I have read some blogs and articles recently that have talked about one of the weaknesses in the American (and some of Europe) system of youth soccer. Here in the states, we have the science of the game down pat. We have incredibly advanced medical and exercise facilities to keep our players physically fit and healthy. We can train our players to have great endurance and be strong and all of that fun stuff. In this, we have the Science of soccer (and anything physical) down.
What we are lacking is the Art. What is the Art? Think of Brazil and Argentina. Think of the Latin flair that is so heavily sought after by the top clubs. This is the love for the game and the understanding of the intricate flows on the pitch that we, the USA, lack. The problem seems to be the way that we run our youth teams. The idea of winning is pushed into the brains of the children in a way that makes winning more important than skill.
What is the answer? I don't fully know. I know that some things have to change, but I don't know how to do it. We have had some gems come through the system (Landon Donovan) but the majority of our National Team playing pool is drab. They may be great guys with a lot of heart, but they don't have the soccer mind that someone like a Messi or Kaka has. Not even like a Christian Gomez has.
The USSF needs to work more closely with the youth programs and teach coaches how to inspire the love of the game into the hearts of the kids. I think we'd see less of a drop off around the age of 12-13 if we trained kids how to understand the game and love the game instead of just how to win. We need to be training players and not just scouting them.