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Grouped or GLORY: GROUP C

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Argentina | Elo: 2 | FIFA: 3 |

History: With a tie against Ecuador in the last round of 2022 CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers, the Argentines were confirmed as invincibles. 2-time champions, 5-time finalists, and beneficiaries of two players often debated as the greatest in the history of the sport, even La Albiceleste tend not to look this good.

Formed at the start of the 20th century, the Argentina men’s national team opened its account with a bang. The first World Cup went mostly the same, but Uruguay would take revenge, coming from behind to deny La Albiceleste an inaugural triumph. Argentina withdrew from the next three tournaments, instead dominating regionally: In the 10 South American championships that took place during this self-imposed exile, Argentina failed to reach the final once.

              La Albiceleste returned to the World stage in 1958. They returned to the final 20 years later where they defeated the Dutch to hoist their first Jules Rimet. 8 years on, Maradona would lead Argentina to another triumph in Mexico, scoring 5 and setting up a decisive tally against Germany in the final.

In the 40 years after Maradona’s courtship of the divine, Argentina reached 3 World Cup finals, twice facing the Germans, and lost all of them. Since Messi’s emergence, La Albiceleste has lost 3 continental finals, and the aforementioned decider for the 2014 Copa de Mundial. On the back of the game’s greatest player, Argentina built a decade of heartbreak.

And then they won. And then they did it again.

 

And so arrive the Argentines, on the crest of a tsunami. Can the champions of South America become the champions of the world?

 

Expected Finish: 1st 

 

Why?

Argentina are the champions of South America, have a case as the best team in the world,  went undefeated against a notoriously difficult set of teams and fixtures, and are about to break the record for most games played without defeat

They have the best players, are playing at a historically high level, and haven’t failed to advance in 20 years.

Why would you pick against them?

 

Why not?

La Albiceleste face an injury crisis. That shouldn’t matter for the group stage, but it may prove costly in later rounds.

 

Key Players

The world’s most popular pick for “greatest of all time”, Lionel Messi is in-form again. The gold-standard of creation, progression, and scoring at his pinnacle, Messil’s impact on Argentina’s ability to win has been massive. Now on the wrong side of 30, La Pulga is not as influential as he once was, but it’s still hard to see Argentina winning everything without some magic from the sport’s preeminent magician.

 

Lautaro Martinez is making his case as one of the best attackers in the world. Highly prolific for club and country, Martinez’s combination of elite chance creation and goal-scoring has proven quite valuable to La Albiceleste. As the sun sets on Lionel Messi, the 25 year-old from Inter-Milan may prove to be a lynchpin for this team, both in Qatar, and beyond.



Mexico | Elo: 22 | FIFA: 13

History: And now we log another entry in the quest for quinto partido. A populous soccer-mad country with a strong domestic league and money to throw around, Mexico should be a powerhouse. Instead, El Tri is merely good

2-time World Cup quarter-finalists, 13-time World Cup qualifiers, perennial group-stage progressors, and the only team outside of Europe and South America to win a major FIFA tournament, Mexico have a strong case as the best of the rest. Yet, that mantle seems hollow given how far El Tri lag behind the best of the best,

Mexico first graced the world-stage at the inaugural World Cup in 1930. 3 games yielded 3 losses. To reach the 1934 edition, Mexico faced future arch-rivals USA. Mexico lost. After the second World War, Mexico emerged as the power in CONCACAF going perfect in qualifiers to reach the big dance in 1950 and 1954. From 5 more games, El Tri yielded 5 more losses.  Mexico finally yielded a point in 1958. In 1962 they went a step further and yielded a win. As hosts in 1970, Mexico yielded progression from the group-stage,

Success at home did not translate abroad with Mexico failing to qualify in 1974 and 1982 and going pointless in 1978. Fortunately, Mexico was, once more, awarded the right to host in 1986. El Tri capitalized, winning their group before notching their first, and only, knockout-stage win.

Unlike 1970, 1986 represented a permanent level-up. Mexico would host and win the confederations cup in 1999, reach the finals as invitees for two Copa Americas, and would consistently qualify for, and advance in, every World Cup where they weren’t banned for cheating.

With that we reach our status quo. Can El Tri buck history, or will they leave the way they’ve always left since 1994.

 

Expected Finish: 2nd

 

Why?

