In countries around the world, association football or soccer is one of the most popular sports and the FIFA World Cup is one of the most popular events of the sports season. Yet, in the United States we aren’t too involved in it or at least the U.S.S.F, the United States Soccer Federation makes it seem that way.
Last year, the United States men’s national team faced a huge upset for the 2018 World Cup when they lost a big game against Trinidad and Tobago 2-1. This eliminated the United States from the competition which hasn’t happened for more than three decades. But this wasn’t only an upset for fans and players.
According to Time magazine, “The U.S.’s failure to qualify for the World Cup also marks a setback the country’s efforts to elevate the most-watched sport in the world in America.”
Even though the women’s national team has three championships under its belt, the men’s teams has always been the example when it comes to funding and global perception involving the relationship between a nation and the sport. Some believe that because of the United States lack of adequate resources and grassroot support of soccer stateside, the team has come to this fall. But I think it has to do with a little more than that.
In the United States the most popular sports have always been American Football, Baseball and Basketball. If you haven’t noticed from that list, not only is soccer not on it, but all of these sports are mainly exclusive to the United States. The reasoning for this is unclear but, it seems like the United States is more focused on spreading the popularity of exclusive American sports rather than trying to appease to worldwide sports like soccer or cricket. In 2016 alone, the United States hosted three regular season NFL games in England with two of the games at the popular Wembley Stadium in London and sent american coaches over to train international league teams.
But it doesn’t matter what they do with American football, even if it gains worldwide interest it will still be “america’s game” where the competition will have the NFL league at the top of the totem pole. With sports like soccer however, the United States definitely has a lot of work ahead of them to boost their status as a force to be reckoned with.
A good start would be to hire a coach or manager for the men’s national team. Yeah that’s right, as of now there is no active head coach for the national team. This is mainly due to the fallout of the Trinidad and Tobago match. The team has spent the past 10 months looking for a coach and they still haven’t made a decision. Which means that for the beginning of the season with some high-profile teams like Brazil and Mexico, the U.S is being run by Dave Sarachan, an interim manager until this hiring process is completed. Which according to ESPN, might extend well past November or even December.
This process has been delayed due to a few factors but a big contributor involves the USSF president’s focus on bidding to host the 2026 World Cup. As of now, the United States has placed a bid to host this upcoming World Cup and the impacts of this could help make the United States invest financially and socially into soccer.
Think of it this way, during the Olympics all eyes are on the host country. The culture, sponsorships and most importantly, how many medals the “home team” wins. Same goes for the World Cup. Host teams in the past not only provide a sense of national pride in hosting but it boosts the host team’s morale during the tournament. But what is the point of hosting the tournament if you don’t qualify or even have a manager for your national team
If the USSF is really trying to make a name for itself in the soccer community they need to commit. Invest in the team, get strong sponsors and most importantly, get a coach that can lead the team. Then, they can look into hosting a future World Cup tournament. But if they aren’t invested and are just trying to make a little money, quit while you’re ahead. It’s not fair to string along the national team when you could be spending more time growing international american sport leagues. Stick to what you know or get your head in the game.