U.S. becoming a talent factory for region 

May, 7, 2012

When American-born and raised Red Bulls goalkeeper Ryan Meara was called into an Ireland U-21 camp last week, it looked on the surface like a curious but isolated incident. The New York-born keeper just a few months out of Fordham has never been on the U.S. radar, and despite what looks like some serious potential, the Irish call seemed little more than an unusual note.

Later that day, at the CONCACAF Women's U-17 championship in Guatemala, Insider ran into an official from Team USA, who made an interesting and not completely unrelated observation.

"There's probably not one team in this tournament that won't have an American on it," said official told Insider, adding that dual-national U.S.-based youth players being poached by foreign associations was an issue "on the USSF radar screen."

As it turns out, the assertion about the other teams at the U-17 women's tournament nearly checks out. In the first round of games, a Jamaican-American forward starred for the Reggae Girls, and an entirely American front line helped Mexico slash its way to victory.

It's only logical that regional teams with populations in the U.S. would come looking for female players. Most of the eight teams at the CONCACAF U-17 women's final are starved for youth talent. Even Mexico has somewhere between nine and 11 Americans on its 20-woman roster (depending on who you ask -- no one from the Mexican federation is particularly anxious to make that stat public).

But if there's an obvious vacuum for talent in the regional women's game, and America's dual-national youth ranks are filling it, what about the men's side? Is this trend starting to pick up there, as well? The answer seems to be yes.

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