History tells us they’ll advance and I don’t see much to suggest Qatar would go differently. Mexico have qualified the way they usually do, have a talent pool similar to what they’ve had before and on par in terms of player quality with Poland while ranking higher on the basis of performance.

You’d be hard-pressed to find something Saudi Arabia compares favorably to Mexico with.

While Mexico hasn’t made the strongest case this cycle, in the absence of compelling counter-evidence, I’m going to bank on history.

Why not?

Mexico hasn’t looked great in recent friendlies, and there is a sense in Mexican fandom that the wheels are falling off. Mexico also technically grades out a bit lower on the talent front than Poland per TMV and WCDCS, and that may undersell the gap given the importance of strikers relative to other positions. Mexico simply has no equivalent for Lewadowski.

 

Raul Jiminez, formerly the centerpiece for El Tri, has not looked great since coming back from a life-threatening injury.

 

History is a guide, but it’s not a guarantee.

 

Key Players

Ajax Starter Edson Alvarez has emerged as Mexico’s best player in a cycle where various key pieces have found themselves in bad form. A strong defender and a capable playmaker, Edson will be critical for a successful campaign. 

 

Hirving Lozano is currently Mexico’s best attacker and a critical piece for a Mexican side that focuses the brunt of their offense down wide. A regular for a Napoli side that is comfortably leading Serie A, Lozano is goal-dangerous, a strong crosser, and a hard-working defender. 



Poland | Elo: 21 | FIFA: 20 |

History: Do not forget Poland. Despite their current reputation as perennial underperformers, Biało-czerwoni were the surprise of the 70’s and 80’s. A shock victory against football’s founders sparked a golden era that many countries could only dream of: Poland qualified for four straight World-Cups, escaped the group-stage at three of them, and became one of fourteen teams to reach two semi-finals via 3rd place finishes in 1974 and 1982.

That success has not been replicated. In the 30 years that followed, Poland have reached only 4 finals, all of which ended with the Poles getting grouped. Biało-czerwoni’s best approximation of success came at the 2016 European Championship with a quarterfinal exit. In two other European campaigns, the Poles were promptly grouped. 

2018 was particularly disappointing. With one of the best forwards in the world in the middle of his prime, Poland managed to win enough, and avoid enough friendlies, to be ranked top 8 FIFA, thus entering the World Cup draw in Pot 1. After gaming the system to secure an easier group, Poland were immediately eliminated 2 matches in. Akira Nishino thought so little of the Poles that Japan played  a “B-team” in a match where everything was on the line.

Poland will look to do better in Qatar, with a win against Sweden granting them, and Lewandowski, a chance at redemption.

Can Poland conjure the magic of the 74? Will Lewadowski deliver? Or will Poland, once again, disappoint?

 

Expected Finish: 3rd

 

Why?

Poland has the misfortune of being grouped with Argentina, possibly the best team in the world, and Mexico, a team who simply do not go out in the group-stage. Even if we ignored that, it’s not clear to me Poland is significantly more talented, or in better form. Lewandowski is a great equalizer, but is he enough?

Poland is the 3rd ranked team in this group by Elo, and FIFA, and has the third best track-record in terms of recent performance.

Maybe Lewandowski upsets the apple-cart, but 3rd place seems right to me. 

 

Why not?

Lewandownski has a case as the best scorer of goals on the planet, Poland do seem to have a marginal talent advantage by my chosen metrics, and that gap is probably undersold when we consider strikers having greater importance relative to other positions.  

Poland also swept Wales in the most recent nations league, and Mexico have looked bad in recent friendlies.

Poland breaking through here wouldn’t surprise me.



Key Players

To many, including Messi, a player worthy of the ballon d’or, Robert Lewandowski is maybe the best goal-scorer in the world. With a staggering 76 goals in 134 Poland appearances, the ex-Bayern superstar will be desperate to tally one in the World Cup. If Lewa is on, Poland has every chance to do something special here. 

 

Piotr Zielinski is having a phenomenal 22-23 thus far, with 5 assists and 3 goals in 15 Serie A games to go along with 3 goals and 2 assists in 6 champions league matches. An excellent chance creator who with an eye for goal, Zielinski is key for getting the best of Lewa, and if Lewa should fade, it will probably be up to the Napoli star to pick up the slack.


