Is the U.S. committed to the 4-3-3? 

April, 11, 2012

About this time last year, 150 of the top youth soccer coaches in America assembled outside Portland, Ore., for a three-day seminar led by former U.S. World Cup captain Claudio Reyna.

In a large banquet room at Nike's sprawling headquarters in suburban Beaverton, Reyna, less than a year into his role as U.S. Soccer's youth technical director, introduced the federation's new blueprint for youth development.

At its core, the curriculum emphasized high quality training over results in tournaments and games. It also, right there in Part 1, outlined a very specific system of play: the 4-3-3 formation.

At the youth level, the attack-minded, Johan Cruyff-influenced 4-3-3 is not at all revolutionary; the same setup is used in the world-renowned development academies of Ajax and Barcelona.

What was extreme, at least as far as American soccer is concerned, was that Jurgen Klinsmann immediately implemented the 4-3-3 upon taking over the senior national team last summer.

Luke Cyphers is a former senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.
Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine. He has covered American and international soccer since 2002.