The NCAA is a fine institution which gives so much to US sportsmen and women. But in the world of football (soccer), it is failing America—badly.
If America is serious about ever winning the World Cup, then it has to step out of the collegiate system to move forward.
It is my view that the US system is not set up to produce world-beaters and great players, but only average players. That may be harsh, but let me explain my thinking behind this statement.
The American system is based on the collegiate programs that, whilst providing a group of well-rounded and well-educated players, is not helping to produce the best "soccer" players that the US can produce.
The university system does not have the best coaches to teach the players the skills needed to make them the best they can be. It also doesn't have experienced players for the freshmen and juniors to learn from.
If you have a young boy who is fantastically talented at soccer and he wants to be the best in the world, where should he go and learn?
With the best in the world, you would say.
That would mean that he would need to go to one of the European academies or one of the Brazilian soccer schools; not to Duke, UNC, or Wherever University.
The education an American would get at a US university in soccer is second-rate by comparison. The overall education is arguably second to none, but from a soccer standpoint it is not the best.
Don't get me wrong; some of the programs are excellent and some of the coaches are marvelous, but are they the same level of excellence as Ajax of Amsterdam's Academy? Or Manchester United's Academy?
I think not.
You only have to look at Freddy Adu (I know he didn't go to college), who as a kid had the chance to learn from the best in Europe, but chose to play for D.C. United in Washington.
Hardly the best place to get your soccer education, is it?
Because of his cautious approach to his football education, he is now at that famous club, Aris Thessaloniki F.C. in Greece. Not quite the shining bastion of footballing excellence (apologies to any Aris fans).
Another barrier against the US collegiate system is the age.
American boys spend four years in college. The most important years in developing your skills in an artificial arena where all they learn is how to play against other college kids.
Ah, but you say it works in "football' (American football to everyone else) and basketball.
Yes, it does, but as the main proponents of those sports, it is a level playing field. All (the vast majority) will have gone through the collegiate system so they gain nothing nor lose anything.
Until the US get young and gifted players to forgo the US collegiate system and go straight to the best programs in the world—i.e. the top football clubs—they will produce players who are just not good enough to be world-beaters.