The U.S. soccer team looked ahead Friday - not only to its final World Cup warmup against Scotland but to winning the tournament in 2010.
"This is no little plan. This is a vision on a grand scale," U.S. Soccer Federation president Alan Rothenberg said. "Somewhere out there we've got a 9-year-old Ronaldo, and we've got to find him."More than $50 million will be devoted to soccer development during the next 12 years, Rothenberg said. Expanding on its Project 40 program, in which teen-agers leave college soccer to join professional teams in exchange for room, board and scholarships, the USSF plans to have up to 120 youth players in its professional development program by 2009.
Rothenberg projected that players for the 2010 World Cup team will be at the under-14 national camp next year and he wants 1,000 players identified and funneled into training programs. By 1999, there will be an under-17 team training full time at the Bollettiei Soccer Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
In addition, 360 players from ages 13 to 21 will be training with national team coaches at least 75 days a year. By 2010, Rothenberg said the program will expand to 1,000 players training 100 days a year.
"Americans, when they set out to do something, they set out to do it right," U.S. coach Steve Sampson said. "We're not satisfied where we are right now."
The downside is the top U.S. players would be ineligible for college soccer under NCAA rules.
"At some point, we must put our very best players in a professional environment," Sampson said. "Around the world, the very best teams have players in a professional environment at 16, 17, 18 years of age."
But first comes this year's tournament and Saturday's exhibition game against the Scots, the last for the Americans before they leave for France next Thursday.
Forward Eric Wynalda and midfielder Tab Ramos, who are playing themselves into shape following knee operations, expect to see more time than they did in last weekend's 2-0 victory over Kuwait.
Midfielder Frankie Hejduk (hamstring) doesn't expect to play, meaning Sampson will not have his full roster available for a single game before the opener against Germany on June 15 in Paris.