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Tab Ramos: ‘We’ve got a lot of work to do’ with young players

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.”


  1. This year tabare has and excelent year,in U15,u17, and u20, in this category eric Palmer
    Brown,the youn usa defender scored the only goal,in the usa victory against México and
    earn the concacaf champión for the first time,and costa rica,and panama,in sub 17 whit
    Josh Sargeant ,Carletón,and weah,since like motors,usa looks much better than before
    also the u17 beat México,but lost in panalties,but in world cup wins Paraguay and coud
    have been better,but in quarter final fall to worl champion England, México only tied
    two games.
    so, the usa, is a strong team sisnce 2015 till now….excelent year for Tab Ramos,

  2. if player x can’t crack the starting line up on the senior team, then i guess his coaches should just send him down to the usl sec. div. team and let him get minutes there until his big opportunity arrives on the first team. isn’t that how it’s supposed to work and/or what am i missing here?

  3. I agree Hercules Gomez who said MLS should implement a rule that pushes teams to play a percentage of youths in their system a certain number of minutes with the Senior team or risk being deducted points.
    Five or ten minutes towards the end of a game is enough time for a player to realize what the speed of play is at the top level.

    • While I hate to give props to anything done by the Mexican Clubs/MFL a number of years ago (~6-10) the MFL instituted a rule that each club had to have a percentage of players under the age of 23 on their roster….and clubs have to field youth players a certain # of minutes each season. Once the MFL instituted this rule the Mexican youth national teams became much more successful in the youth WC’s…and their Sr. national team has reaped the benefits.

  4. I know Tab is being considered for the senior Head coaching job and would probably do well, but I wish he would remain as youth director because he seems to have a great sense about how to improve our young players.

  5. The Achilles heal of MLS teams is a lack of roster depth. Every team that has experienced more then one starter getting injured has suffered in the standings. The talent void in rosters below the starting eleven and game day eighteen is huge. This is where MLS has the opportunity and need to develope younger players. The USL affiliated teams is where that can happen and hopefully will. However, teams want to win and want to develope a certain style. Currently there is not enough talent in the US to even fill out half of a game day 18 with US players. The overall lack of talent throughout the league affects the entire style and tactics of the league. This is why you see so much bunker and counter or putting the ball jnto channels and expect players to out run or fight for balls in the attacking third.

    • You don’t think that is what MLS teams are doing now? Youth filling out rosters. I am very sure the stats would bare this out. Not going to take the time type of certain.

      When NYRB had to make a choice, because money might be tight, they got rid of McCarty. For youth. Youth that was his back up. It wasn’t high paid veterans backing him up and I am confident that is true on every team in the league.

      Maybe some examples of where that isn’t true would help me see your point.

      • Your assumption is false here is a list of Americans 23 and Under who played in 10 or more matches from playoff teams. Even Dallas known for its great academy only played one player in that range more than ten times.

        Toronto- Bono (23) Delgando (22)
        Columbus- Manneh (22)
        Seattle- Wingo (22)
        Houston- None
        Portland- Ebobisse (20)
        Vancouver- Nerwinski (23)
        NYCFC- Lewis (20)
        NYRB- Adams (18) Muyl (22)
        Atlanta- Vazquez (19)
        Chicago- Vincent (23) Connor (23) Mihalovic
        San Jose-Thompson (22) Lima (22) Yueill (20)

        Sixteen from 12 teams for an average of 1 1/3 American youth players playing in at least 29% of games for their club. I didn’t do the math but most of these players started in most of their appearances for Americans in MLS under the age of 23 its start or don’t play.

    • johnnyrazor –
      I agree that not enough clubs are willing to play young players, but I disagree what constitutes a young player. Across all competitions (MLS, Open Cup, Concacaf Champions) there should be ample opportunity to get young players (20 and Under) minutes.

      BTW you may have overlooked some players….a couple off the top of my memory are:
      Roldan (22 yrs): 33 games played
      Morris (23 yrs): 23 games played

      • Not sure how I missed those two I think I missed EPB as well, but I was trying to be nice and include up to age 23, if you use your U20 number you go down to 5 or 6. MLS teams that make it to the final at most play five more matches. CCL is four to six matches not sure what the new format is and U20 often don’t make those squads either.

  6. Absolutely agree with all points with Tab. MLS needs to provide more minutes to teenagers. With the no pro/rel in MLS, there is no excuse. MLS can make money by selling talent to higher leagues. I much rather see new talent than watching some 34 year old playing out his retirement years.

    • You have this 100% backward. It is easy to play youngsters on a team, one, that is not trying to win a championship ( like a Pro-Rel league ) and two, is a selling team because they aren’t trying to win a championship.

      Obvious choice to play young players.

      It is very hard on a team that wants to win the league, not just sit in the middle of the table and sell players for money to the real teams.


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