Christian Pulisic is openly questioning the way the United States develops its young soccer players.
Pulisic has played in Europe since he was 16.
“Why is it that EU players are allowed to move country once they turn 16 … but non-Europeans can only do so at 18?” Pulisic writes on the Players’ Tribune. “Why aren’t we campaigning for a level playing field, where our best 16 year olds – who may not have an EU passport like I had – are free to move when they turn 16, like the best young players in Europe can? And in the meanwhile, as long as some of our best young players aren’t getting the opportunity like I had to go to Europe when they’re 16 … are we doing everything in our power to make sure the level of play in US soccer is high enough so that they can continue to develop up to their maximum potential?
Pulisic plays down comments from people who see him as the saviour of US soccer: “I’m not a prodigy – or a ‘wonderboy,’ as some have put it.” Instead, while conceding he was born with some natural talent, he says that his experience of going to Europe young helped him develop.
“In the US system, too often the best player on an under-17 team will be treated like a ‘star’ – not having to work for the ball, being the focus of the offense at all times, etc – at a time when they should be having to fight tooth and nail for their spot,” writes Pulisic.
“In Europe, on the other hand, the average level of ability around you is just so much higher. It’s a pool of players where everyone has been ‘the best player,’ and everyone is fighting for a spot – truly week in and week out. Which makes the intensity and humility that you need to bring to the field every day – both from a mental and physical perspective – just unlike anything that you can really experience in US developmental soccer. Without those experiences, there’s simply no way that I would be at anywhere close to the level that I am today.”