I guess, it’s that time to write about US Soccer and next steps since the Jurgen Klinsmann era is now officially over. There’s tons of writing about this, so this is my obligatory post about the situation.
I’ll be the first to say, I’ve always supported JK. I think he was in a no-win situation. He’s not American. He doesn’t necessarily have the “yes-man” mentality. He was always one that ruffled feathers — no matter if it was talking down of MLS, supporting promotion/relegation, challenging players, calling out players publicly, and definitely his unfavorable Landon Donovan omission from Brazil 2014.
Was the USMNT where it should have been after two games in the Hex? No way. A loss to Mexico in Columbus and an embarrassment to Costa Rico in San Jose. How much of that is JK’s fault? Well, players win games and coaches lose games. So, must all be JK’s fault. A gamble in formation against Mexico had the Yanks down 1-0 at half. A better second half was negated by sleepy team marking on a corner in the last minutes.
What’s next for US Soccer? What will the next manager and/or Technical Director do? What will US Soccer do to usher in a new era?
I think it’s obviously going to be Bruce Arena again. This is disheartening. His tenure as USMNT coach was lackluster, in my opinion. He was way too glued to same guys and not getting other players exposure. I don’t have the figures, but JK has been the coach to get many guys looks — way more than any other USMNT coach in my knowledge. This should be applauded. It could have been done other ways, but at least JK gave people looks.
Here’s what needs to happen:
- Qualify top 3 in the Hex to guarantee Russia 2018
- If not top 3, have to finish 4th to get playoff into Russia 2018
- Figure out how to turn the lackluster USMNT playing into something all fans can rally around.
- A tremendous run in Russia 2018 to show JK firing was worth it.
Beyond that, we need a manager, Technical Director, and US Soccer Federation that will flip US Soccer on its head. Top-down it’s bad. Bottom-up it’s bad. In March, I wrote about what I’d do if I were in charge.
Well, it’s time to rehash that somewhat. What can we do to make changes that will impact things immediately for the sake of moving US Soccer forward.
Cut loose any older national team players who cannot or should not be part of the plan in qualifying for Russia (and possibly Qatar 2022).
Here’s who I’d start with: Brad Guzan, Kyle Beckerman, Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley (unless he turns his play around), Sacha Kljestan, Benny Feilhaber, Graham Zusi, Alan Gordon, Chris Wondolowski, Nick Rimando, and Timmy Howard. Just to name a few. Why? Because we need to start ushering in a new crop of players who will offer more for the future.
Next up on the list: Besler, Gonzalez, Orozco, Fabian Johnson, David Bingham, Luis Robles, Edgar Castillo, Alejandro Bedoya, and Mix Diskerud. I’m sure it’s easy to add more to these lists. Just rehashing guys who have been called up in 2015/16.
At the same time as cutting old guys, I’d form a couple different “national teams” structured with specific ages playing high level competitions. Get players that experience. Form a North American team. Form a South American team. Form a European team. Form an Asian team. Those teams are responsible for playing/training in those areas to identify talent and see who makes the cuts for meaningful international competitions.
MLS restriction on international players and ages.
It’s just time this happened. International roster spots cut from 8 spots to 3-4. It happens in tons of other leagues, why not MLS? Trickle down to NASL and USL too. Get younger players more meaningful minutes at higher levels. This is how development happens. This is how you get more younger players thinking about playing soccer for the rest of their lives. A league (MLS) that is 40+% international doesn’t help our USMNT one bit.
Ages…hard to focus on this, but cannot have the ages we do in our league. Again, how can younger players play when roster spots are taken up by “has-beens.” They are great veteran leaders, but hold back the youth of tomorrow. It’s amazing to see international clubs with a starting lineup that averages 23 years old. We’ll never get young players playing higher without an injection of youth.
Unification of the “US Soccer Pyramid”
Now, I wish I could totally say “promotion/relegation” here, but that’s not feasible until there’s more investment. But, it’s time that these outrageous expansion fees, requirements, and divisions get the boot. Have a clear structure of 1st division, 2nd division, 3rd division, etc. No more rogue leagues on their own. It’s all organized and run by USSF. It would be amazing to see what would happen for investment if this was done.
Trickle this all the way down to ALL youth leagues. Every league has to be approved by USSF. Unify AYSO, YMCA, USYSA, jaycees leagues, parent-run leagues, NFHS, NCAA, NAIA, NJCAA, USCAA, etc. Through these leagues, help grow the grassroots level by providing educational materials for all to get better. It’s time these organizations quit offering things just “for fun” when they could offer it “for fun AND learning.”
We need a true pyramid so young players can identify what it takes to be a top player. State leagues, regional leagues, to national leagues. It’s time US Soccer does something to encourage player development instead of sitting back and watching everyone else duke it out. WE NEED POSITIVE LEADERSHIP THAT IS PROGRESSIVE AND MOVES FROM ARCHAIC STRUCTURES.
Make US Soccer available for the public
Absurd to see/hear of ticket prices that US Soccer is gouging the public with. In the Hex qualifier against Mexico…$150. Ridiculous. Fake Copa America 2016 prices, ridiculous.
Get soccer in the mainstream…better and quicker. Whatever you can do, do it. All summer long there are MLS, NASL, and USL games. Make those more visible on national television to wider audiences. Yes, it’ll cost money. But, we need to find a way to make it happen.
This should also apply to your leadership and emphasizing that more teams do this. If the NCAA Division I National Tournament has almost all games live streamed, no reason more can’t do this either. Lift the paywalls from all, because let’s face it…not many pay $30 to watch the NAIA national tournament.
This needs to be emphasized for US Open Cup. This needs to be publicized as much as possible on US Soccer website(s). To grow the game, we need to push people to watch, learn, critique, and grow. A pitiful viewership for US v. Costa Rico and 2015 MLS Cup Final does nothing to grow the game. Fans are tired of footing the bill for everything while US Soccer blows it financially.
Publish a public plan
Last one, I promise.
It’s time to iron out a plan to make US Soccer a global competitor. How are you going to do it? What do you need to do it? How can all members of the US Soccer community help the US achieve global soccer success? Without some leadership and guidance, we are all just shooting from the hip.
This goes beyond the Player Initiatives, which was largely lost when it was released with such poor communication and thought. How can you be leaders to a public that needs leadership? What can the public do to help?
How can coaches help? How can players help? How can parents help? How can investors help?
Do you even want help? Do you think you can do it on your own?
Like him or not, Klinsmann said what he wanted to do to help turn things around. He was hated almost immediately for much of it because it spurned US Soccer and its lovers. But, he was right. There need to be great changes/plans to make US Soccer a global competitor.
Unfortunately, I do not see this move by US Soccer as a positive one. There needs to be more change than the coach and Technical Director of the USMNT. There’s so much more wrong with US Soccer. Get moving…or we’ll definitely be sitting at home for more than Russia 2018.