The past few months have been interesting for any follower of U.S. Soccer. From the euphoria of the USWNT adding another star above their crest to the USMNT continuing to look totally out of sorts, there have been a wealth of highs to match the sea of lows. As we approach the summer months, the number of tournaments and footy available to U.S.-based fans is staggering. From the Olympics, to the MLS, to the NWSL, to the Copa America (and various friendlies and qualifiers mixed in), the complete picture for U.S. Soccer will be on full display for months. However, with the promise of frequent play in the future, the present state of national soccer is staring down a rather ominous cloud.
Will the summer usher in sunshine? Or merely add fuel to create a tumultuous thunderstorm for the red, white, and blue?
Where the first part of this series focused primarily on the USWNT’s issues going into the summer, this piece will be firmly placed within the realm of the USMNT. This summer is going to be a massive run of fixtures of the men and it feels like the enigma of Klinsmann will be completely revealed once we find ourselves slipping into August.
The first thought is that we are still struggling at a youth level and struggling with Olympic qualifying. Perhaps it can be attributed to our region becoming more and more competitive or an issue within the youth ranks, but there is definitely a problem that needs to be addressed for the USMNT to secure a positive future. It’s not surprising to see our local neighbors experiencing an uptick in quality and play, what is surprising is that we haven’t been able to find a way to stay a step or two ahead. From what we’ve researched on our youth national teams, it feels like a system that needs to be totally revamped. If players aren’t in our youth ranks and then suddenly being ushered in to the top-tier USMNT, then somebody messed up at some point. Perhaps it requires a shift in scouting or more focus across the board, but a time five to ten years down the road has us very worried about the USMNT’s place.
The next thought is the future of Jurgen Klinsmann with the national team. Here is what needs to be done, plain and simple: play through the tournament this summer and make a serious decision. If we look positive and achieve some positive results, we should let Klinsmann continue to tinker with the national team. If the team continues to look like there’s no rhyme or reason to the squad selection, continues to be inconsistent with results, and is unable to beat teams within the CONCACAF region, then Klinsmann needs to be tossed. Sure, there aren’t a ton of better options out there, but Klinsmann needs to either find positive consistency or he needs to find a new job.
One of the positives for the USMNT is the simple fact that we are starting to see some younger players emerge as solid options for big clubs. This isn’t to reignite the fire about MLS vs Europe, but there’s no doubt that getting time with Chelsea, Dortmund, or other big European clubs is going to be a positive influence on players. In fact, it’s not a difficult statement to say that the next five years might see a fairly high quality group available for USMNT selection. If we can finally seem to make a final decision on whether to keep or toss some of the older players, then we might could move forward with some degree of quality on the pitch.
As we mentioned earlier, there is also the simple matter of all of the teams that the USMNT used to dominate beginning to improve. The USMNT should improve and be one of the better squads in the region, but it isn’t the cake walk that a lot of us experienced over the last two decades within our qualifying region. The last Gold Cup tournament was not a fluke, and it won’t be surprising to see the USMNT having to grind out local success instead.
Being a fan of the USMNT is an odd feeling. It’s not often that a team from the United States is incapable of having success within the sports world, but the USMNT is almost 100 years removed from actually rubbing shoulders with the best in the footy world. There is a lot that can (and probably should) change this summer, and there is definite hope that the USMNT can turn a corner and begin to show some success. USA! USA!