Saudi Arabia | Elo: 26 | FIFA: 19 |

History: Here fly The Green Falcons. Formed in the 50’s after a match pitting a collection of club players against the Egyptian Ministry of health, the last 40 years have constituted a golden aeon for Saudi Arabia soccer. The falcons have reached 6 of the last 8 World Cups, finished 2nd in the 1992 Confederations cup, and became the first team from the Middle-East to progress past the group phase after shock wins against Morocco and Belgium.

Saudi Arabia got started quickly. Having never participated in a full qualification tournament, the falcons had a proper debut in 1984 where they easily qualified… and then won. And then won again. Saudi Arabia would go on to make 5 consecutive Asian Cup finals, winning three. From obscurity to glory, the debutants had delivered a dynasty.

Having never put together a winning record in qualifying, The Green Falcons went undefeated to reach the 1994 World Cup and went on to reach the next three after that.

The falcons have a knack for surprise. Pegged to finish bottom in 2018, the Saudis recovered from a 5-goal whopping at Russian hands, to play Uruguay close and then upset the Egyptians. By topping a group with Japan and Australia, Saudi Arabia has earned the chance to surprise us once more.

They’ve already been dismissed, obituaries pending. Can the falcons prove us wrong?

 

Expected Finish: 4th

 

Why?

Saudi Arabia has not progressed in nearly 30 years having managed only 3 wins in 16 outings. They’re grouped with 2 teams that always make it, and are both the least talented, and lowest ranked side in this group. 

While topping a group with Japan and Australia is fairly impressive, Saudi Arabia’s regional success has historically not translated as well abroad in the same way it has for a team like Mexico. This may be a result of how Saudi Arabia plays. The falcons like to possess the ball and build attacks gradually. This may work disproportionately well in Asian qualifying with opponents who are less talented or prefer not to press high. It’s not hard to see this backfiring against their group-mates.

 

While it’s foolish to count them out entirely, it’s hard to argue they should be favored.

 

Why not?

History is a guide, not a guarantee. Taken as it is, one could construct the case that what the falcons did in qualifying is more impressive than what we saw from Poland or Mexico.

Additionally, familiarity is usually an advantage. Saudi Arabia’s team all plays in the same league which might offer an advantage in terms of chemistry and cohesion.

 

They’re underdogs for me, but dismiss The Green Falcons, at your own peril.

 

Key Players

Capable with the ball at his feet and an excellent positional defender, Mohammed Alburayk is a lynchpin for the falcons. With two AFC Champions League wins, 5 Saudi Professional League wins, 2 top 4 finishes at the Club World Cup, a combined 13 major trophies in 9 years as a pro, and a spot in the IFFHS “AFC Team of the Decade”, Alburayk is a giant in Asian football. With his ability to erase mistakes, and contribute in build up, Mohammed is particularly valuable for a Saudi side that likes to build slowly using positional overloads out wide.

 

Salem Al-Dawsari is Saudi Arabia’s most important attacker. Both the falcons’ primary creative hub as well as their biggest goal threat, it will probably fall on Salem to conjure up that little bit of offense Saudi Arabia will need to survive.

 

Predicted Group Standings

1

Argentina

2

Mexico

3

Poland

4

Saudi Arabia



For more info on the methodology click here.

Group Previews:

 

A

B

C D

E

F

G

H

 

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Medals on their Minds

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May 23, 2024

Every amateur athlete has the goal to compete at an Olympics and for 18 U-23 USMNT players, they will get that chance this summer in France.  It’s been 16 years since the men’s soccer team qualified to play in the Olympics when they failed to get out of the Group Stage in China.

Since 1992 when age rules changed to a U-23 roster the USMNT has only played in four of the eight Olympics, with only one successful tournament in Australia in 2000 when they finished fourth and chance to win their first medal since 1904.

Rosters & Player Selection

The Olympics isn’t a FIFA tournament so clubs aren’t required to release players for this tournament, which has impacted the quality that the U-23 USMNT has been able to use in past tournaments, which personally I think is a miss for FIFA not to promote this and the players who play in it more.

The Olympic squads allow for 22 players, seven of which are available as match substitutes with the remaining four available as alternates. All squads are required to have three goalkeepers and at least 15 of the 18 players must be born on or after January 1, 2001, which allows for a maximum of three overage players

Each team is required to send at least a 35-player provisional roster no later than 30 days before the first match, however, this list is non-binding and can still be added before their first Olympic match.

