Originally Posted by JJG
First touch and ball control are what really separate most players at the higher levels and critical to the game of soccer. It seems these skills are not pushed early. The "good" players are usually good early on because they are more athletically gifted. When they no longer have such a large physical advantage, they have nothing to fall back on and get frustrated. They end up leaving for sports that better show their athletic abilities.
The second part is we just don't have the culture for it just yet. Yea, a lot of youth play, but there is not much national exposure to the higher levels of the game and it has very little exposure in most inner-cities. It's very hard to compete with other countries who have soccer academies scooping up and cultivating really young players. They have much better player development and coaching their entire lives.
Having said that, it is amazing how far we've come in the last 20 years.
Player development is about funneling talented young athletes into situations where they recieve the best possible coaching as well as competition on their level.
In the States most good athletes at a young age end up in some form of high school sports program, basketball, baseball, football or track and field mostly with a few spilling into swimming.