World Cup qualification failure signifies change for US soccer

By Miguel Gonzalez
Sports Editor

Forget about Freddy Adu or the 2-1 loss against Iran in the 1998 FIFA World Cup.

The U.S. men’s national soccer team’s loss against Trinidad and Tobago on Oct. 10, was not a surprise. It was an inevitable failure and an embarrassment to all previous American teams who competed on soccer’s grandest stage.

The team didn’t fail to qualify because of Panama’s controversial goal against Costa Rica or Honduras’ 3-2 victory against Mexico on the same night. The loss didn’t happen because the team played in a slippery pitch either. It was simpler than that.

Pulisic scores against Trinidad and Tobago. (AP Photo)

Taylor Twellman, a former USMNT player and analyst for ESPN, was blunt about U.S. soccer’s loss.

“And the discussion after Brazil, Max, was can we beat the Columbias, the Belgiums and the Argentinas of the world,” Twellman said. “You kidding me? We can’t beat Trinidad on a field that’s too wet and too heavy. What are we doing? What are we doing!”

The failure was on the Americans who couldn’t notch a vital win against a team currently in last place of the CONCACAF World Cup qualification group. Trinidad and Tobago had no incentive to compete unlike the Americans.

Christian Pulisic, a 19-year-old midfielder from Hershey, Pennsylvania, was anticipated to make noise at next year’s World Cup. Pulisic scored the U.S. team’s only goal against Trinidad and Tobago.

Americans across the nation would be preparing themselves for another exciting month of World Cup soccer next year. Another World Cup appearance would maintain soccer’s gradual rise in popularity in the U.S.

Instead, U.S. soccer misses out on the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

USMNT’s current roster speaks volumes of the abysmal state of American soccer talent development.

Forward Jozy Altidore, defender Omar Gonzalez and midfielder Michael Bradley have proven to be uninspiring competitors. Meanwhile, USMNT head coach Bruce Arena has insisted on using an aging core of forward Clint Dempsey, goalkeeper Tim Howard and forward Chris Wondolowski. While Arena has previously led the veterans to success, he has failed to develop the next generation of USMNT players.

With the exception to Pulisic and defender DeAndre Yedlin, Arena hasn’t utilized their young talent like goalkeeper Ethan Horvath. Moreover, the younger players haven’t been able to compete on the international level. The USMNT U-23 team failed to qualify the past two Olympics.Twellman emphasizes U.S. soccer’s lack of talented youth.

“As a whole, U.S. soccer’s not prepared,” Twellman said. “They have not done a good enough job of getting this ground ready to play. And keep in mind, the last two Olympics, no United States team qualified.”

While missing out on next year’s World Cup is devastating, it’s a necessary wake up call to the United States Soccer Federation.

It’s time for change across all levels of U.S. soccer and it starts with youth clubs.

There is a reason why soccer is the most popular sport in the world. Anyone in the world can play it.

From the Favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to the sprawling fields of Reykjavík, Ireland and to the sweltering heat of Azteca Stadium in Mexico, any kid can play soccer — except in the U.S.

Many poor and minority children cannot showcase their raw talent thanks to the exclusivity of clubs and academies. These organizations charge thousands of dollars for uniforms, registration and tournament fees, travel expenditures and club dues just for a child to have a chance to play. It’s an unfair pay-to-play system that shuns many children from low-income backgrounds.

At the end of his speech, Twellman called for a drastic change in U.S. soccer.

“If this failure does not wake up everyone from U.S. soccer to Major League Soccer, from pay-to-play to broadcasters, to everything, then we’re all insane,” Twellman said.

Next year’s World Cup isn’t going to be the same without USMNT. Even though my parents raised me to be a fan of Mexico, I always loved watching USMNT make a splash at the World Cup. From players like Landon Donovan to the dedicated American Outlaws fan base, U.S. soccer has the talent and resources to be a premier national soccer team.

Unfortunately, Bruce Arena and U.S. soccer federation president Sunil Gulati just don’t embrace the motto — one nation, one team.