BRIAN SCIARETTA - Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Last week USSF president Sunil Gulati annouced that former US National Team captain Claudio Reyna has been appointed as the Federation's Youth Technical Director.

Reyna's hiring marks the start of an ambitious long-term program for the USSF where they will try to significantly improve both the quality and structure of youth player development in the United States.

Gulati said that Reyna's job will be to work with young players from the U-6 levels all the way through the U-20's.

"It's as much a coaching development plan as it is a player development plan," Gulati said at last week's media conference call on the goals he has for Reyna's project. "We think those two are linked. The first part of the goal is to have a curriculum that raises the average level, it's not to take 10-11 year olds and put them into some special place like Bradenton or something like that. It's to raise the average level across the country, improve the experience and the developmental process so all of those kids get better."

"As they get better and we identify them, naturally, across the country they're going to move around to different clubs," Gulati continued. "But the goal right now isn't to identify the best 10 year olds and put them into the training environment. That is a process that has to happen at a local level in a country of our size."

Reyna, 36, has long been considered one of the best US players of all-time. He participated in four World Cups and in 2002 was named to the World Cup's best eleven. He was a significant contributor to Wolfsburg, Rangers, Sunderland, and Manchester City. He played in the Champions League and wore the captain's armband for Sunderland and Wolfsburg.

Prior his European career, he was the Gatorade National player of the year for St. Benedicts Prep in New Jersey for his senior year in high school. He would then go on to lead the University of Virginia to three national titles during each of his three seasons playing for the Cavaliers.

With his new role now as technical director, he will try to use his experience and knowledge of the sport's unique stature in the United States to foster improved player development at the youth level where it's needed the most.

"Being a player born here in the US, I went through many different parts of our development system. Playing abroad and then coming back to the US and now being involved in the youth game, I've been able to get real experience that's allowed me to view where our game is and assess it throughout the country. So with all that I was really essentially trying to put together a little bit of a plan and a structure to help better the soccer environment in our country. We always need to review and assess what we are doing and that is happening at the moment as [we are also] finalizing our curriculum."

The program is very much a long term project for the USSF but it will focus on improving coaching and how coaches recognize talent in this country. It will also look to improve the technical ability of the young players of the country.

"By providing better direction for our coaches we can begin to improve the environment for our youth players, which is a crucial element for their development," Reyna said of the need to improve youth coaching.

Gulati said that he is not afraid of potential resistance to change from current youth coaches because Reyna's impressive resume, which includes excelling at the highest levels of the game, will command immediate respect.

"I think we're going to give people tools and information, and frankly, tools and information coming from a very credible source," Gulati concluded. "It's pretty hard, when Claudio walks into a room sending the message, to say, ‘Well, this guy doesn't know what he's talking about.'"