Soccer is better than American Football
People ask me why I despise American "football."
It's probably some cultural thing, having been brought up from age 4 on in a "club" system. So the franchises, yeah. And also that it's a discriminatory sport by many means considering size and frame. I'm also pissed about the many commercial breaks. I usually prefer games that are in a constant flow like football and handball, tv-wise. We can actually watch 45 minutes of sports, uninterrupted by commerials ;-) Don't get me wrong. I've played it myself, I like to watch it mostly, it's got a place in my heart. But it's simply the fact that I approach it from two different kinda angles.
Let me explain more about why the club system we have in Europe, especially for soccer/football is better than the franchise (American) system.
Because most of the clubs were founded early in the 20th century, my youthhood club was actually founded in 1848 and merged in 1895 to a soccer club. Many nowadays clubs started out as gymnastic clubs, later founded football branches and footie became so popular, many are "mostly" soccer clubs nowadays.
We do have sport in school, but we do not have teams and leagues. Some bigger cities like mine have annual school championships in indoor footie and some other team sports (handball, volleyball, football, basketball, judo). University sport like in the NCAA is absolutely unknown, also in most parts of Europe except for the UK. Here in Germany, if you're a promising talent in whatever olympic sport, you join the police, border police or military and become part of a Sportfördergruppe (sports promotion section) so you can concentrate on it, or you study if that's manageable in a timely fashion. Bigger sports here (football, handball) make it possible to go to special boarding schools or actually take care of the transport and meal costs for their promising youth.
So, back to the clubs. The DFB (Deutscher Fußball Bund) is the biggest single sports f.a. in the world with approx. 6.7 million members, roughly 6.2 million are active players. The games are being organized in leagues with promotion and demotion. Clubs in densely populated areas (such as mine) sometimes have 3 teams in the same age class. Youth teams are being classified from G to A, with G being the youngest (age 4 and up) to A (max. age 19 at the beginning of the season). So one could have like D1, D2 and D3 teams (age 12) in the same club, but not competing in the same leagues. You then go on to play in the 1st or 2nd adult team of that club for as long as you want, they've also got "Alte
Herren" (old gents). You can basically stay with a club for all of your life.
Money plays virtually no role in the yough leagues and also not in leagues from 6-12 I'd say. There are 12 different "leagues" that branch out at the bottom, depending on how many team there are in a local area. The top flight is the Bundesliga (1st league). Leagues 1-3 are nationwide, the other leagues after that branch out in region-wide (like North-Western Germany), state-wide (like: Bavaria), local F.A.-wide (half a state) to city, communal and city quarter/suburb leagues.
The major difference is... it's pretty much unthinkable that a club could be sold and move to another city. Some clubs do have major sponsors, but there's a so called 50+1 rule, that the majority (like with shareholders) of the club members always have the last say about the president, board and management. Clubs like these currently are VfL Wolfsburg (Volkswagen), Bayer Leverkusen (Bayer) and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim (SAP). There was a big issue lately with Red Bull. They bought some teams license and called their team RB (as in Red Bull, the pun it's possible to also call it "Rasen-Ballsport" - lawn ball sport) Leipzig. They chose Leipzig in the East because it was the only city with a newly renovated stadium for the World Cup 2006 that didn't have any meaningful team around. Since they're still playing in the 5th league more or less successful, it's not much of a deal, but many people viewed this as a try to introduce club franchises here.
As football is pretty non-discriminatory, many kids already take the step at age 17-19 to head to the first team if they are talented enough. All clubs have "zweite Mannschaften" that usually play 2-3 leagues lower than their first team, so kids can grow into it there if they didn't adapt by age 19. Size somewhat matters with goalies and inside backs (headers), but there are also a couple of these playing on the highest level without even reaching 6'0.
So yeah, it's a matter of talent but also of work ethics. Even as a pretty thin and small kid, you can become a great 1st league player if you sport the proper work rate. Your dreams of becoming a pro aren't shattered at age 14-15 when it becomes obvious sooner or later you simply won't grow the frame to survive on a high level. By playing in the 3rd league, you'll still generate more income than the average person does. There's way more room for pro and semi-pro players given the many leagues thruout all of Europe. Therefore, the system is more permeable if you excel later or earlier than age 19-23.