Italy, Chile, Netherlands and the U.S. are four countries that will not be part of the 21st FIFA World Cup in Russia this summer. This is the U.S.’s first time not being part of the tournament since the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico. As soccer obsessed nations from all over the world are participating to leave their mark on the prestigious tournament, the U.S. men’s team will be watching the games not from the dugout, but from their television sets.
Oct. 10, 2017, the U.S. men’s soccer team faced Trinidad and Tobago, needing a tie to qualify them for the World Cup. Their conclusive loss ended a streak of seven consecutive World Cup appearances.
The news of the failure of U.S. men’s soccer echoed throughout various factions of the media and public. Although other sports dominate viewership in the U.S., there are many avid supporters of international and club level soccer. The disappointment was seen in all quarters of the sport community as well, amongst athletes that have performed and delivered at the highest stage.
Francisco Autran, a master student at UW Tacoma, has been a passionate soccer fan for over 10 years. He is originally from Los Angeles, and is a keen supporter of the LA Galaxy soccer team. He wasn’t able to hide his deep disappointment when providing his opinion on the U.S. team’s performance in the World Cup.
“It’s all down to the quality of the MLS in my opinion. The league has grown, especially when you look at legendary players like Frank Lampard, David Villa, Steven Gerrard and Andrea Pirlo,” Autran said. “However, what’s important to note [is] that these players join the MLS when they are no longer able to compete in the much tougher European soccer leagues. This shows the league is not a competitive training ground.”
Every country that has won and competed statistically well in the World Cup has either had its own high-quality soccer league or allowed its players to compete in competitive leagues in other countries.
Take Brazil as an example: they have won five World Cups — most in the history of soccer — and yet they have never had a famous club level soccer league. Majority of their decorated players such as Ronaldo Luis, Ronaldinho Gaucho and Rivaldo Ferreira have all played for top European soccer clubs, while also bringing international glory to their country by winning the World Cup. That tradition continues till this day with their current crop of players playing in the best clubs in Europe.
Vasudha Mulakaluri, an international student at UWT from India, gave her thoughts on how the U.S. can recover from this ordeal. Mulakaluri has been a zealous Manchester United F.C. fan for many years and keeps track of soccer updates all around the world.
“I believe that development of young American soccer players can be most progressive if they are signed by clubs in England, Spain, Germany, etc.,” Mulakaluri said. “American players need to adapt to the physical demands and variation in tactics being employed. Only by competing regularly against the best opposition can they improve their technical soccer skills.”
This point is well supported considering the best player for the U.S. men’s team in the qualifiers was 19-year-old Christian Pulisic. He was the top goal scorer in the fifth round of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers with five goals and was appreciated by journalists for his contribution.
Fans, coaches and journalists feel that Pulsic’s success is due to the fast development he has gone through by playing for one of the biggest German soccer teams, Borussia Dortmund. United States Soccer Federation must somehow integrate its young players in European leagues or improve the quality of soccer being played in the MLS to avoid future embarrassing exits in the sport.
U.S. soccer fans are hopeful that the men’s team can replicate the same success of the women’s team, which has won the World Cup three times — most by any nation in the sport. They are also the current champions and are No. 1 in the FIFA Women world rankings.
People cannot wait to see the men’s soccer team bring some much needed silverware like their female counterparts. Soccer is one of the very few sports that Americans haven’t conquered, and there is a growing impatience amongst the public to see a competitive display from the team sooner rather than later.