Let's talk about the structure of the American lower-league professional system for a second, so you guys in the States who are pursuing a contract will have a better idea of whether it’s worth your time, energy, and money.
The vast majority of the NISA and USL clubs whose attention you’re trying to garner are merely stepping stones to get yourself where you want to be (MLS, Europe, Asia, etc). You are NOT trying to make the 2nd or 3rd tier your permanent home for more than 1-3 seasons. This may seem like common sense to most of you, but I’ve seen players become complacent all too often once they begin seeing their basic living costs paid for and a few extra thousand dollars in their bank account every month. Avoid the trap of staying in these leagues for multiple seasons if you still have youth on your side.
With the influx of foreign players pouring into America and the rise of domestic talent, finding quality clubs after high school/college can be a daunting task. Some say you should feel privileged to even make a professional team, let alone have the ability to pay your bills comfortably and on time. Sure, being able to wake up and play the sport you love for a living is one of the greatest feelings you will ever experience in your life, but at what cost?
Once all the glitz and glamour of signing a contract wears off and your ego has been reduced to a more satisfactory level, what you are left with is the stark reality that what you’ve worked your entire life for up until this point is only worth $12.50/hour. Most of you would counter with, “Well, if you’re playing this game only for the money, then you shouldn’t be playing it at all!”
Valid point - I agree.
What you are signing up for is an opportunity to progress your career, continue your development, and make more money. But does it end here?
Like any professional sport, soccer is a business. Margins need to be increased, pockets need to be lined, and investors want healthy yearly projections. You are a pawn in a game where the biggest piece on the board is not the king, but the creator of the game himself. At the end of the day, you are expendable. You will be used until the value you give to the organization is exhausted.
From personal experience and the knowledge I have acquired speaking with hundreds of professional players here in the States, if you begin your career in the lower tiers of American professional football there’s a very good chance you will never play 1st division. Not only are your chances to progress your career extremely low, it’s even more rare to make a decent living from the sport.
We can go in depth in another article about becoming a multidimensional athlete and how it’s easy to start multiple streams of income once you sign your first contract, but for the sake of time, we’re only going to talk about football.
Here’s the breakdown of how I got to $12.50/hour. If you’re lucky and have a good agent you will be able to negotiate a contract that’s worth $2,000 a month. Some NISA and USL clubs offer money and housing which can add $12,000+/year to your contract in some cities, but on the flip side, some only offer housing. This depends on the budget of the club and how petty they are willing to treat their players.
$2,000month/160 hours a month (what the average American works, maybe a little less for an athlete) = $12.50/hour. The amount of disrespect in this number is astonishing.
The conversation that needs to take place is not so much how we train our players at a young age, rather how we keep them playing the sport until they are adults.
Whether you choose to believe it or not, the game of football is turning into an athlete's playground. Speed, strength, and pure athleticism are becoming the forefront of modern day football. So how come the country with the most world-class athletes can’t beat Panama in a World Cup qualifying game?
- American Football, Basketball, Baseball
- Quality of players
The vast majority of the best athletes in America will always choose to play the sports that allow them to have the greatest ROI on their time. If you want a realistic chance of beating a country who prioritizes the humane treatment of footballers across all age groups, do your best at making the future not look so bleak for the next generation of athletes.