YANKS ALL FOLKS

NATHANIEL BAKER LOOKS AT THE CON­SE­QUENCES OF THE USA FAIL­ING TO QUAL­IFY FOR NEXT YEAR’S WORLD CUP IN RUSSIA

Late Tackle Football Magazine - - USA SUFFER CUP SHOCK -

THE USA ex­pe­ri­enced their big­gest foot­ball hu­mil­i­a­tion for close to 30 years last month when they spec­tac­u­larly failed to qual­ify for the World Cup in Russia.

The reper­cus­sions of this ab­ject fail­ure, brought about by a loss to Trinidad & Tobago, will be felt for years to come - and not just in Amer­ica.

Start with the eco­nom­ics. Seems that would be a good place see­ing how the US is, for bet­ter or worse, the de­facto leader of the cap­i­tal­ist free world (a man­tle we in­her­ited from our for­mer colo­nial mas­ter, as most of you read­ing this will be quick to claim. Fine, so it's all your fault. But let's stick to the topic here, shall we?).

The US is the world's largest con­sumer mar­ket and the largest source of tele­vi­sion view­er­ship. Fox paid more than $400 mil­lion for the (English-lan­guage) rights to broad­cast the 2018 World Cup state­side.

In 2014, an av­er­age of 14 mil­lion Amer­i­cans saw the USA's World Cup matches in Brazil, ac­cord­ing to num­bers com­piled by Forbes. That's a lot of eye­balls.

While surely not all of the 14 mil­lion will tune out now that the US failed to qual­ify, a large por­tion most cer­tainly will. In Brazil, games not fea­tur­ing the US av­er­aged just 3.9 mil­lion view­ers, ac­cord­ing to the New York Times.

So you're look­ing at a loss of about 10 mil­lion view­ers. That's still a lot of eye­balls. It's also a lot of up­set spon­sors.

Then there is the tourism. In 2010 most vis­i­tors to South Africa came from the US. In Brazil, Amer­i­can vis­i­tors were the sec­ond-most nu­mer­ous be­hind only Ar­gen­tines.

Russia cer­tainly could have used the Amer­i­can vis­i­tors, what with them buy­ing our pres­i­dent and ev­ery­thing. That's now out the window (not the pres­i­dent. They still got him).

Prob­a­bly a lot of Amer­i­can fans al­ready booked tick­ets see­ing how the US has qual­i­fied, mostly with­out is­sue, for ev­ery World Cup since Italia '90.

But surely many did not and it's hard to see they will now be mak­ing the in­vest­ment of time and money to travel such a dis­tance. That's less money for FIFA.

These fac­tors add up to make soc­cer (or, if you pre­fer, foot­ball) a less at­trac­tive in­vest­ment for Amer­i­can and global cor­po­ra­tions. Which means a lot of money could soon be leav­ing the game state­side.

While this may sound like a wel­come propo­si­tion to many read­ers, par­tic­u­larly those in the UK long­ing for a "purer" game un­sul­lied by the evils of pound ster­ling and euro (to say noth­ing of petrodol­lars and ren­minbi), the sport is on far shakier ground in the US. We need all the help we can get from cor­po­rate spon­sors. Amer­i­can clubs in Ma­jor League Soc­cer don't make much money from TV for the sim­ple rea­son that Amer­i­can view­ers would rather watch the Premier­ship.

The gate re­ceipts are pretty healthy, but not healthy enough to sup­port all the train­ing in­fra­struc­ture nec­es­sary for the game to con­tinue to ad­vance state­side.

That ad­vance­ment is needed was made read­ily ap­par­ent by the qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign. Two dif­fer­ent man­agers, one Ger­man (Jur­gen Klins­mann), the other Amer­i­can (Bruce Arena) pro­duced the same string of poor re­sults.

Two losses to Costa Rica. A draw against Panama. The first home loss to Mex­ico in World Cup qual­i­fy­ing since 1972. Fi­nally, the loss against Trinidad when a point would have seen us through to qual­i­fi­ca­tion or at the very least a play-off ver­sus Aus­tralia. Em­bar­rass­ing.

Eng­land's loss to Ice­land was bad but at least that came dur­ing the knock­out stage of the Eu­ros. Imag­ine if it had cost you a

spot in the tour­na­ment. The prob­lem lies in the player pool, in that there are sim­ply not enough good Amer­i­can play­ers.

Our best right now is a teenager, Chris­tian Pulisic. The 19-year-old winger hap­pens to be one of very few ply­ing his trade for a top team in Europe (Borus­sia Dort­mund).

The rest play for MLS sides, which many have ar­gued has hurt their games. There may be mer­its to this ar­gu­ment see­ing how poor the level of play in the MLS still is.

But send­ing play­ers like Michael Bradley and Jozy Alti­dore back to Europe would likely be a short-term so­lu­tion at best.

More, and bet­ter skilled, play­ers are needed, and that’s ur­gent. Few Amer­i­cans can play with both feet. Many can't even trap the ball prop­erly and fewer still can read the game or po­si­tion them­selves the way they're sup­posed to. And yes, these are na­tional team play­ers.

That these prob­lems con­tinue to per­sist a full gen­er­a­tion af­ter the US hosted the World Cup speaks to a fun­da­men­tal flaw with the way the game is taught and coached. The US at the World Cup was a rite of pas­sage for a gen­er­a­tion of fans. The last time we even had to worry about qual­i­fy­ing was for the 1990 World Cup. In the de­cid­ing game of that cy­cle, a goal by Paul Caligiuri, a Cal­i­for­nian then play­ing in Ger­many's sec­ond divi­sion, gave the US their first World Cup ap­pear­ance since 1950 - iron­i­cally at the very same ground where the US cap­sized so dis­as­trously last month.

In ’94 we qual­i­fied au­to­mat­i­cally as hosts and it was smooth sail­ing ev­ery time since.

That run of suc­cess is now over and with it a sense of con­fi­dence has been lost. US soc­cer is now in cri­sis. Dras­tic changes are needed if it is go­ing to avoid spi­ral­ing down­wards.

Nathaniel Baker is an Amer­i­can who grew up in Europe, where at an English school he de­vel­oped an un­healthy ob­ses­sion with Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur. He is the chief con­trib­u­tor to the Soc­cer Source blog, avail­able at soc­cer­source.blogspot.com

It’s all over: USA play­ers look de­jected af­ter miss­ing out on the World Cup

RE­MEM­BER THIS? Eng­land’s Rob Green spills Clint Dempsey’s tame shot for the US dur­ing the 2010 World Cup (1-1)

Stun­ner: Trinidad & Tobago’s Alvin Jones cel­e­brates his goal in the sur­prise 2-1 win against the USA

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.