Jurgen Klinsmann hails U.S. advances but calls foundation 'fragile'
United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann has told CNN he believes the foundation for soccer in the United States is "fragile and disconnected" in comparison to some of the systems in place for world football powers such as England, Germany, Spain and France.
Klinsmann, 51, said that the growth of the sport in America has been remarkable and believes soccer has truly arrived in the nation.
However, the California-based coach called the challenges facing the U.S. a complicated puzzle compared to other countries and one that's "not perfect yet" in a wide-ranging interview.
"The foundation in the United States is still fragile and disconnected compared to other countries," Klinsmann said. "The youth leagues do their own thing, the professional system is not really connected to the amateur system, and that's not really connected to the college system.
"So there are holes in the system, like in a Swiss cheese, and there's a loss of quality. We're working on connecting those pieces, on connecting player development, and on continuing to build a pyramid in this amazing country."
Klinsmann led the national team to the country's best-ever finish in a Copa America at the competition's 100th anniversary edition, which was hosted in the U.S. last month.
The fourth-place finish came after winning a challenging group and advancing to the semifinals, before being outclassed 4-0 by Lionel Messi and Argentina and then losing to Colombia in the third-place playoff.
"It's a bigger puzzle in the United States than in other countries, and it's not perfect yet. That's what makes it so exciting; we're building something great here," Klinsmann said. "We don't have a system in place like France or Germany or even South American countries.
"If you look at the FA in England, it's more than 100 years old and they already have their infrastructure, scouting, coaches' education, national training center, and the pyramid is connected.
"There's relatively little infrastructure work to do in England because it's all there. Here in the United States, building that infrastructure is still important. That's what's so fascinating and rewarding about this."
Klinsmann said he understands the frustrations of U.S. fans who want to compete at the highest level with the world's top teams, but the Germans urged patience by saying there's "no gain without pain."
He added: "The transition is happening step by step. We're playing against the bigger nations, we're attacking those bigger nations and holding our own against them.
"There's no growth without taking risks. And there's no growth without failure along the way. We're getting out of our comfort zone, and we're making some big strides forward.
"The next step is to become one of the best soccer nations in the world. The USMNT has become an important engine for growth in the United States. We're trying to do everything we can to make the national team as successful as possible in the World Cup, which is the benchmark for everyone around the world."
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