Phoenix is strongly making its case as the best place for youth soccer in the United States. Although one should take many factors into consideration when evaluating a metro area for its ability to develop players, it's clear that the level of competition in and around the Phoenix area is as strong as any other place in the U.S.
During the World Cup next summer, United States supporters across the nation will attend watch parties in droves, frequent bars adorned in red, white and blue and flood sporting goods stores to buy new jerseys.
There's no denying that World Cup Fever is a nationwide phenomenon every four years, but the players responsible for the frenzy do not necessarily come from all corners of the country.
In order to get a better idea of what areas of the U.S. develop the best soccer talent, we looked at where current and past members of the USMNT spent the majoirty of their childhood.
United States U-17 striker Tim Weah has signed his first professional contract with Paris Saint-Germain, a three-year deal that will keep the player at the club until 2020.
Tim, like his older brother George Jr. before him, is scrutinized more than your average footballer by virtue of being the son of George Weah, the 1995 Ballon d’Or winner.
George Weah making Bayern Munich look silly in 1994.... pic.twitter.com/UsH83GbdRK
While Germany’s A-team takes a much-needed breather before next summer’s World Cup finals, Germany’s B-team have advanced to the final of the Confederations Cup and Germany’s C-team have just captured the UEFA European Under-21 Championship. One can only imagine what it’s like to support the German national team.
The much-heralded attacking talents of Spain, spearheaded by Real Madrid’s Marco Asensio and Atletico’s Saúl, could only manage a single shot on target against Germany in the final.
It is no surprise that Belgium team Anderlecht signed Moroccan superstar Rayane Bounida when he was only seven. The Belgium side has a knack for bringing in star youth players such as Romelu Lukaku, Youri Tielemans and Vincent Kompany. Bounida already possesses skills that professional players dream of.
The most common pitfall for youth players is an understanding of tactics and positioning. Smart and quick on his feet, Rayane seems to have a great understanding of the game already. His most recent highlight compilation will drop your jaw.
Spain’s team competing at the UEFA U-21 Euros is ridiculously talented, as we’ve laid out before.
Saúl Ñíguez is making a case to be the best of the lot.
The Atletico Madrid midfielder notched a brilliant hat trick to send Spain past 10-man Italy 3-1 in the semifinals to set up a date with Germany in the final on Friday.
Poor Gianluigi Donnarumma didn’t have a chance.
With registered youth soccer players in the United States growing from just over 100,000 in 1974 to over 3 million by 2014, the landscape of the sport has changed drastically over the last 40 years. As soccer has grown, tournament hosts have similarly had to adapt to greater numbers and greater competition while providing some of the best facilities and fields in the world.
Seventeen-year-old Orlando City SC U-17/18 forward Alejandro Pereira put the exclamation point on a year that’s had its fair share of incredibly acrobatic goals with this breathtaking overhead kick at the 2017 U.S. Soccer Development Academy Playoffs in Westfield, Indiana.
The Ovideo, Florida native put the finishing touches on a 2-0 victory for Orlando over Pateadores U-17/18, a club from Irvine, California.
Spain will approach the 2018 World Cup as a nation largely in transition. Nobody’s ready to write off the likes of Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Andres Iniesta, David Silva and Cesc Fabregas, but this could well be the last World Cup for all of them.
If history repeats itself, we should expect Real Madrid or Barcelona to splash cash on promising youth prodigies. Earlier this year, Real Madrid spent 45 million Euros on 16-year-old Vinicius Junior, who doesn't have any first team experience.