National Coach Keith Tozer says Futsal Booming in U.S. but Changes Needed to Keep U.S. with Rest of World
By Tim Sheldon
MILWAUKEE, Wis. (11-18-09) Keith Tozer has become one of the most central figures in Futsal in the U.S. He's the U.S. National Futsal Coach and was recently appointed a FIFA Futsal Instructor. In this capacity he will be teaching Futsal courses throughout the world.
He sees terrific growth potential for the sport in the U.S. and believes that it is now important to upgrade the skill level of Futsal coaches throughout the country. He feels that it now time for U.S. Soccer to develop a coaching license program for Futsal. He feels that there is great economic potential for creation of a professional Futsal league in the U.S., and that it is inevitable that such a league will come into existence.
(Photo: Keith Tozer.)
He asserts that while the U.S. turned out some very successful teams in international Futsal competition in the late 1980s and into the '90s, the rest of the world and caught on and moved ahead, making the development of Futsal skill development at every level all the more important in the U.S.
He sees Guatemala as the emerging leader of Futsal in CONCACAF, and believes that Guatemala has set an excellent example of how to develop a successful professional league.
He notes that Brazil is still setting the world standard in Futsal. He notes that Brazilian Futsal star Falcao is as big a name in Brazil as any of the outdoor stars and that Brazil is burgeoning with professional and semi-professional Futsal leagues and youth programs.
Tozer sees great potential for the sport in the U.S., once it receives a little more focus and definition.
"I think Futsal in the U.S. is booming," he said. "Every week there's a new league popping up, a new club, a new tournament. I'm very excited about the spreading of Futsal across the country. The byproduct will be better coaches and better players, and better national team players. I think right now it's growing by leaps and bounds."
Tozer has been working with Jon Perry and Peter Vermes at the Super F League and just conducted a seminar for Otto Orf's Cleveland Super F League affiliate. Tozer will be doing more seminar and clinics for Super F members in the next year. As a FIFA Futsal Instructor, he was supposed to go to Australia the first part of November, "but with my preseason starting with the Milwaukee Wave, I couldn't do that. I know there will be many more trips during the next year."
He also has been busy with his own company, Teamwork Concepts, which presents motivational speechs and workshops to youth groups and business organizations. All the while, he is preparing the Major Indoor Soccer League Milwaukee Wave for their season-opening match Nov. 22 against La Raza de Monterrey.
"Hopefully, there will be a lot more teaching opportunities here in the United States, Tozer said. "I think that's where it's really needed. We have a lot of players playing Futsal but I don't know how many of those players are actually being taught the game. We're playing, which is wonderful. Now we have to get everyone playing in a system and getting that all sorted out in the next couple of years."
He said U.S. Soccer could provide instruction for the Futsal coaching license through weekend courses similar to those provided for the D or F licenses for outdoor soccer.
"It's something that I'm going to be pushing here. Hopefully we can get around the U.S. and see a lot more coaches than we are now. It would be a great way to get the coaches together and start getting the philosophy out there."
Authority over Futsal has been an issue over the past several years in the U.S., and Tozer helped present a more focused view of who is in command.
"The national team is governed by the U.S. Soccer Federation, which the group that I work for. And then you have two of the bigger groups, one being the Super F League under Peter Vermes and Jon Parry, and the other being the U.S. Futsal Federation."
Tozer noted in response to a question that the Super F League is affiliated with U.S. Soccer, but because of recent changes, the U.S. Futsal Federation is not currently affiliated with U.S. Soccer or FIFA.
As national team coach, Tozer is looking for opportunities to rebuild the team that finished out of the running in the 2008 World Championship in Brazil, but it appears he'll have to wait until the 2010 World Cup concludes in South Africa.
"Obviously with the World Cup coming up this summer, that's at the forefront of everybody at the Federation. We have not had any trips. We have not had any camps since the Futsal World Championship a year ago. So we're waiting to see what the next step is going to be."
While the U.S. is inactive, many other countries are playing "a ton of Futsal."
Brazil, for instance has played up to 30 national games since the 2008 Futsal World Championship.
"Obviously, they have a different infrastructure with a professional league and a bunch of other leagues. So they're playing Futsal all of the time, where we don't have a professional league, and we're at the ground floor, the bottom of the ladder of this Futsal program that we're starting."
If the U.S. hopes to regain some of its early international stature in Futsal, it will have to build the necessary infrastructure, with the right coaching, Tozer said. And signs of growth have been very impressive.
"I think that with all these leagues popping up in the U.S. is wonderful. Buffalo just announced that they're starting a Super F League group, and Otto Orf has done a terrific job in Cleveland. He has a facility with four Futsal courts. He have groups popping up all over the place ... What we need to do is get to the coaches to make sure they at least have an idea of systems of play and pass it on to the players. I'd love to see that license that we talked about. More people are going to be popping up. Hopefully there will be a scouting system where somebody will call me up and say there's a kid in Buffalo or there's a kid in San Francisco, or there's a kid in Washington D.C. that you need to take a look at."
Tozer said the next level would lead to development of a national tryout camp leading to deveopment of U20 or U23 teams similar to outdoor.
The U.S. Team will get moving again once the World Cup has concluded and CONCACAF resumes its Futsal schedule.
"The only problem is that the players I had in 2008 are two years older and in the meantime have not played any Futsal ... I've said this, and this is not an excuse, that back in the late 1980s and early 90s we had 20 some teams in the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL), and we had some great players. At the same time, Futsal was at its infancy. I remember playing in the first tournament in 1986 in Budapest, and there was really no system of play. It's was basic soccer with less guys and a smaller field. And then in '92 I thought our team did fabulously in Hong Kong. But again, Futsal was in its infancy. I'll bet a lot of money that at that particular time there were not many professional Futsal leagues in the world, and if there were, there were only one or two in '92. We could take our best players from the Major Indoor Soccer League or outdoor and still be one of the top teams in the world."
Since then, the game of Futsal has grown so much.around the world, and professionals in other countries are playing up to 80 games a year including preseason, playoffs, tournaments, league play, and national team games," Tozer noted.
"So the breakaway has been dramatic."
That breakway also applies to CONCACAF.
"We always felt that us, Costa Rica and Cuba were always the top three teams. And of course in '96 and 2004 we won the Gold. Since then Guatemala now has a professional league where all of their players are playing all of the time, and they're traveling with the national team to Brazil and Europe. They won the last CONCACAF. You can tell a dramatic difference between the 2004 team and the 2008 team."
Tozer thinks the U.S. can match that and come up with a pro Futsal league in some form in the near future.
"I think the Federation sees the importance of not only becoming a power in Futsal in the world, but also the benefit that it has for the outdoor game, and sees the benefit of Futsal for technical and tactical reasons. It sees that everybody is playing small-sided games now. It sees it as a huge money-maker for the Federation, be it league play, tournaments or coaching licenses. So it's on the radar. The blip is a little small now, but hopefully it will get bigger and bigger."
Tozer likes the blueprint used by Guatemala to establish its professional league.
"All of the professional teams are in Guatemala City. I don't know how many they have now. But they're all inside one city ... Kind of like England outdoor, where you have all within London ... That's how I would envision Futsal being started in this country."
While Guatemala has moved to the forefront in CONCACAF, other countries are also moving ahead.
"I know Panama is beginning a league. Mexico has always played Futsal, but I don't know how big their program is professionally. I just think it's a matter of time for the U.S.