Player Pool

The U-23 USMNT will be coached by Marko Mitrović who was hired as manager in September of 2023 and will be tasked with helping put together a squad that will compete for a medal at the 2024 Summer Olympics in France.

Since the fall of 2023, the U-23 USMNT has had three camps. Below are the players who have been part of at least one of those camps which likely comprises the core group of players who will be part of the U-23 USMNT roster.

John Dorton/USSF/Getty Images for USSF

Goalkeepers (5)
Chris Brady-Chicago Fire (MLS)*
John Pulskamp-Sporting Kansas City (MLS)
Chituru Odunze- Charlotte FC (MLS)
Patrick Schulte-Columbus Crew (MLS)*
Gabriel Slonina-Eupen (Belgium)*

Defenders (8)
George Campbell- CF Montréal (MLS)
Brandan Craig- Philadelphia Union (MLS)
Maximilian Dietz- Greuther Fürth (Germany)
Nathan Harriel-Philadelphia Union (MLS)
Bryan Reynolds- Westerlo (Belgium)*
John Tolkin-New York Red Bulls (MLS)*
Jonathan Tomkinson- Bradford City (England)
Caleb Wiley- Atlanta United FC (MLS)*

Players of note who are eligible who haven’t been called in recently
Justin Che, Mauricio Cuevas, Jonathan Gomez, Jalen Neal, Josh Wynder

Midfielders (10)
Paxten Aaronson-Vitesse (Netherlands)*
Josh Atencio- Seattle Sounders FC (MLS)
Cole Bassett-Colorado Rapids (MLS)
Gianluca Busio-Venezia (Italy)*
Benjamin Cremaschi- Inter Miami CF (MLS)
Daniel Edelman-New York Red Bulls (MLS)
Jack McGlynn-Philadelphia Union (MLS)*
Aidan Morris-Columbus Crew (MLS)*
Tanner Tessmann-Venezia (Italy)*
Obed Vargas-Seattle Sounders FC (MLS)

Players of note who are eligible who haven’t been called in recently
Noel Buck, Rokas Pukštas

Forwards (12)
Agustin Anello-Sparta Rotterdam (Netherlands)
Esmir Bajraktarevic-New England Revolution (MLS)*
Taylor Booth-Utrecht (Netherlands)*
Cade Cowell-Guadalajara (Mexico)
Johan Gomez-Eintracht Braunschweig (Germany)
Brian Gutiérrez-Chicago Fire (MLS)*
Bernard Kamungo-FC Dallas (MLS)
Diego Luna-Real Salt Lake (MLS)
Duncan McGuire-Orlando City SC (MLS)
Kevin Paredes-VfL Wolfsburg (Germany)*
Indiana Vassilev-St. Louis City SC (MLS)
Griffin Yow-Westerlo (Belgium)*

Players of note who are eligible who haven’t been called in recently
Ricardo Pepi

The Men’s Olympic roster can also consist of up to three overage players. In a recent interview, Gregg Berhalter named three possible players Auston Trusty, Brandon Vazquez, and Walker Zimmerman as options, all of which fall into areas of need for the U-23 USMNT. I also believe other options for overage players could be Kellyn Acosta and Jordan Pefok.

Past Olympics Results

1992 Summer Olympics – Spain

Alexi Lalas X Account

Played in Group A with Poland, Italy, and Kuwait
Finished 3rd in their group and 9th overall with 1 Win, 1 Draw, and 1 Loss, GF-6, GA-5
Steve Snow led the team with 2 goals
Manager- Lothar Osiander

The U-23 USMNT played quite well in the Group Stage and if it hadn’t been for their hard-fought 2-1 loss to Italy they would have advanced out of the group.

Featured USMNT Players

Brad Friedel
Alexi Lalas
Mike Burns
Claudio Reyna
Joe-Max Moore
Cobi Jones
Chris Henderson

1996 Summer Olympics – United States (Host)

Miles Joseph #11, Midfielder and Defender for the United States and #2 Kenedy of Portugal challenge for the football during their Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Group A match at the XXVI Summer Olympic Games on 24th July 1996 at the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, Washington, D.C., United States. The match was drawn 1 – 1. (Photo by Martin Venegas/Allsport/Getty Images)

Getty Images

Played in Group A with Argentina, Portugal, and Tunisia
Finished 3rd in their group and 10th overall with 1 Win, 1 Draw, and 1 Loss, GF-4, GA-4
Brian Maisonneuve led the team with 2 goals
Manager- Bruce Arena

As hosts, the U-23 USMNT played well during the group stage, but not well enough to advance to the knockout stage. Argentina who was one of the teams in the group with the US would make it to the gold medal match but ended up losing 3-2 to Nigeria.

