I’m looking at the usyouthsoccer.org website. It says 3,055,148 youths in the U.S. played soccer, based on 2014 statistics. Of that total, 72,999 were in North Carolina. The gender breakdown is tilted to males, but it’s basically 50-50.
With those numbers kicking balls year-round, you’d think North Carolina State’s football team could find a steady placekicker.
But last week, the Wolfpack converted only one of four attempts from 43, 37, 33 and 28 yards at Clemson. Because sophomore Kyle Bambard only made the 28-yarder, N.C. State let an opportunity to upset the No. 3-ranked Tigers slip through its paws — or drift to the right of the goal posts, to use another simile.
Bambard, who is from Wixom, Mi., by the way, missed a 33-yard attempt as time expired. The score remained tied and N.C. State lost in overtime, 24-17. Earlier, he missed a 43-yarder and had a 37-yarder blocked.
Also note that Bambard took over the placekicking role after graduate student Connor Haskins missed two field goals against East Carolina in a 33-30 loss. With a stronger kicking game, the Wolfpack could be 6-0, ranked in the Top 25 and leading the ACC Atlantic that features three Top 25 teams: No. 4 Clemson, No. 7 Louisville and No. 13 Florida State.
I don’t bring this up to embarrass Bambard. To quote president Teddy Roosevelt, at least Bambard lined up in the arena: “[A]nd who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
No, I bring this up as evidence to support my long-held belief that soccer in the United States is one of the longest running scams in youth sports. It’s rivaled only by a vast number of tennis academies that fail to develop talent to compete on the international level.
Since the 1970s, U.S. Soccer has been coaxing parents into forking over fees to train year-round on club teams. A lot of coaches have made a lot of money. Their appeal to parents has been to make soccer the preeminent sport in the county and to compete on the international stage.
They don’t tell parents men’s college soccer teams are limited to awarding 9.9 scholarships that are spread out as partial scholarships (the women’s college soccer limit is 14).
The club soccer marketing has worked fine for the USA women’s national talent, but the USA men’s national soccer team continues to abysmally trail the world (and smaller Central American nations such as Panama). That’s because in the past 40 years, unlike Europe, Central America and South America, our best athletes still play American football and other sports rather than soccer.
My question is, why haven’t youth soccer club coaches recognized that cross-training soccer players as football placekickers can be beneficial?
Out of 72,999 in North Carolina, they ought to be able to develop one for N.C. State to convert a 33-yard field goal under pressure.
In the 1960s, European-born kickers such as Pete and Charlie Gogolak transformed football placekicking in college and then the NFL. They made it look easy. The square-toed shoe for the old straight-on approach is a museum piece.
If you ever saw Garo Yapremian kick for the Super Bowl champion Miami Dolphins in the 1970s, you know it doesn’t take a good athlete to be one of the best kickers in the NFL.
But despite 3 million-some kids playing soccer, there is still a shortage of reliable kickers at an ACC school such as N.C. State.
I say a parent can get a better return on their club soccer fees watching their son carried off the field by football teammates after a game-winning field goal. For that matter, maybe a daughter with a Mia Hamm-like leg could develop into a football kicker.
That seems more likely than playing for a USA men’s soccer national team that wins a World Cup or Olympic medal.
ACC Division Races
Clemson (7-0, 4-0 ACC Atlantic) remains unbeaten and in the driver’s seat for the ACC Atlantic title and a return to the ACC Championship Game. But N.C. State showed us Clemson is beatable. Somehow, the Tigers survived five turnovers in a 42-36 victory over Louisville and four against N.C. State.
Nevertheless, No. 4-ranked Clemson’s wins over No. 7 Louisville (5-1, 3-1 ACC Atlantic) and N.C. State (4-2, 1-1 ACC Atlantic) mean the Tigers have to lose two league games to yield their tiebreaker advantage over Louisville and N.C. State and three over Florida State.
North Carolina might be the team to beat Clemson if the two meet for a rematch in the ACC Championship game. The Tar Heels (5-2, 3-1 ACC Coastal) returned to the rankings at No. 22 this week following their 20-13 win at then-No. 16 Miami.
In the ACC Coastal, North Carolina is tied in the loss column with Pitt (5-2, 2-1), Virginia Tech (4-2, 2-1) and Virginia (2-4, 1-1).
The Tar Heels hold the tiebreaker on Pitt based on a 37-36 win. Virginia Tech beat North Carolina, but the Hokies aren’t likely to finish the year with only one league loss. North Carolina plays Virginia on Oct. 22 in Charlottesville.