With sports teams like the Chicago Cubs in baseball, Cleveland Cavaliers in basketball and the Boston Red Sox a decade ago shedding some of the longest droughts in professional sports history the question so many US Soccer fans ask themselves – can we really do it?
Historically only eight countries have won the World Cup. Three from South America and five from Europe, no team from another continent have ever won it. How can a country with so many sports competing for athlete’s attention, a country that calls the great game “soccer” and has the sport being so low on the list of fan attendance and stardom really win the World’s game?
So many other countries, who are wholly commited to soccer, have consistently gotten farther without success like Holland who in 2010 took there third shot in the finals and came up empty. Only two new champions have joined (Spain ’10 and France ’98) since Italy won in 1982, 36 years ago. Those numbers don’t bode well for an up and coming squad like Team USA’s chances who haven’t even cracked the top 10 FIFA World Rankings.
I hold on to a glimmer of hope in a long list of things that make the USA uniquely qualified to have confidence they can join that group some day. Here we go:
- Our nation’s competitive spirit – our country has long been founded on a series of great athletes and a desire to win in all areas. Take a look at our Olympic records, the Miracle on Ice, our response to losing one basketball Olympic Gold metal and revamping the entire look of our program to return to dominance. I believe our youth that are finding their footing in soccer have a tremendous desire for American players to gain the respect that we have in so many other sports.
- The game’s popularity is growing – by leaps and bounds. It’s one of the most popular sports being played by kids today and the popularity of EPL, Champions League and our own MLS has continued to explode gaining more and more interest in improving our own standing. This success coupled with NFL’s seemingly slowed growth and the decline of the other major sports outside of the NBA.
- The current crop of young players – we have stars in the MLS, Mexico and gaining major momentum in Europe. We haven’t seen a star in the attacking end of the field like Christian Pulisic and he’s only 18. There are several other young players floating around Europe and getting scooped up as the MLS is constantly improving their Academy system (discussed below).
- The Academy system is growing – the United States has been markedly behind in understanding this space and developing young players, but that has been changing and will continue to improve. We are not only improving the game at home, but other countries are on notice of our academy system and athletes. There is increased interest in taking chances on young American players.
- US Soccer wants it badly – we took a huge leap forward in getting Jurgen Klinsmann to come on board as coach of our team. He retooled the youth system and drew interest from many dual nationals to come play for team USA. Regardless of your, and for that matter my, opinion of his tactical ability on the field it was a big move forward. It was a sign that US Soccer wants to move our program forward and compete for a cup.
There is a longer list, but these are enough for me. I believe it’ll take the right combination of players, follow Spain’s and Germany’s model of getting several players on the same top flight club team, even the location of the tournament (it’ll likely be in the US if we win) and make-up of the tournament for it to happen. We’ll need the elusive top flight striker we’ve never had, and the creative midfield, stout back line and stellar goalie combination we never seem to land at the same time. We’ll need more depth at several positions to endure a tournament. It’ll all have to come together, but I believe it can and it will. We have the ability, we have the growing crowd of fans and we have the make up to become a nation that can win it all….as for me…
I believe that we can win!