U S men’s national soccer team fails to qualify for 2018 World Cup
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It’s been 31 years since May 31, 1986 — the last World Cup that didn’t feature the United
States. That’s 11,456 days of progress for a sport that’s come so far in a country
that still hasn’t fully embraced it.
All of that gone.
With U.S. soccer’s dreadful 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago on the final day of CONCACAF’s
qualifying hexagonal for the 2018 World Cup, next summer’s tournament will not feature
the USMNT. No Christian Pulisic. No Tim Howard. No Michael Bradley. With that loss, the USMNT
gave a nation the lowest point in its sporting history, and it’s not really close.
CONCACAF is a grind, but compared to the other qualifying regions, the 3.5 World Cup spots
out of six teams mean that the United States should be a lock to qualify. When it beat
Panama, 4-0, on Friday, the U.S. put itself in position to escape a lackluster qualifying
round with a spot in the tournament. All it really needed to do was take care of business
at lowly Trinidad and Tobago. They couldn’t even do that. With no sense
of urgency, USMNT players and coaches had to watch as their CONCACAF counterparts did
them no favors. Four years after the USMNT saved Mexico’s World Cup dreams, El Tri
instead blew a lead to Honduras and helped seal the USMNT’s fate. Costa Rica also blew
a lead to Panama on a goal that shouldn’t have counted and gave up a late winner as
the U.S. decided to score-watch rather than take matters into its own hands. A mostly
empty stadium in Couva, Trinidad and Tobago, felt even emptier on this night.
It’s really difficult to quantify how bad this loss was for U.S. Soccer. Sunil Gulati
and Bruce Arena should both be gone. Tim Howard, whose last World Cup appearance was a legendary
performance, will likely leave U.S. Soccer with the lasting image of his worst performance
with the national team. As bad as things got for the USMNT, the possibility of missing
the World Cup didn’t actually seem real. It’s that arrogance that likely brought
the team to where it is right now — out of the World Cup. When U.S. soccer legend
Alexi Lalas called out the USMNT, it’s biggest star, Pulisic, laughed off the attempted gut-check
But when it comes down to it, though, the sport of soccer in the U.S. is going to feel
the lasting effects the most. Every World Cup is an opportunity to grow the sport on
the biggest stage.
Even the growth from 2010, to 2014, to now has been tremendous. A nation went crazy when
Landon Donovan sent the USMNT into the Round of 16 with his late winner in 2010 (a loss
would have meant an early trip home). A nation went crazy when John Brooks put the U.S. ahead
against Ghana in 2014, as he ran around not fully processing what he had done.Those moments
forge memories and make lifelong fans of the sport. It creates momentum that makes it possible
for an MLS team to draw 71,000 fans for a regular season match. Those moments inspire
a young fan to kick around a soccer ball rather than throw a football. Those moments make
it possible for a 19-year-old wonderkid to break through into the next level of international
stardom.That’s not happening anymore. It’s five years — at best — of the USMNT out
of the forefront of American sports. All because U.S. soccer let 95 minutes of arrogance erase
31 years of progress.
And that is truly a shame.