Featured USMNT Players

Kasey Keller*
Eddie Pope
Alexi Lalas*
Jovan Kirovski
Claudio Reyna
Frankie Hejduk

*Overage player 

2000 Summer Olympics – Australia

Getty Images

Played in Group C with Cameroon, Kuwait, Czech Republic
Finished 1st in their group and 4th  overall with 1 Win, 3 Draws, and 2 Losses, GF-9, GA-11
Peter Vagenas led the team with 3 goals
Manager- Clive Charles

The 2000 Olympics for the U-23 USMNT has been their greatest success to date. The US would play for the bronze medal against Chile a match they would end up losing 2-0. There would be five players from this roster who would be part of the 2002 FIFA World Cup team that advanced to the quarter-finals losing to eventual runners-up Germany 1-0.

Featured USMNT Players

Brad Friedel*
Jeff Agoos*
John O’Brien
Frankie Hejduk*
Ben Olsen
Chris Albright
Landon Donovan
Josh Wolff
Tim Howard

*Overage player 

2004 Summer Olympics – Greece – DNQ

The U-23 USMNT finished 4th in the Concacaf Pre-Olympic Tournament with the top two teams advancing to the Olympics. The team was managed by Glenn Myernick.

2008 Summer Olympics – China

Associated Press / Alamy Stock Photo

Played in Group B with Nigeria, Netherlands, Japan
Finished 3rd in their group and 9th  overall with 1 Win, 1 Draw, and 1 Loss, GF-4, GA-4
Sacha Kljestan led the team with 2 goals
Manager- Piotr Nowak

The U-23 USMNT played in a very good group and needed a win or a draw help to advance to the knockout stage, which they weren’t able to accomplish. Eight players on this Olympic squad were on the roster for the 2009 Confederation Cup team that ended Spain’s 35-match unbeaten streak and finished 2nd after losing to Brazil in the Final 3-2.

Featured USMNT Players

Freddy Adu
Jozy Altidore
Michael Bradley
Charlie Davies
Maurice Edu
Benny Feilhaber
Brad Guzan*
Stuart Holden
Sacha Kljestan
Brian McBride*
Michael Orozco
Michael Parkhurst*
Marvell Wynne

*Overage player 

2012 Summer Olympics – Great Britain – DNQ

The U-23 USMNT finished 5th in the Concacaf Pre-Olympic Tournament with the top two teams advancing to the Olympics. The team was managed by Caleb Porter.

2016 Summer Olympics – Brazil– DNQ

The U-23 USMNT finished 3rd in the Concacaf Pre-Olympic Tournament with the top two teams advancing to the Olympics. The team was managed by Andi Herzog.

2020 Summer Olympics – Japan– DNQ

The U-23 USMNT finished 3rd in the Concacaf Pre-Olympic Tournament with the top two teams advancing to the Olympics. The team was managed by Jason Kreis.

Expectations and Predictions

The group of U-23 USMNT has an opportunity to make a deep run at the 2024 Olympics in France with many possible players looking to get club transfers and work their way into the national team after this summer.

With the many failures of the USSF when it comes to qualifying and putting in a plan of success as it relates to the U-23 team, I think they have done quite well in building a quality player pool that should allow them a chance for a medal this summer.

As mentioned earlier clubs are not required to release players for the Olympics and my expectations and predictions are based on the 40 or so players mentioned above who have been part of recent camps along with the overaged players likely to be considered. 

While the U-23 USMNT is in a group with the host France they should still be able to get out of the group by beating Guinea and New Zealand, which is the minimum we should expect from this group, but will likely need at least five points to guarantee them a spot in the knockout stage. Ideally, they would be able to find their way to the semi-final and give themselves a chance to win a bronze medal, but that might be asking too much.

My hope is that the USMNT will be able to pull in a handful of young talented players from this pool into the national team squad to help provide needed depth while helping phase out some of the aging veterans.

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Is the MLS Specifically Targeting Expansion to USL Cities?

