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A few suggestions for Bob Contiguglia as he takes over USSF.

By Jerry Langdon
Gannett News Service

(Tuesday, September 1, 1998) -- The election of Bob Contiguglia as president of the United States Soccer Federation is to be welcomed.

He has had a distinguished career in a variety of positions within the federation, and is a forward-looking thinker. This is a key time for U.S. Soccer, recipient of a major infusion of Nike money designed to make the United States a major player in the World Cup by 2010.

Here are some obvious, and not-so-obvious, subjects that need to be addressed:

* Bring Bruce Arena on board as coach of the national team and also get him, at least initially, strongly involved in Project 2010 development, for which the infrastructure needs to be formed. The contract should be for four years. Why would he leave Major League Soccer champion D.C. United for anything less?

* Contiguglia needs to develop his own identity and move away from the cult of personality that developed the past eight years. Alan Rothenberg, his brilliant predecessor, made an enormous contribution to the sport, and his continued input is welcomed. But the new president needs to establish that he is no puppet and develop a wider group of advisers.

* Follow through on the report delivered U.S. Soccer by two-time world under-20 champion coach Carlos Queiroz (Portugal), which calls for establishment of a full-scale technical coaching department, a network of 99 coaches at the national, regional and state levels, upgrading coaching education and formation of an under-19 national professional league. We don't see much in the report that knowledgeable people haven't talked about for years, but the credentials he carries may make a difference. The problem has been money (now available), philosophy and action.

* Work on development of reserve teams for Major League Soccer, which eventually should provide a jumping-off point for teenagers wishing to go directly to the pros. "While soccer in the United States may not be ready to take this giant step in near term, it is incumbent on U.S. Soccer to help the professional clubs so that -- as soon as possible -- the pro clubs will be ready to fill this role," Queiroz said.

Develop a full-scale National "B" team as well as an "A" team with a heavy international schedule.

* Participate in the Copa America Tournament next year even though it occurs during Major League Soccer. Keeping the United States out is an abrogation of U.S. Soccer responsibilities to develop the national team in tough competition, and a high-pressure tournament is a far better venue than scattered international friendlies.

* Push hard for a women's professional league in 2000, not 2001. The 2000 Olympics in Australia don't start until September 15. This has been delayed far too long.

* Lobby the NCAA to ease restrictions imposed on soccer, allowing for players to participate with clubs during the school year and for more "practice" games in the spring. College soccer can still be a viable development option for players wishing to play professional soccer.

* Do something concrete about trying to get inner city and Hispanic children more interested in U.S. soccer.

* Teach the Total Soccer concept at all levels, which means attacking midfielders and forwards must play defense, and that defenders have comfort possessing and moving the ball.

* Lobby world soccer governing body FIFA to establish world championships for under-20 girls and under-17 girls, which would stimulate development of the sport.

* Lobby strongly for the 2010 World Cup, though 2014 may be a more reasonable expectation.

* Resolve the problems with indoor soccer, namely the National Professional Soccer League, which has refused for the past year to pay dues because, it says, it received little or no services. Indoor soccer is popular in many areas of the country but long has felt neglected by U.S. Soccer.

Jerry Langdon is sports editor of Gannett News Service and can be e-mailed at jlangdon@gns.gannett.com.

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