In the summer of 2018, 32 teams will compete for the World Cup of soccer in Russia. One notable absence in the tournament will be the United States Men’s National Team.

The Americans failed to qualify for the world cup after falling to Trinidad and Tobago. For reference, there are 1.32 million people in the Caribbean Nation compared to 323.1 million in the United States.

So why can’t one of the greatest (and largest) countries in the world make a dent on the world stage of men’s soccer? Disclaimer: this article discludes the United States Women’s National team, as it has been one of the most dominant at the national level.

The first thing you need to do when discussing this, is to take a look at the youth level of soccer in the United States.

There is a certain development of technical skills that a child needs at a young age and certain skills that the individual can’t learn from a coach.

“Coaches instruct too much at times instead of letting the game be the teacher,” Corning Hawks head soccer coach Steve Mastronardi said. “ Soccer isn’t scripted most of the time as the players make the decisions on the field with or without the ball at all positions. It is not like most American sports that require a coach/team to call specific plays constantly and make decisions to manipulate an offense or defense.”

Mastronardi has seen and coached at all levels of youth soccer from age eight to the high school level, as well as holding multiple coaching licenses in soccer. He urges all coaches at the youth level to receive formal education from the United States Soccer Federation or United Soccer Coaches.

“Looking up activities, skills, formations is good, but only takes a coach so far to teach the game the way it should be taught,” said Mastronardi. “Session planning and understanding the variables of the age one coaches is huge to make the game better.”

Coaches at the youth level can register online for a webinar at that will teach the coach how to make the game fun and exciting for 5-8 year olds and a basic coaching license.

Elmira Express head coach Derek Hamilton, who has had 15 plus years experience coaching youth soccer through all levels, believes the youth involvement comes down to the “pay-to-play” model which is ostracizing a part of the youth population around the United States.

“Unfortunately, the "pay to play" system is a major deterrent to many families in America. Not only do most soccer clubs charge players to play (some more than others), but that money does not include uniforms, travel expenses, training expenses, etc. so the cost can climb to a point where only affluent families can afford,” said Hamilton. “We are missing out on a number of quality athletes due to this reason.”

One of the factors that could contribute to the future success of U.S. soccer at the national level is 19-year old Christian Pulisic, which could have a trickle-down effect on the popularity of soccer.

Pulisic is arguably the most talented player the United States has seen (sans goalkeeper) already. He currently plays for German powerhouse Borussia Dortmund after starring in the United State youth national ranks. He moved to Germany to further hone his skills. Having a potential idol for young soccer players in the United States can never be a bad thing, despite taking a slightly different route.

“In the USA, most professional players play club and high school soccer (sometimes in the US Soccer Development Academy), then move on to a Division I College program before turning professional,” Hamilton said. “Pulisic has been involved with professional clubs since the age of 7, as most other professional players in other countries have. That could explain his accelerated development in comparison to other American players.”

At the national level, the United States will have to wait until 2022 in Qatar to get another chance on the world stage, with the head coaching slot currently vacant following the departure of Bruce Arena and the United States Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati not seeking re-election.

“New and fresh leadership from the US president to National team coach with ideals to shake soccer up at all levels and to maintain the pipeline with clear objectives with development needs to be at the forefront,” said Mastronardi. “Play our young talented players and be willing to motivate them - which has been lacking for a long time. We have the players to reinvent ourselves for 2022 but it comes down to an innate ability to put egos aside for the betterment of the game.”

Locally, if you want to sign your child up for youth soccer in the Corning area, visit or contact the local YMCA for information on upcoming programs.