Analysis, Events, Soccer, Sports Data, World Cup

Ushering in a New Era for US National Team Soccer

The 2018 World Cup finished a little over a week ago now. Big storylines around this year’s World Cup include the introduction of Video Assistant Referee (VAR), the lack of scoreless draws, and Croatia’s unprecedented run to the finals. (Read previous blog article about Croatia’s 2018 World Cup run here) However, one key storyline was missing from the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the one involving the US Men’s National Team (USMNT). The US failed to finish in the top four spots of the hexagonal round in the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers last fall. Only needing to earn a draw against Trinidad & Tobago, the US failed, and summer plans to compete in Russia were put to bed.

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Although the USMNT did not compete in the 2018 World Cup, during the tournament, the US received exciting news about the future. The joint North American bid to host the 2026 World Cup had been accepted by FIFA. In the summer of 2026, the US will host 75% of the matches, including the Final, which will be played in MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. Essentially, the US Soccer Federation has eight years to get the Men’s National Team ready to compete against world-class talent.

After the disappointing result in the Qualifiers, it seemed evident that the USMNT would experience a complete personnel overhaul. Head coach Bruce Arena quickly resigned, and President of US Soccer Federation, Sunil Gulati, did not seek re-election. In addition to front office members, many believe that the tragedy in Trinidad was the curtain call for aging US players like Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Graham Zusi, DaMarcus Beasley, and Chris Wondolowski. Also, USMNT legends Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard most likely have played their last games in the Stars and Stripes. Dempsey is tied with Landon Donovan for most career goals scored for USA, and Howard set the World Cup record for most saves by a keeper in a single match in 2014. All these players have had a tremendous impact on this team, each having integral roles in the team that finished 4th in the Copa America Centenario in 2016 as well as the team that was crowned 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup Champions. However, it is time for a new set of Americans to make their own history on the pitch.

The new set of American players will be headlined by Christian Pulisic. Pulisic plays a starting role for German giants Borussia Dortmund and he has played for the USMNT since 2016, debuting when he was just 17 years old. He is certainly a bright spot in the US’ future. Surely he will be supported by other young stars like Weston McKennie and Timothy Weah. Both players play on top teams in top European leagues, with McKennie at FC Schalke and Weah at Paris Saint-German. Weston McKennie made 22 appearances for Schalke this past season, playing an elemental part in securing Schalke’s best Bundesliga finish in 8 seasons as well as earning them a spot in the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League. Although Weah doesn’t see much first-team action at PSG, the young American striker has the privilege to learn from one of the best front 3 units in the sport, Neymar, Edinson Cavani, and Kylian Mbappe.

Just minutes after the 2018 World Cup came to a close, former US Men’s National Team player and current ESPN FC pundit, Taylor Twellman, released a video which he entitled the Twellman Doctrine. Essentially, his video gave a brief outline of what the US Soccer Federation must do to be competitive at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar but more importantly, to be competitive for the 2026 World Cup on home turf. Watch Twellman’s video here.

For now, the USMNT must stop dwelling on the past. Although Twellman’s plan outlines a plan for future World Cup success, the success can and should start now. The national team has a number of friendly matches against world class teams this autumn, playing Brazil, Mexico, England, and Italy. These matches present a perfect opportunity to introduce young American players into the first team. Positive results in these matches will hopefully translate to success in the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup next summer. With an abundance of chances to cheer on the national team coming up, be sure to use FanWide to go to USMNT match watch parties at a local bar, pub or restaurant.