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The Barcelona Influence On American Youth Soccer

Came across a fascinating video, via the Daily Mail, from the semi-final of the California State Championships in March. This is either under 11 or under 12’s.

The team from the Barcelona academy in the U.S. thrashes an Arsenal side (not affiliated with Arsenal FC) 6-0.

It was not the score that caught my eye, it was the of play. The Tiki-taka style of the Barcelona first team on display in California. Every team member comfortable in possession and always making themselves available for a pass. When they lose it, they immediately begin to hunt down the opposition and win it back.

It’s not a coincidence that the team plays this way. Barcelona USA’s objective is to equip their players with the same technical skills that are passed on through generations at FC Barcelona’s famed academy in Spain, La Masia.

Last year Brian Kleiban, the full-time academy coach at Barcelona USA, took his Under-11 team to Spain and drew 2-2 with the full-time recruits at La Masia. That result is recognition for Kleiban’s work, the gold standard for a team that is training and playing its matches in the USA.

They are rarely beaten, sticking to their passing and possession principles and accepting that on a rare occasion they will be beaten by a kick and rush team. Last year one of Kleiban’s players, Ben Leadermen, went on trial at La Masia and has never come back.

He is about to begin his second year and his progress has been so rapid that he has been given the coveted No10 jersey, the same as the master himself. Most of Kleiban’s players are Hispanic or south American, drawn to Barcelona USA by the promise that they will pick up the habits of the best in the business.

If Barcelona can be this successful with their academy in the U.S., why cannot Major League Soccer teams? Can you imagine a generation of young American players, comfortable on the ball at all times, playing the Tiki-taka style? Think about what that would do for the U.S. national team and soccer here in America in general1