Digital Editor Bridget Gordon is at the annual conference to take American Soccer’s temperature
During a phone meeting this week to go over last-minute details for my assignment at the 2019 United Soccer Coaches Convention, Dennie pulled a bit of a stutter-step.
“So before we get too deep into the weeds,” my illustrious editor-in-chief said, “I’ve been meaning to ask. What exactly is this convention, anyway?”
It was a fair question. And I didn’t really have a good answer for him.
The convention began life as a niche industry conference— all industry conferences are pretty niche, but you get what I mean— for soccer coaches. Youth, academy, college, professional, National Team program, everyone. If you coached or administered the sport in America, you basically had to be here every year.
Over the years it’s grown— mutated? metastasized?— into something bigger and a bit more unwieldy. In the same way that the Consumer Electronics Show and the Game Developers Conference have established a reach beyond their respective industries, the USC Convention has come to signal the start of American soccer culture’s liturgical calendar.
The two major domestic club leagues hold their Drafts here every year. Major broadcast networks and media personalities set up shop. Business deals are conducted. Resumes are passed around. You can’t even step into the restroom without stumbling into a brand activation.
And everywhere you go, someone is trying to sell you something.
The hard sell begins even before you get to the convention center, just by downloading the Convention app.
But underneath everything, this is still, at heart, an industry conference. Industry professionals connect with other industry professionals. Everyone is out to either get their name out there, learn something new, get better at their jobs, and take stock of where their profession is at.
That stock-taking is probably good for all of American Soccer right now. The USMNT is at the start of a new World Cup cycle under new management. The USWNT is at the end of their World Cup cycle and facing questions that won’t go away regardless of how they do in France this summer. MLS and NWSL are kicking off new seasons in just a few months. Our youth development needs fixing and no one can agree on how to fix it.
Everyone has questions. Everyone has answers, even if they don’t line up. We all just want to know what’s going on.
I’m going to try and get some answers this week. Stay tuned.