Tab Ramos was the first player signed to a Major League Soccer contract in 1996 devoting seven seasons to the NY/NJ Metrostars before retiring from professional soccer. Now in his fourth year as the Youth Technical Director for U.S. Soccer, Ramos is responsible for the growth and development of the Youth National Teams.
After the senior team failed to qualify for the World Cup, there has been substantial debate about the process of development in America. While he says there are numerous elements involved in the evolution of players in the YNT programs, Ramos suggests the onus is on MLS to make a more significant contribution.
“For every MLS club like the Red Bulls and RSL (Real Salt Lake) who give tons of opportunities to the younger players, there are a lot of teams where that does not fit into their DNA or doesn’t fit into their way to win games,” Ramos told SBI Soccer on SiriusXM FC’s The Coaching Academy. “This is not just on U.S. Soccer. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
The U-15, U-17 and U-20 National Teams all achieved CONCACAF final appearances this year – the only country in the region to do so. Ramos guided the U20’s to its first CONCACAF Championship. After evaluating all three groups, he asserts that elite teenagers need to be placed in more competitive environments.
“That’s the advantage players have in other countries,” said Ramos. “They have the ideal scenario for their young players. Here, we have Tyler Adams who at 13 years old was playing U15’s. He was playing USL (Red Bulls II) at 16 and by 18 is with the first team. The problem for us is we have one, two maybe three Tyler Adams. In other countries we are competing against many more players who go through that pyramid.”
Not every international coach shares this viewpoint. Ramos imparted a recent conversation that he had with the President of a 2. Bundesliga club in Germany. The coach at his club refused to advance the younger players in their system as they were battling for promotion.
“He told me that his coach was a good coach but didn’t believe in the younger players coming in,” said Ramos. “The answer to this for me is, maybe that’s not a good coach. A good coach needs to be able to fit that in for your club philosophy – to replace the 34 year old with the 17 year-old. The 34 year old will always be better than the 17 year old until you give the younger player a chance to play in games. That’s when they are going to prove to you that they’re better. Young players require it.”
Ramos recognizes that results are vital in a professional environment. A record five MLS coaches were sacked in 2017.
“You can’t blame a coach for wanting to win games – in a professional club that’s what they are there for,” said Ramos. “But at the same time, the club has to have its own culture and its own philosophy and its own way of fitting younger players in.”
On September 19, Ramos signed an extension to remain the Youth Technical Director and head coach of the U20’s. If the opportunity arises, he has aspirations to lead the senior team.
“I do feel I’ve done well coaching and I’ve gotten the most out of American players,” said Ramos, who earned 81 caps with the USMNT. “Our youth national teams have shown they can overachieve because our young players are willing to go the distance to win games and to be proactive and chase people down and to not be afraid.
“I hope that gets translated into what our national team looks like.”