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In 2019, Don Garber and MLS announced they would expand to 30 teams.  A year later, Don Garber said the cities of Las Vegas, Indianapolis, San Diego, Detroit, and Phoenix were clubs interested in joining MLS.  Four of those cities had a USL or NISA club at the time of the announcement.  Today, one of those USL teams has ceased to exist, another may be in jeopardy now, and the NISA club is now a USL club.

On April 25th, 2024, the Mayor of Indianapolis, Joe Hogsett, announced an unnamed ownership group would put in a bid for an MLS club.  Along with the announcement, the owners of Indy XI (the USL Championship team in Indianapolis), Keystone Group, announced the City had backed out of the $1 billion fund for Eleven Park.  The stadium was announced in 2022 and was planned to be a 20,000-seat stadium.  It would also include additional apartments, office buildings, and other amenities.  Last year, the stadium broke ground.  That means that the mayor and city council agreed to stop the funding of a sports facility in mid-construction that would also add additional jobs to the people of Indianapolis and stop their backing of an existing club for a potential club.  If the city does not get the bid, it could have repercussions for elected officials.  When you look at social media, the people of Indianapolis are not happy about the announcement.

https://twitter.com/ManagerTactical/status/1783628831695184283

This is not the first time a team in the USL was in danger by the expansion by the MLS.  San Diego Loyal played their final season in 2023 after the announcement by the MLS that they would expand to San Diego with the club San Diego FC.  SD Loyal made the announcement just three months after San Diego FC was announced.  The reason was due to not being able to find a stadium solution.  As for San Diego FC, they will play their matches at the Snapdragon Stadium, which the Loyal could have used to play their matches.  Instead of looking for a solution to integrate San Deigo Loyal, MLS had their club created which led to the destruction of a club in a rival league.

Miami had a soccer club before Inter Miami, Miami FC.  Miami is a different story than San Diego.  Unlike the Loyal, Miami FC attracts a very small audience.  They averaged only 190 people a game a year before the arrival of Inter Miami, per Transfermarkt.  It has gone up since Inter Miami’s inaugural season.  Last season, the average attendance was 1,432 and this season it is 826 so far.  The problem falls on the people of Miami though.  Inter Miami increased their attendance by 35% to 17,061 last year from the prior season.  It still begs the question of how much longer Miami FC will last when they are competing against a club with Leonel Messi for attendance.

Las Vegas Lights is another USL Championship club but are in a city being looked at by MLS also for expansion.  Even worse, the current owner, José Bautista, is not part of the organization and is in talks with Don Garber to join the MLS, who would be the owners of Aston Villa.  Phoenix is a different story.  The USL team, Phoenix Rising, talked to MLS to join the league, which is a more positive solution.  Tampa Bay Rowdies did the same thing when they were pursuing an MLS bid.

MLS does speak to the current existing clubs in the city.  They did it with Louisville City, San Diego Loyal, Sacramento Republic, and others, but when that failed, they move in with their own clubs, i.e., San Diego FC and now potentially Indy MLS club.  What MLS is doing is not helping the growth of the sport.  They are aiming to monopolize the sport by destroying their competition, USL.  This would not be a problem if USSF would create an open system or step in to put it to a stop.  If MLS is the sole soccer league in the US with only 30-40 cities with a team, then you would isolate the hundreds of cities that have fans and players without a club to help accomplish their dream.  Even in other sports leagues in the US we do not see a campaign like this.  NFL did not actively work to end the XFL and the other football leagues.  The NHL and the MLB have minor leagues all over the country.  I do not prefer having minor leagues in soccer here in the US.  It would be preferable that the MLS and USL work together to expand the sport and/or USSF implement policies that protect smaller leagues from bigger leagues.

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USMNT Kits Come in Different Styles and Colors

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Thomas Deschaine (@uskeeper on X and us_keeper on Instagram)

US Soccer kit releases are something fans get excited about and lately have resulted in disappointment. US Soccer’s recent schedule for kits release during the cycle has seen them releasing another road and or third kits in Gold Cup years and home and away pairs in the even years. 

US Soccer is expected to release the 2024 Copa America kits for the USMNT in the coming weeks headed into the Nations League Finals. Last Thursday evening Footy Headlines, who has had a good track record of leaking USMNT kits in the past, provided the below pictures of the home and away USMNT kits. These kits haven’t officially been announced by Nike or US Soccer, but the anticipated announcement is expected in the coming weeks headed into the Nations League Final.

