yet in this country. They just haven’t. There’s not consistent profit making in any pro team in this country yet.

LE: But abroad, isn’t a substantial portion of club profits from player sales based on youth development?

Davidson: Absolutely. The pro teams need to work more with the youth clubs so they get the best training. The academies serve a great purpose to start consolidating the best players and coaches in this country. This is a big country, huge, so it’s not easy to get the right coaches with the right players.