After a dismal qualifying campaign, the U.S. Men’s National soccer team has failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Following a 2-1 defeat to Trinidad and Tobago, USMNT will miss soccer’s biggest tournament for the first time since 1986. Clearly, this is a massive embarrassment and setback for the entirety of the U.S. soccer system. The question is: what went wrong?
Following an electrifying 4-0 win over Panama just a week prior, things were looking good for USMNT heading into the final game of qualification for the upcoming World Cup. So good in fact, that the United States had a 97 percent chance of making the World Cup. Of 27 different scenarios that could’ve occurred, only one of them kept the United States from qualifying.
The unthinkable happened, as a Trinidad and Tobago team that had only won one of its last 10 games took the United States down, while Panama beat Costa Rica. Those two games initiated a perfect storm of results that ultimately eliminated the United States from qualification.
From the start of the qualifying campaign, the team has looked mentally weak. Although this may be one of the more talented U.S. teams we have seen, the squad never gelled correctly and could never seem to get a needed result.
“This team has a history of whenever they get challenged, whenever they get punched in the mouth, whenever a team gets in their face, they haven’t been able to respond,” said ESPN FC analyst Alejandro Moreno.
However, USMNT’s issue stems much deeper than just poor tactics or performances. The National team has always had distinct blind arrogance about them. As almost all major sports in the United States are far superior to any other countries’, USMNT adopted that same mentality. The team had a noticeable belief that they were going to make the World Cup regardless of their own performance.
This was blatantly obvious to USMNT fans when they saw head coach Bruce Arena chat to media members about how to defend Europe’s best attackers before the Trinidad and Tobago match, almost as if they had already made the World Cup.
Arena’s recent resignation won’t cut it for USMNT. Major changes are still needed varying from the youth system, media, board activities and members, and even the players themselves.
Although missing the World Cup is an extremely bad look for U.S. soccer, things can still be turned around in the future. Just 17 years ago, the soccer powerhouse Germany was knocked out of the group stages of Euro Cup. This prompted a revolution, as more money was funneled into German soccer youth systems to produce better players and coaches. Fourteen years later, Germany was crowned World Cup champion. To this day, Germany remains one of the best teams in the world. They constantly produce some of the most talented and promising young players, destined to dominate in later years.
If USMNT can follow that same blueprint, soccer success will ensue. Although a lengthy, holistic rebuild awaits U.S. soccer, it’s long overdue and necessary. It will be a very long four years for USMNT.