Photo from Footheadlies.com – February 29, 2024

Fake Leaked USMNT Kits

The below USMNT kits were leaked over the last decade, but none of them came to fruition, it’s fun to look at what could have been for the USMNT.

2014 World Cup Kits

These leaked kits headed into the 2014 FIFA World Cup were where loved by many USMNT fans due to the sash and the use of the Centennial Crest, but unfortunately, these kits were fakes and never released.

Photo from SportsLogos.Net – September 13, 2013

2015 Alternative Kit & 2016 Copa America

Generally, US Soccer releases an alternate kit in the years that the Gold Cup is played. This leak kit was reported back in 2015 by NBCSports and then again by MLS Soccer when it was suggested it could be used during the Copa América Centenario.

Photo from NBCSports – April 2, 2015

2022 World Cup Kits

I would have much preferred for the USMNT to have worn these kits at the 2022 FIFA World Cup when they ended up, but alas it was another leaked kit that never was. 

Photo from proscoccerwire.com – May 6, 2022

2024 Copa America Kit

This rumored kit for the USMNT was based on similar kits worn by the USMNT at the 1924 Olympics and the 1930 World Cup.

Photo from the18.com via Footieheadlines.com – September 14, 2023

History of US Soccer Crest and USMNT kits

Over ten years ago I began my research of USMNT soccer data in search of a single source site, which I quickly found didn’t exist. Through my research, I started to comply with old USMNT kits and crests from the past. As I acquired more and more kits worn by the USMNT and was able to start to fill in the gaps between them I decided to digitally recreate these kits and share them with the USMNT fans. 

Here’s a look at what I was able to find while it seems like a lot I am sure there are many more kits I missed and if so I would love to know which ones so I could create and update what I have already.

History of US Soccer Crests

Here’s the history of the US Soccer crests. I had to recreate several of these crests based on old pictures I found throughout my research since there were no digital images available. 

USMNT Kits – 1916-1973

These were the first kits worn by the USMNT which weren’t sponsored. There are variations of these kits worn by the USMNT which comprised of variations of crests and styles, likely due to available funds during this time. My favorite kits in the group are the ones with the sashes from the 1928 and 1936 Olympics and the 1959 Pan American Games

USMNT Kits – 1974-1983

The group of kits for the USMNT were the first that were sponsored by Adidas. There were a lot of similar styles of kits during this time which really lacked any creativity. My favorite kits in the group are the ones from the middle to late 1970s, there is something about their simplicity and clean look. 

USMNT Kits – 1984-1994

Adidas’s 20-year run of creating kits for US Soccer ended in 1994, with few quality kits made during those couple of decades, which is ironic considering how nice Adidas’s kits are today. My favorite kits in the group are the 1985/1986 blue hoop kit and the 1988 Blue Olympic kit.

USMNT Kits – 1995-2011

In 1995 Nike took over the creation of the US Soccer kits and started by making three similar kits for the 1995 Copa America and 1996 third kit for the US Cup. Nike did release three Special Edition kits in 2003, 2004, and 2006, which were only worn for one match each. My favorite kits in the group all had a sash on them, which were both the 2010 World Cup kits and the red 2011 Gold Cup kit. 

USMNT Kits – 2012-Current

Most USMNT fans would agree that recent kits released by Nike haven’t held the standard seen in the 2010s, where the hoops/stripes that some many fans loved for the 2012 Waldo kits were incorporated. My unsung kits of this group are the 2018 home kit, which would have been worn at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and the 2017 Gold Cup kit. 

USMNT Kits going forward

Nike and US Soccer signed what was considered a historical long-term sponsor agreement, in November 2021, that went into effect in Janaury 2023 that will run for at least a decade which will cover the 2026 FIFA World Cup and 2028 Summer Olympics and possibly a 2027 or 2031 Women’s World Cup hosted in the United States, so for fans who has hoped for a different kit creator they will have to wait a while.

Once the 2024 Copa America kits are released US Soccer will likely only release one more kit for the 2025 Gold Cup for the USMNT before releasing the 2026 World Cup kits. One idea that I’ve had for a long time was for US Soccer to release Special Edition Kits with styles from the past, with the limited release of those kits, coupled with playing matches in locations and venues throughout the United States to build the fan base and excitement for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

In conclusion, I am somewhat optimistic that US Soccer and Nike will create some variation of the 2012 Waldo kit & 1994 Stats and Denim kit to be worn as the hosts of the 2026 World Cup.

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