FIFA President Gianni Infantino slams the United States' pay-to-play system

Infantino is the latest soccer personality to criticize the United States’ infamous pay-to-play system.

During the 2024 Milken Institute Global Conference held in Los Angeles, FIFA president Gianni Infantino revealed an observation that has surprised him about soccer in the United States: the prevalence of the pay-to-play system. 

According to the head of FIFA, for American soccer to achieve its maximum potential, the nation must get rid this significant obstacle to participation in the youth ranks.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino criticizes pay-to-play system in the United States

In an interview with renowned sportscaster Jim Gray, Infanito talked about all things United States in the world of soccer, most notably disapproving the country’s pay-to-play system at the youth level.

“One of the things which shocked me here in America is that children have to pay in order to play [soccer]. We have to stop this,” said Infantino.

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“I’m Italian, I grew up in a little Swiss Village in the middle of the mountains. There was a soccer team there, which played in the sixth highest division, so, it was very small and they had 23 teams.

“And this is all organized and privately funded. So, the local guy who has a restaurant gives the jerseys. The lawyer who has a little bit more money spends on shoes. Privately you create this, movement that makes sure that every kid plays,” he added.

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Infantino is not the first global personality to knock this system in the United States, with legendary player and former LA Galaxy striker Zlatan Ibrahimović criticizing the price of playing soccer around the country.

"For example, in order for my children to play in a good football team, I have to pay $3,500 per child. It is not for the figure, but for the whole concept,” said Ibrahimović.

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“I dislike it very much because not everyone has the money needed and the sport should be something for everyone, because it unites people of whatever origin.”

Infantino also expressed the need for MLS to bring in the best players possible to show youth across the country that there is a path to becoming one of the world’s stars.

“We want to see the best so we need to bring them the best players, but also the best game, and the best spectacle.”

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“For this, we need to invest in the players because we want to show to the kids who play soccer when they are at school or when they are very young, that there is a path in soccer to glory to become one of these world stars,” said the 54-year-old.

Infantino, along with over a hundred personnel from FIFA's main office in Zurich, recently relocated from Qatar, where the 2022 World Cup was held, to Coral Gables, Florida, to oversee preparations for the upcoming 48-team men's World Cup in 2026, as well as for the upcoming first-edition of the Club World Cup in 2025.

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