Michael S. Winograd
Candidate for President of the United States Soccer Federation
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How can youth soccer be better organized from a structural and administrative aspect?
This question goes back to my first key strategic initiative — US Soccer must bring constituents affected by key decisions into the decision-making process. That starts with effective communication with those constituents and giving weight to their informed views.

As I look at the youth soccer landscape now, it is quite frankly, difficult to follow. Youth soccer has become a conglomerate of so many competing and discrete businesses that the consumer no longer knows which product is for what. Different leagues within the same state overlap or even compete with one another. And they are not always governed by the same rules and requirements, which can create uneven playing fields.

We should take a fresh look at youth soccer’s organizational structure on a state by state basis. We need to implement uniform standards and ensure fairness across youth soccer in all states, and then work together to structure the youth landscape in any given state in a way that makes the most sense for that state, taking into account existing entities, geography, demographics and other key factors. And we must clearly define that structure and its individual components to the consumer.

All of this begins with listening to and involving those with their boots on the ground. And it requires strong and collaborative leadership to get all entities, whether independent or not, rowing in the same direction in an integrated, clearly defined structure.

Should we have Promotion/Relegation in US Pro Leagues?
Few things would be as exciting for US Soccer as pro/rel in our professional leagues. But with MLS franchise rights going for $150 million, implementing pro/rel has significant obstacles. As a first step, we should continue to work on building the strength and profitability of the lower divisions.

And we do not need to think of pro/rel as a binary, all or nothing choice. There could be a middle ground. For example, pro/rel could be structured using designated “guest” spots. The top two lower division teams would be eligible for promotion, but only if “guest” spots are open in the league above. How do they open? If at the end of the season, a guest team is not in the bottom three of its conference, it stays in that league as a guest for the next season. If it is in the bottom three, it gets relegated and the guest spot opens up for a new promotion from the lower division. Certain teams would not be eligible for relegation below their home leagues. So, for example, MLS franchise teams would stay in MLS permanently without any possibility of relegation. Leagues could agree upon how much or little to integrate guest teams financially and administratively.

In the meantime, though, we should continue to focus on strengthening our lower divisions and expanding them into more markets.

How can we work to ensure our National Teams are meeting on-field expectations?
There’s a short term and long term answer to that. Obviously, on the men’s side, lots of people are concerned with some of US Soccer’s coaching decisions. I have opinions on those just like everyone else, but I am mostly concerned with the process. How were those decisions made and with whose input? As I’ve outlined in my first key strategic initiative, those sorts of decisions must be made with input from an appropriate advisory committee.

But I think the main point, really our first step, has to be to re- evaluate our system for developing elite young athletes. We need to do a better job of identifying talent and enabling that talent to get in front of good coaches at a young age. That ties into my key strategic initiative of reducing cost barriers in youth soccer and coaching education.

In addition, however, we need to clearly define the path to our National Teams.

That path should run primarily through an expansion of the current US Training Center Program. US Soccer should create a US Soccer State Training Center in each state (more than one for larger states). It should house one to two fields and a full time US Soccer State Director responsible for scouting and training. Scouting should be across all leagues, with training during pre- announced blackout days or weekends throughout the year.

At the time, the State Director should be charged with collaborating with the State Association, USS DA and other leagues to ensure that competition in that state is structured in an effective and integrated way that maximizes player development, including by giving due consideration to travel times, practice times and geographic and demographic realities within the state.