The US Men’s National Team failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup last night after a tragic 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago. This is the first time the USMNT has been left out since 1986. All they needed was a tie and they would have moved on. However, their loss mixed with Panama’s victory over Costa Rica and Honduras’s over Mexico put the final nail in the USMNT’s coffin.
An appeal is in the works over the controversial goal scored by Panama that helped seal the USNT’s fate; a goal that could have been truly confirmed or denied using goal-line technology which Panama doesn’t have. It is unlikely that this appeal will hold because a referee’s decision is final after the match has concluded according to the FIFA Laws of the Game.
What is the fallout from this devastating loss?
Well for one, Bruce Arena’s job is in jeopardy. Soccer coaches typically have a high turnover rate as is, and being the first coach to fail to get the team to the World Cup in over 30 years does not speak well to Arena’s future. People are demanding a replacement for Arena and CBS Sports has already compiled a list of possible candidates moving forward.
Fans are justifiably upset with the team and the program as a whole. Undoubtedly, the US has been well behind the rest of the world in soccer and Trinidad and Tobago just proved that (we have much bigger and better things to focus on, such as “American” football). Perhaps the loss can act as a catalyst for change in the US soccer realm. New management, new coaches, new grassroots efforts to acquire talent. The US soccer program has needed restructuring for quite some time, especially if it wants to keep pace with other successful programs around the world.
This loss didn’t just upset fans. Unhappy media conglomerates should also incentivize the US soccer program to get its act together. It cost Fox $200 million plus all of the missed advertising revenues for airing USMNT games. Fox had said that they would stream 350 hours of live content and claimed the 2018 World Cup to be their biggest production to date. US soccer fans are hardly ‘fanatic’ about soccer as the term characterizes. Since their team is not represented, many of them are unlikely to watch the World Cup.
Missed opportunities will also be felt by commercial businesses throughout the US next summer. Nike sells USMNT jerseys, a venture sure to stagnate for awhile while the bitterness subsides. Sports bars will also be affected since fans will no longer need to find watch parties for their home team during World Cup games.
A Michigan professor, Andrei Markovits, says that this USMNT loss will create a setback for the US to take its place as a superpower among the soccer-centric countries across the globe. There’s no arguing that this loss is bad for soccer in the US. However, the program should utilize this traumatic event as an opportunity to rebuild from the ‘grassroots’ up and come back with a bigger and badder USMNT in the 2022 World Cup and beyond.