How Claudio Reyna is Changing Youth Soccer

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In an effort to be more competitive on the international scene, the United States Soccer Federation will begin from the ground up.

Starting with 6-year olds.

The USSF recently announced that one of the finest American players of all-time, Claudio Reyna, would become the first Youth Technical Director for the federation.

What does that mean to youth soccer?

Nothing drastic--yet. But if Reyna can accomplish what he's envisioning, he will lead the charge toward adjusted curriculum that will trickle down to youth coaches and eventually to players as young as 6 years old, with the hope that the overall level of play in youth soccer across the country improves significantly.

It will take a long time to show results at the national team level--which is the ultimate goal--but U.S. Soccer feels it is a process that has to start now, if the country ever wants to consistently compete with the world's powers in Europe and South America.

"We're talking about grassroots stuff which is, for the most part, the younger age groups," U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said. "I think coaches in that age group are absolutely hungry for information, better ways to do things, the technology to support those things.

"We're going to give people tools and information, and frankly, tools and information from a very credible source. It's pretty hard, when Claudio walks into a room sending a message, to say 'Well, this guy doesn't know what he's talking about.'"

Reyna grew up in New Jersey, the son of an Argentinean professional soccer player. He competed in four World Cups between 1994 and 2006 to go along with a 15-year pro career both abroad and in Major League Soccer.

The creation of Reyna's position follows the launch of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy in 2007.

Reyna's goal is not to locate and develop the best young players in the country. It's to be the leader of a nationwide effort to improve the level of soccer as a whole. As the talent level in general increases, Reyna explains, so too will the talent level of the country's best players.

"After evaluating the elite player development process in the U.S., the best way to improve the large base of youth players is to focus on developing their coaches," Reyna said. "By providing better direction for our coaches, we can begin to improve the environment for our youth players, which is a crucial element for their development."

The USSF doesn't hide the fact that part of their strategy is to see how successful soccer nations develop young players and implement those ideas into the American system. Reyna, with Argentinean roots and years of experience in Europe, is as in touch with the soccer world as anybody.

With experience and knowledge in his back pocket, Reyna is getting to work developing ways to make better soccer players in the United States.

Youth soccer at all levels will soon see what Reyna comes up with.

"We have short-term goals and the main one is to finish up the curriculum," Reyna said. "The next step is obviously getting it out there to coaches. We're looking for the best way to get it out there at the right time. We want to make sure it's right and we want to make it available to everyone at every level."

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