It’s nearing statement time for the United States Men’s National team with their female counterparts outpacing them and setting their respective tournaments alight. The women’s team has won a World Cup, and played in many quarter and semi-finals, so it’s the men’s time to shine, but with this group of players we aren't expecting much.
The US national team is very similar to the English side in that there’s really very little player development from the youth, so the star players aren’t coming through. Unlike the English, the Americans are still stung by Freddy Adu, or as he's now known as by some 'Freddy A’don’t'. He arrived onto the scene with so much promise but simply didn't deliver.
Realistically, people are expecting the team to crash out during the group stages because they have such a tough group in Germany, Portugal, and USA’s bogie team, Ghana. In reality those three nations could all send the States home without a win. Each of those teams has a world class player, or in Germany’s case, every player is a potential legend. No matter who plays for the USA against Ghana, they'll probably end up losing, it’s reaching decades at this point. Being an optimistic footballing fan, the most I expect is to get out of the group stages. Anything beyond that will be a superb achievement.
It’s not like the USSFA would can the manager Jurgen Klinsmann after a bad showing because he’s actually signed for eight years (Like a certain Alan Pardew did at Newcastle). Probably some of that fear is that he’ll do well, and get poached by a team in Europe. That would in turn set back the progress of the national team set up which has shown signs of progress by showing their ability to move the ball in a free flowing way and in our very own tiki-taka-esque style. There's still work to do though and the American public are far from confident.
Maybe if the team fails at the World Cup, it can effect change in the system here. We have the only league that has a draft. That’s a foreign concept to people in other leagues. On top of that, the rules to get into the league sometimes change on the fly. The coaching at the youth levels is still poor, and only run by pay per play type rules. That limits the people like Messi and Pele, who came from nothing. There needs to be another failure and possibly a bunch of players retiring before change happens.
That being said, let’s envision a scenario where the USA makes it all the way to the final and beats Brazil on penalties (I know, it's hard to imagine). What would happen? First and foremost, like with any celebration in the States, there would mass rioting, and Detroit would be one of the many cities to get hit first. While that is the worst case scenario, what would happen, is for a couple years more people would act like they care about the sport. We’d see a bump in ticket sales, and merchandise sales. Maybe you’d see Kaka, Xavi, Kris Commons and Zlatan come over to play in Major League Soccer. It would create a buzz for sure, and maybe over take MLB and the NBA in the pecking order in leagues to watch.
Winning the World Cup in Brazil is a lot to ask for, especially for a growing American team, but if we show any signs of progress and defy the odds in even the smallest way, interest in the sport in the States could continue to grow and flourish. That's something I, and many other football fans over here, would love to see.
By Stephen Brandt – Liverpool fan - @StephenCBrandt