The visionary in Hugo Salcedo 

December, 29, 2011

There's an ongoing gold rush for American youth soccer talent, but in at least one segment of the market -- the Mexican-American community -- MLS teams aren't among the most active prospectors.

Earlier in the week at the USMNT blog , we told you the story of Hugo Salcedo, a longtime scout in Southern California's Latino communities who says that MLS is missing out on plenty of skilled American-bred players. On the other end of his efforts to place Mexican-Americans in professional environments are the clubs south of the border that have become willing recipients of a growing stream of talent from the U.S.

"I saw there weren't enough opportunities for young players in the area in East Los Angeles," says Salcedo, a Mexican-American who shares a common background with many of the young prospects he finds. Salcedo grew up in East L.A. playing pickup games with adults twice his age before making it as far as the U.S. Olympic team for the 1972 Games in Munich -- an experience that he says "literally changed my life." Having been lifted up by the bootstraps by soccer, the Olympian-turned-Southern California social worker now looks to provide other Mexican-Americans with a similar chance.

"It became an evolution," he says. "I came back from the Olympics, and I was working as a social worker with gangs and some of the worst situations. I tried to keep them in sports and had been asked to represent players, but I didn't want to do it. I didn't see that as my calling. I would recommend players to other agents, and parents would call and say 'you've got to come and take a look at my kid,' and then I would call someone to take the kid to Mexico, or Guatemala, or El Salvador. That's where we come in. We get calls and go see them, and we try to push them to the right places."

Brent Latham is a soccer commentator who covers the youth national teams for Based in Guatemala, he has attended youth World Cups from Peru to Egypt, and places in between.