Scouting Players in the U.S. Amateur Scene


Introduction

For the past few years this more and more people have been asserting to top European clubs the following statement "There are talented players here in America". The responses from European scouts have ranged from bewilderment and amusement in some cases, to full agreement in other cases. To the uninformed, the general perception is that American players "are not good enough" ... Nothing could be further from the truth! Various European teams from England, Spain, Croatia and others have active scouts in the United States, and have been recruiting talented players from the United States.

Amateurism in the United States

Amateurs in the United States, when not playing in the NCAA (collegiate) system, play in the PDL, NPSL or the USASA leagues. These lower level teams have already been a disruptive presence in the U.S Open Cup (the FA Cup of the United States), and in recent years some of these teams have successfully knocked off MLS teams.

Key Points

1. In the U.S. Open Cup, these players are amateurs who get to compete against professionals in the later stages.

2. Since they are amateurs they are actually available as FREE TRANSFERS (if you do not consider training compensation).

3. There are a good number of these players who are ELIGIBLE to play in Europe, either because they are European, they were born in Europe or their parents or grandparents are European.

4. In the absence of a promotion and relegation system, the differences in talent level between the respective tiers of the American pyramid system can be small in some cases.

Can Teams Find Success in Scouting American Amateurs?

MLS teams have quietly been unearthing talented first-team players from the amateur ranks. These players in most cases come directly from their academies and are signed under 'home-grown' contracts. The most notable players are Gyasi Zardes of the Los Angeles Galaxy and Diego Fagundez of the New England Revolution. In the 2013 season, Zardes scored 4 goals and Fagundez scored 13 goals for their respective teams.

Another player of interest is the former U.C. Santa Barbara sophomore, Ema Boateng, who was signed directly in the first team by Helsingsborgs IF of Sweden. Boateng had an immediate impact for Helsingsborg, scoring several goals in his first few games.

A study of the history books will reveal many talented players who emerged from the NASL era to the current period. Therefore, one can only conclude that it is advantageous for teams in Europe to consider North America as a viable talent pool.

What are the Risks of Scouting in America?

All teams are RISK averse. However when scouting the American amateur scene, we advocate developing a completely separate scouting model to mitigate any risks (financial, roster allocation etc.). The methodology is as follows:

1. Separate American Scouting from Traditional Scouting - DO NOT look at them in the same way.

2. Do not allow being risk averse, to drive you into making only conservative decisions. Conservatism at its worst drives teams towards relegation.

3. Have a small budget dedicated to scouting in America.

4. Have a trusted scout (defined below) in America to look at the amateur scene.

5. Strive to identify players who have European citizenship and ALWAYS enquire because in many cases the players are NOT obviously European.

5. Since the American amateur season runs in the Summer from May until August, prepare to have a small list of players you are interested in by the end of July. Your scout can work with coaches to learn about players on team rosters.

6. Invite the players to TRAIN with the RESERVE TEAM for 2 months and see how they perform. 

7. If they perform well, can be brought into a RESERVE TEAM structure for further evaluation.

8. The focus should always be this reserve team structure, which allows teams to work within a comfortable RISK LEVEL. It should be added that MLS teams follow this scheme for their homegrown players, with a good number graduating to the reserves or the first team).

9. Lastly - allow some small consideration for special talents who are not European (this is a separate methodology). Ema Boateng is an example of this kind of player.

Click this LINK to read our presentation on "How 'Small Teams' Can Win In Scouting and Recruiting Players".

Summary

Scouting in America using this method could yield a return on investment that could outweighs any perceived risk. If the player is good, your team would have identified a good player at little cost (what you have budgeted for scouting) that you can develop within your system. The WRONG thing to do is to DISMISS scouting an American based player out-of-hand. Most teams are already at a disadvantage in the transfer market, where budgets are tight and bigger teams have first selection on prized talent.

Consider these ideas and look at the current trends. Concorde Sports Agency can help teams interested in scouting talented players within the United States. We evaluate players in various ways, and notify teams on prospective talents.

Concorde Sports Agency is a California based sports marketing firm. Concorde Sports Agency is compliant with FIFA Statutes and Regulations as well U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) Licensed Players Agent Policies. Concorde Sports Agency is on the FIFA Players' Agent Registry - http://www.fifa.com/aboutfifa/organisation/footballgovernance/playeragents/association=usa.html