The quest to find soccer talent in America has not always been an easy one. While the methods used to mine the player pool in the United States for quality players are improving, the country remains too large to cover with any particular system.
This means players often fall through the cracks, and the desperation to find opportunities to impress scouts and move closer to the pro ranks is as real in the USA as any other country on earth.
Nike's global soccer talent search, 'The Chance,' is looking to give players who have never had the venues as other players to show their stuff. The competition is covering more than 50 countries in search of 100 players to compete in the Grand Final in Barcelona. Nike will then select 16 winners to make up a team that will train and play with some of the world's best teams in a tour taking place in January and February of 2013.
Past winners of the competition have earned professional contracts after being spotted by scouts while taking part in The Chance.
Scouts have already begun watching players at various locations in the United States, searching for standouts to be selected for the national final.
The process is like American Idol for soccer--of course, instead of singing, the competitors are soccer players trying to prove they have the talent to play on the next level.
The opportunity is a far different road than the more traditional paths American players have usually had to try to become a pro. For decades, the Olympic Development Program (ODP) served as a key conduit for talented players to get noticed and eventually play their way into the US youth national team system.
If ODP wasn't a viable option, players also went the traditional college route, with college soccer allowing players to not only be seen by pro scouts, but also to hone their game and mature as individuals while attending college.