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Jimmy Conrad is an American soccer defender, who currently plays for the Kansas City Wizards of Major League Soccer and the United States national team. He is also team captain[…]

Conrad proposes a European-style farming system.

Question: How can we better farm soccer talent?

Jimmy Conrad: Yeah so in terms of the farming system we have got a roster that when I came in to the league that was, you could only have 18 people in your team and now we can have 28 and so they have created more job opportunities for American players, so now the kids, the college kids have come out who didn’t get drafted or might just fall by the way side in some regard didn’t get seen can still have a chance to be with the team for a year, what they call developmental players and they fit into a raw search something different but they get basically get a year to try out and I think that is great in turn for the American players have more opportunity, with that being said those guys seem to be paid more they are noy paid very well and so there needs to be a little bit more incentive for them to give up a year their life, most of these kids are well educated have degrees and so they could probably get down with doing something else but they are trying to do something they love and potentially could be very good at and help our, not only MLS, but our US national team as well. And so it is important that we I think invest more resources in that, but I don’t even think it starts at that level, I think what is in place is good, obviously outside of the salary, but it is getting those kids earlier and developing youth academies for each club, so right now that is in the process. But how fast can we get that going where if you are in a good under 10 player then we will bring you and for my team Kansas city and you are with us the whole time, so what we are teaching you is the same thing that the full teams the professionals are learning, so by the time you are seventeen or eighteen you are ready to go and join in the pro team, that is how it happens everywhere else in the world, it is just the way our system works in the way our leaders from the front office side see the game as very Americanized and so our models are based on NFL and NBA and major league baseball which doesn’t really work with how the rest of the world works and what is been proven to be successful, so there is obviously a lot of tinkering that needs to be done I think we have the people in place that understand that, I think just think they want a, they are offering us just to be patient and I am one of those guys that is trying to have it both ways where there is still some urgency to their patience, you know that we are still trying to get there as soon as we can, once it is in place then now we can say okay now it is going to take five, ten years, to really before we start seeing you know the seeds of our labor so, that is kind of are the fruits of our labor, that is where I want to get involved I think when I am done playing, I really want to make sure that, happens.

Question: Which teams already have academies?

Jimmy Conrad; There is one team Chivas, USA in Los Angeles has a youth academy I think I want to say DC united has a youth academy as well and the hard part is, thereis so much politics in youth soccer, I think most people would be disgusted with how much there is and how much parent involvement, and I think that happens across the board on most youth sports, but now it is going to be like if we did take lets say 10 under 10 players from one club, what is that club left with now, you know they are feeling left out are, what if we just said you know, we are just going to put our youth, there is a lot of clubs out there, like this is are really one big club in Kansas city what if we just said okay we are just going to put you guys, you guys are now our youth academy, you know how is that fair to the other kids, how do we get to see the other kids, do we play against them and then steal them from it is just going to be interesting how that works and how we massage that situation because there is going to be a lot of upset people and I mean there is going to be no matter what but, how do we despite all that animosity and politics and basically money, that we could be taking from other people by taking their best players and how do we kind of bridge that gap and make sure that it is always in the best interest of the kid and for the sport in general and that we have identified talent and we are trying to give him the best opportunities to not only get a college scholarship, but maybe potentially make money, with something that he is good at.

Question: How do you plan to fix this when you retire?

Jimmy Conrad: I don’t know, I mean I obviously have a lot of ideas in my head, I don’t know where I would get started is what I was going to say, I think ultimately, I would have to sit down, I think what is unknown to a lot of people was that, US soccer who runs National team and our youth, lot of our youth stuff and our referee program is a whole different entity than MLS and there is a lot of, there is a lot of communication that has to happen between both for competitions and you know just the relationship between the national team in our league, but in terms of the youth, I don’t know if they are on the same page with where they are trying to go and what they are trying to do and so and then you have NCAAs as well because the college season is only four months long, so we go from asking the kid who has been in college for four years, he has only played a four month season, becoming and being a pro and playing for ten or eleven months and basically what happens is you have these freshmen or rookies are come in and they are great for four months and then they go all like this for the rest of the year and they might rebound a little bit most of them don’t and so how can we lengthen the season, I don’t know if you know if you can lengthen the NCAA season but how can we get them more opportunities to play on teams, they are still getting meaningful games to lengthen their season and learn how to be professionals andat least give them that opportunity to that option to do that, so I would try to be the guy that would bridge all that communication, I like the talk as you can tell and so it would just be trying to find a nice balance where people can win on both sides, I think I would like to come in and try to set up some sort of program or business plan to make sure that, it is what is best not for them, I mean ultimately, work out for them in the long run, but what is best for our program moving forward, it is about making this game better and making our own kids better, as opposed to relying on foreign talent for our league and so as much as I think it is important that we get some foreign talent here, you know it is nice to know that we have some young American stars that are making a difference as well, because obviously our league would be much better or much more well received if we had somebody of David Beckham’s caliber both on and off the field obviously he is a great player but he is like an A list celebrity and he is global and so you know before our league to really mature and start competing not only with the leagues here but also with soccer leagues around the world.Now that mean, just some form of a people I respecting our process, you know I think there is just a lack of respect around the world for how we do things and how we run things and how our programs coming around and how we teach our kids and I know that I have read some articles from foreign coaches who think that we place too much emphasis on winning at a young age, as supposed to development and that is the problem and so that now we have kids who are burnt out by 13 or 14 because they are not enjoying the game anymore because it is always about winning and that comes, that is just like the American ideal, that has nothing to do with soccer and so that needs to change, it is specifically, probably in all supports, specifically in ours, because we need to really foster creativity and really make sure the kids are enjoying what they are doing and as that goes along then you can start teaching them the finer points of the game.

Recorded On: 3/24/08