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Today’s List: Ten Thoughts on U.S./World Cup

October 12th, 2017 · No Comments · Fifa, Football, Lists, Russia 2018, soccer, Sports Journalism, World Cup

It’s time for a list. A lot of information and opinions banging around out there about the U.S. loss at Trinidad and Tobago, and subsequent failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

Let’s see if we can pick out a few of the most interesting notions — and maybe introduce a few new ones.

  1. U.S. fans? Where were they? From clips of the match it looked as if Americans who bothered to arrive at a half-empty stadium that holds only 10,000 … could be measured in the hundreds. If not the dozens. It was surprising and disappointing. Sam’s Army, AWOL. Fans of serious soccer nations travel to qualifiers, especially key ones. U.S. fans failed this test just as surely as the players failed theirs.
  2. This may be remembered as the least-seen U.S. match in a Concacaf hexagonal. BeIN held the rights, from T&T, and a few other obscure outlets in the U.S. had the match, but if you meet someone who says they saw all 90 minutes live … smile and say: “Prove it!” Main point: Fifa and Concacaf and the U.S. national team needs to figure out how to get all away games showed live on a significant outlet.
  3. Taylor Twellman of ESPN had an emotional but semi-crazed post-match rant that some have heralded. But it was just too stream-of-consciousness. The rant that will and should survive will be that of Alexi Lalas, who anticipated by a month what was to come and marshaled his arguments carefully.
  4. Seven nations qualified for every World Cup from 1990 through 2014: Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Italy, South Korea, Spain and the U.S. Besides South Korea, which nation does not fit in that group? Yeah.
  5. On the “who to blame” list, one writer added the U.S. media, for not holding U.S. soccer to the same scrutiny as “major league” teams. This might have been the case a generation ago, but modern sports editors and directors would never think of overlooking or underplaying a failed World Cup run. Though it is possible that media executives thought the chance of the U.S. not qualifying to be so remote as to dedicate fewer resources to the T&T match.
  6. It has been noted the U.S. has a talent gap in the 23-27 age group, the guys who have failed to qualify for the past two Olympic tournaments, to which now has been added “failing to qualify for the World Cup”. Shaka Hislop, the Jamaican goalkeeper said: “I’ve been saying this is the worst U.S. team I’ve seen in the last 20 years.” Sounds about right.
  7. Also noted, how Major League Soccer may be a bigger boon to regional rivals of the USMNT than it is to U.S. players, offering paychecks far heftier to Hondurans and Costa Ricans than they would get back home, but not the sort of money that would impress American players.
  8. Speaking of MLS … to spend a few years watching European soccer is to be struck by how slow and sluggish is the MLS game, in addition to the lag in technique. It is as if MLS coaches have not noticed that the game now is being played at a very demanding pace. Watch just about any English Premier League match, and see what I mean. The frantic pace, the nonstop sprinting …
  9. Alarmists, and here is one of the most shrill, are overstating the damage the defeat will do to American interest in the game. Soccer has an estimated 79 million fans in the U.S., according to Sports Illustrated, and that legion of fans is not going to give up watching the game because of T&T 2, U.S. 1.  The World Cup is a great television event, especially the first two rounds of the group stage (June 14-24, next summer), whether or not the U.S. is in it.
  10. Still can’t get over how many people cannot accept that soccer is a particularly random game, and unless you are Brazil or Germany, you miss out on the World Cup from time to time. It can be a good thing, too, in that it gives a national association a lull to reexamine its policies and beliefs. The U.S. may benefit from this.



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