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The <i>Other</i> Football: U.S. soccer needs to ignore 'my way,' find new highway

  • FIFA President Sepp Blatter, center, and Confederation of African Football President Issa Hayatou, back right, leave a press conference in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, April 7, 2015.

    FIFA President Sepp Blatter, center, and Confederation of African Football President Issa Hayatou, back right, leave a press conference in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, April 7, 2015.  (AP)

  • Courtesy of YearZeroSoccer

     (Courtesy of YearZeroSoccer)

  • Courtesy of YearZeroSoccer

     (Courtesy of YearZeroSoccer)

The soccer world is full of experts with wildly differing opinions of how things should be done.Yet when it comes to soccer's ruling bodies, too often it’s their way or the highway.

To fully harness our potential as a soccer powerhouse, the U.S. needs to consider the viewpoints of everyone involved in the game. It's clear that the key to seeing the national team rise in world rankings lies in our ability to find the country's untapped talent.

Year Zero Soccer is on a mission to do just that by giving players from less affluent families a chance to circumvent the prohibitive costs in the sport that keep so many undiscovered.

“The whole idea is open access without having to charge an arm or a leg for some of these things kids around the world do for free,” the organization’s chairman, Jim Hart, told Fox News Latino.

An executive in the telecommunications industry, Hart never played soccer but has become a true believer in the sport and wants to create an even playing field for all-comers.

He told me how his nephew in Denver had been asked to pay $4,000 just for the privilege of playing in a recreational team.

“That’s outrageous,” he complained. “That’s the rec level, which isn’t even a competitive traveling level, where you are talking about $12,000 to up to $20,000 a year.”

Year Zero Soccer’s philosophy is shared by many in the game, but rather than just talking they are putting their ideas into action.

“We are trying to provide an alternate path into youth soccer to (that which) exists today in the pay-to-play system,” said Hart. “We are trying to reach out to folks who aren't being reached.”

Through their website, they offer a free flow of ideas with videos, tutorials and podcasts – sharing them for free with coaches, players and fans worldwide.

“The website is all about open sourcing," said board member Ben Falvo, an entrepreneur who has used his knowledge to help inspire the organization's online presence. "The idea and concept of open source is being able to take concepts and make them your own, and apply that to your everyday game.”

One of Year Zero’s key programs – "Ten Thousand Touches" – was developed and is run by board member Jon Townsend, who played Division 1 soccer at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Kentucky.

The program gives individual players the ability to practice anywhere at any given time – for free.

“I think the value is you don’t need anything fancy,” Townsend told me. “In my training sessions, we don’t have cones, we have shoes, sweaters for goalposts. If we are in a park, we dribble between the trees. How many trees can you touch in a minute?”

Townsend, who gained additional insight from playing in Germany and the Netherlands, has a clear philosophy: “We don’t have to price people out because they don’t have fancy equipment or a fancy field.”

For this board member and his Year Zero Soccer colleagues, it's all about “deep practice” with a lot of similar training – just like musicians would do to perfect their craft. By getting more touches on the ball, a player will improve, he believes. Passing against a wall hundreds of times with both feet, dribbling, juggling or shooting – it's something that can be done alone and virtually anywhere with a bit of open space.

Will the US Soccer chiefs entertain any of Year Zero Soccer ideas? 

They should.

Video of the week

Watch Barcelona’s Luis Suarez nutmeg PSG’s David Luiz, not once but twice, in the first leg of last week’s Champions League semi-final victory where he scored two goals. Barca won 3-1.

From the wires

FIFA president Sepp Blatter says politicians who are unhappy with Russia hosting the 2018 World Cup should "stay at home" during the tournament.

A group of U.S. senators have asked FIFA to move the tournament out of Russia to supplement international sanctions, while Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko reportedly called for a boycott last month.

Meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Blatter says critical politicians should "stay at home, but we're going to be setting up the biggest World Cup in Russia."

In a Russian-language transcript of the conversation published by the Kremlin, Blatter also says that preparations for the tournament are ahead of schedule.

Putin says Russia will "try not to disappoint you, dear Mr. President, and all football fans in the world."