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U.S. Misses World Cup Bid

Jay Post '20, Staff Writer

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On October 10th, the unthinkable happened. Soccer fans all around the U.S. were stunned as they witnessed the U.S. Men’s National team, which appeared to be in a sure position to qualify for the World Cup, thoroughly bottle its bid to the tournament. Through a series of almost comical outside results and a disastrous on-field performance against Trinidad and Tobago (the lowest ranked team in the group), the United States allowed both Panama and Honduras to jump ahead to the advancing spots. However, as bad as the team’s on-field performance was during the crucial Trinidad and Tobago match, the disastrous flaws and mismanagement of the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) should have indicated a failure on the world stage far earlier.

One of the most monumental flaws of the USSF is the pay-to-play mentality that US men’s soccer has embraced at all levels. Clubs and youth academies choose quantity over quality, selecting to rack up cash for the club management through high player fees rather than the development of real, tangible youth talent to fuel future American national teams. This pay-to-play system filters into the professional leagues as well. Almost all leagues around the world have teams move to the top levels through a system of promotion and relegation in which the best performing teams from the lower levels progress to the higher levels while the worst performing teams from the higher levels are demoted to the lower levels. The USSF promotes a system of league expansion, where clubs must buy and advertise their way into the upper levels. This is catastrophic in terms of youth development. Since clubs already in the top tier have no need to plan for the future, as they will always remain at the highest level, they simply buy older, European players to increase jersey sales and thus gain money for the club and its owners. Clubs currently in the lower leagues have no initiative to develop younger players. It is illogical to spend time and money grooming talent if you’ll never have an opportunity to showcase it in the higher leagues. This lack of need and initiative from soccer organizations across America lead to the majority of young, American starlets being snatched up by European teams, particularly in Germany. This absence of proper domestic youth development directly impacts the national team. When the U.S. was tasked with a do-or-die game versus Trinidad and Tobago on October 10th to secure its World Cup slot, the roster was filled with aging players, many of whom had already been in a World Cup and seemingly appeared to lack desire to make another. The impact of the few young players on the team was obvious. Far-and-away the best player on the field was 19-year-old Borussia Dortmund star, Christian Pulisic. Arguably, the second best player was Newcastle’s 24-year-old fullback, DeAndre Yedlin. Notice the similarity between these two players. Both are young talents who honed their skills outside America. To move onto the next tier of international soccer, the U.S. will need to begin developing homegrown players instead of hoping a foreign team trains an American gem.

Despite the flaws of the USSF, the problem-riddled organization can take a step forward in February, as current president of the federation, Sunil Gulati is up for election. Gulati, the kingpin that has presided over the USSF during this horrible qualification campaign, is extremely disliked by the fans. As the MLS season winds to a close, several high-profile banners have been erected displaying support for a new candidate to come in and bring U.S. soccer a German-style national team revamp. This revamp, coupled with drastic changes in the way the domestic league pyramid is run, could be the spark needed to ignite the development of a new generation of talent who can lead the United States to glory on the world stage.

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U.S. Misses World Cup Bid