An American at Barcelona

Tuesday, April 26, 2011 | View Comments
- Jason Davis

There's an American at Barcelona. Included in the ranks of the club's famed academy based on the grounds of La Masia, is a player born and raised in the United States of America. Let us celebrate, because this is a landmark happening for American soccer.

Okay, so the player is question is ten years old, and his acceptance into Barcelona's academy is more of a big picture, small-step moment on the path the some unspecified destination than an indication soccer is finally big time or that the sport has "made it." There are no guarantees that this boy will ever play for Barcelona's senior team or earn a cap for the USMNT, much less star for either. It's hardly even worth mentioning his name, in part because there's no reason to know it right now. As a pre-teen, he has years of learning ahead of him before he reaches a point where it will be worthwhile to track his progress.

But his name is Ben Lederman, and the excellent development blog 3four3 has the full story on how he earned his invitation to the same academy that produced Messi and Xavi.

For all the excitement Ben's matriculation should cause, America's soccer future won't be determined by our kids heading off to places like Barcelona. Rather than prove that our players are getting better at younger ages (they probably are, but MLS and our national teams are the better indicators), Barcelona bringing in an American just shows how wide the net for talent is cast in the modern footballing world. No stone is left unturned, and the US is one of the few frontiers left somewhat unexplored. As foreign clubs install scouting networks in the States, the number of youngsters going abroad will probably grow exponentially*.

As long as we don't foist expectations on a 10-year old boy, it's okay to dream. Not necessarily that Ben becomes a world class soccer player, but that there are more like him in the near future learning at the best possible places. Not just at Barcelona, but at other clubs, and especially at American ones. And that at least a few of those American clubs turn themselves into proven producers of top-quality soccer players. We'll probably always export talent in some measure, whether they be very young like Ben or young professionals with growing reputations and mountains of promise like Altidore and Agudelo; the best we can hope for is that the ones that go abroad do well. The numbers of players getting quality instruction matters more than getting a few into the best academies. La Masia. That's pretty cool.

Now go read the story of Ben's trial. The story is the thing, for now.

*I'm not exactly clear on how Ben's move, or any move of a player under the age of 18, fits in with FIFA's recent guideline changes. This will take some investigation, but there are obviously exceptions. Like for this 15-year old from Georgia who is with the West Ham academy.

Should be clear that Lederman is not the first American at Barcelona, something I've learned from the response to this post.
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