Australia’s Soccer Youth Development

This week a stern warning was expressed by Rob Sherman, Director of the Football Federation Australia. Sherman showed concern regarding the reduced level of youth development within the sport, which he states will result in the country not being able to qualify for the World Cup, due to a lack of quality players.

Country’s Football Heading towards a Crisis

According to Sherman, immediate action should be taken to improve the current situation of youth development in football within the state. He expressed his concern regarding a severe lack of progress, especially within the 17 to 23 year age group. If this situation isn’t attended to, it might mean that in about eight years, the country won’t be able to qualify for the World Cup due to a shortage of professional players. This would be then the first time in a 20 year span, which the Socceroos would not be qualifying.

The Current Situation

Currently, there are minimal opportunities for young players. There are only ten clubs in the Australian A-league and a complete absence of any professional second division. Australia isn’t developing like the other Asian nations and to rectify the situation, specific drastic steps need to be taken.

Steps Suggested by Sherman

Sherman is convinced to bring Football Australia out of the dooming situation regarding their future in the global sporting arena; a national second division should be implemented as soon as possible. Alternatively, the eight games which the National Youth League plays need to be extended to a full season. This will then be aligned with the schedule of the A-League. He considers these adjustments as an immediate priority to the FFA.

Sherman further stated that other nations are investing mainly in their youth development, while Australia isn’t. It isn’t only the nations in their region who are placing a lot of emphasis on youth development in the sport, but it is also the case in the United States and Canada. Within the US many young soccer players have recently been signed on pro contracts. This could be done due to brilliant development structures for youngster within the sport.

The Quota of Foreign Players

For a while, there have been rumours concerned with bringing in more players from foreign countries to play in the A-League clubs. Currently, the quota for international players is set at five players per team. Even though there haven’t been any official requests made yet, it seems to be the consensus among a couple of club owners that the restrictions on the number of foreign players should be relaxed. Sherman is not in favour of this. He is convinced that an increase in the name of international players within the A-League will only be more detrimental to these teams. It will also make it even harder for the younger players to break through the barriers of professional football. His philosophy is that Australian players should be first in line to receive proper training and opportunities.