Musing on the youth national teams’ coverage.

Coming into this U-20 cycle, I had my fingers crossed that CONCACAF would be posting the games from the qualifying tournament to youtube, like it did in 2008. Instead, it looks as though the games are supposed to air on FSC.

US Soccer seemed to ignore the 2008 U-20 World Cup compared to the U-17 tournament that happened just a few weeks before. Of course, that means the organization missed out on covering a championship team but gave an awful lot of attention to a second-place squad. Covering the U-17 tournament was understandable, given that it was the inaugural tournament for that age group, but I’m not sure why the U-20s were ignored. Speculation and theories are mostly just me being cynical. It seems silly to abandon them simply because of a second place finish in qualifiers.

Fortunately, what coverage the US did not provide for the U-20s, other outlets seemed to make up for. I was able to watch all of the games that I wanted (including non-US ones) on ESPN360. Compared to 2006, when the US covered the team but I wasn’t able to watch games, having an alternative to matchtracker was thrilling. The commentary was intelligent, although I can’t remember who provided it. The other nice thing about ESPN360’s coverage was that it was archived, at least briefly, for later viewing.

The other nice–or interesting, in retrospect–thing about the coverage of the 2008 U-20 team was the student-athlete blogs or postcards that their respective schools posted. Off the top of my head, I remember Parkhill (Minnesota) and Marshall (Colorado), and a notable lack of Fowlkes (“notable” because Notre Dame usually has this). Then the coach’s document; that was a twist. What was left out, and why weren’t certain details omitted? What would a similar document have looked like for the U-17s? For the 2006 team that floundered to fourth place?

Or this: given the 2008 results-vs-coverage imbalance, how will US Soccer coverage treat those respective age groups this cycle? Will the U-20 team continue to get less than the U-17? With the U-20 team–some of which were on the 2008 U-17 team–get more? Will both age groups be ignored this time? Will both age groups get more attention?

What about going the WPS/old U-21 route? Let the team cover itself, if US Soccer doesn’t want to do it. Not that the players should be responsible for anything but playing the game and progressing through each stage, but it would be interesting to see what kind of narrative these young women would present. At the very least, it could be a step towards making up for the way the organization seems to downplay the group’s accomplishments.

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