Baltimore Blast goalkeeper William Vanzela said the problems facing soccer in America run deeper than the U.S. men's national team missing the World Cup for the first time since 1986.
"We're talking about the World Cup itself and this ... game that we lost yesterday, but it's much bigger than that -- the reality is that the system is wrong," Vanzela told
Glenn Clark Radio
Oct. 11, a day after the U.S. men's national team lost to Trinidad and Tobago with its World Cup berth on the line.
Originally from Cascavel, Brazil, Vanzela moved five hours away when he was selected for a soccer academy at 13. He said his schedule was quite different than the typical U.S. youth soccer player.
"You're talking about at least five hours a day of soccer, and if you times that by five days a week, plus the game on the weekend, we're talking about a lot of hours that you develop a soccer player," Vanzela said of his time at the academy. "Compared to the U.S. when you have two sessions a week and plus maybe a game … so the skills level are not going to be even close. You really cannot match that."
Entering his fifth season in the Major Arena Soccer League, Vanzela holds the MASL record for lowest goals against average in a season (2.83), which he set during the 2014-15 season and was named Goalkeeper of the Year.
"The goal from every Brazilian kid is to become a soccer player, a professional soccer player; we play soccer in the U.S. to try to get a full ride for a college, and this is the difference," Vanzela said. "I'm not talking about the system, which I think is better for the 99 percent of the kids [who do not become professional soccer players], but I'm talking about soccer itself, it's just the reality."
Vanzela said other factors hurt the development of soccer in the U.S. as well, such as coaches at the youth level who don't have soccer experience, the fact that U.S. soccer doesn't have much of a legacy and that most other U.S. sports are hand-skilled based.
"I'm trying to, as much as possible, to talk to everyone I know to give the kids some freedom to play soccer," he said. "I really think the coaches are right now telling the kids way too much what they do, what they are supposed to do on the field. They became robots on the field today; [they] move exactly where they need to be and they can't solve problems on the field."
Also the goalie coach for the Johns Hopkins men's soccer team, Vanzela said he would like to see coaches watching film sessions with kids. He also wondered what some of America's best athletes would look like playing soccer instead of other sports.
"You have the best athletes in the world, but not all of them are playing soccer, so I am very curious to see how that would be if you have everybody playing soccer in the U.S.," Vanzela said. "Can you imagine Kobe Bryant training soccer for his whole life, what kind of player he could be? That's something I don't think we'll ever change."
For more from Vanzela, listen to the full interview here: