World Cup fail­ure prompts calls for U.S. soc­cer ‘rev­o­lu­tion’

Men’s National Team’s em­bar­rass­ing loss Wednesday cre­at­ing mo­men­tum for com­plete over­haul

Yuma Sun - - SUN SPORTS -

COUVA, Trinidad — When soc­cer holds its world’s fair in Rus­sia next June, the Amer­i­can pav­il­ion will be glar­ingly ab­sent.

A bum­bling, stum­bling, tum­bling World Cup qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign ended Tues­day night with a calami­tous 2-1 loss to al­ready elim­i­nated Trinidad and Tobago, the 99th-ranked na­tion in the world, when merely a tie was nec­es­sary to eke out the fi­nal au­to­matic World Cup berth from one of soc­cer’s weak­est re­gions.

“Un­ac­cept­able,” tweeted for­mer Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Donna Sha­lala, a U.S. Soc­cer Fed­er­a­tion board mem­ber. “For us in US-Soc­cer more than a wake-up call. Time for rev­o­lu­tion. Need long-term plan that is smart.”

After Amer­i­can soc­cer’s Water­loo, the fall­out al­most surely will lead to a new coach and pos­si­bly a new USSF head. There also fig­ure to be calls for a re­ex­am­i­na­tion of the player devel­op­ment struc­ture, from youth teams through academies de­signed with the hope of pro­duc­ing elite prospects.

“There is no deny­ing that this is a set­back for all of us in­volved with the game in our coun­try,” Ma­jor League Soc­cer said in a state­ment.

New York Cos­mos owner Rocco Com­misso, chair­man of the lower-level North Amer­i­can Soc­cer League that has sued the USSF, called for fed­er­a­tion Pres­i­dent Su­nil Gu­lati to re­sign along with board mem­bers and se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tors he put in place.

“In the al­most 12 years dur­ing which Su­nil Gu-

lati has been the USSF’s pres­i­dent, lit­tle or noth­ing has been done to en­hance our prospects,” Com­misso said in a state­ment. “The lead­er­ship of U.S. Soc­cer has failed all of its stake­hold­ers: play­ers, fans, spon­sors and those of us who have in­vested in pro­fes­sional soc­cer. Get­ting back on track re­quires fun­da­men­tal change in the struc­ture and man­age­ment of the sport in our coun­try, start­ing with a change in the fed­er­a­tion’s lead­er­ship.”

While fans ful­mi­nated over the front of­fice, the next national team coach must in­sti­gate a ruth­less ros­ter purge. The Tim Howard/Clint Dempsey/Michael Bradley era is over, and pretty much any player older than 26 will be past his past his prime when the World Cup in Qatar kicks off in Novem­ber 2022. The Amer­i­cans won’t even play a com­pet­i­tive match for nearly two years, un­til the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

By then, Chris­tian Pulisic, at 19 al­ready the top Amer­i­can, should be sur­rounded with other play­ers on the rise, such as 19-year-old mid­fielder We­ston Mcken­nie, who has started Schalke’s last three games in the Ger­man Bun­desliga. Haji Wright, a 19-year-old winger loaned from Schalke to sec­ond-di­vi­sion Sand­hausen, is an­other top prospect along with for­ward Josh Sar­gent, who agreed last month to sign with Werder Bre­men on his 18th birth­day in Fe­bru­ary.

Matt Mi­azga and Cameron Carter-Vick­ers should be tested in de­fense as the team re­ori­ents to 2022.

A shocked Gu­lati was mea­sured in his re­ac­tion.

“You don’t have whole­sale changes based on the ball be­ing 2 inches wide or 2 inches in,” he said. “We will look at ev­ery­thing, ob­vi­ously, and all of our pro­grams, both the national team and all the devel­op­ment stuff. But we’ve got a lot of pieces in place that we think are very good and have been com­ing along.”

The U.S. re­turned to the World Cup in 1990 after a 40-year ab­sence, and soc­cer grew at an ex­po­nen­tial rate, helped by the U.S. host­ing the tour­na­ment in 1994. Ma­jor League Soc­cer launched two years later; ca­ble tele­vi­sion and the In­ter­net brought top Euro­pean clubs to Amer­i­can tele­vi­sions and later lap­tops and cell phones.

Euro­pean clubs dis­cov­ered there was huge money to be made by play­ing pre­sea­son ex­hi­bi­tions across the pond, grow­ing the sport’s au­di­ence.

Amer­i­can spon­sors started treat­ing soc­cer like a ma­jor sport, if not at the level of the NFL, base­ball and the NBA, at least as prom­i­nent as the NHL, golf and ten­nis.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

UNITED STATES’ CLINT DEMPSEY RE­ACTS dur­ing a 2018 World Cup qual­i­fy­ing match against Trinidad and Tobago in Couva, Trinidad, Tues­day.

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