What does World Cup failure mean for soccer in the USA?

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The U.S. national team failing to reach the 2018 World Cup means so much more than not seeing the Stars and Stripes in Russia next summer.

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Let’s not beat about the bush here. Not qualifying for the World Cup for the first time in 32 years is a massive embarrassment for the USMNT, especially when it came down to getting one point against a weakened Trinidad and Tobago side to seal qualification.

They should have never been in this position in the first place.

With this group of players and the opponents they faced in World Cup qualifying in the CONCACAF region, there is no excuse for not finishing at least in the top three teams in the Hex.

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Aside from the immediate issues to sort out regarding the future of several veteran players (Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey, Geoff Cameron and others) and that of the coach Bruce Arena and U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) president Sunil Gulati, there is a huge secondary impact from not having the U.S. at the World Cup.

Next summer youngsters and casual soccer or sports fans in the U.S. will simply pay less attention to the games in Russia. That’s bad news for every single part of the soccer industry in the USA.

But U.S. fans will keep supporting their team. European clubs will not stop coming to the U.S. for preseason tours. Overseas stars will not be put off joining Major League Soccer . Fans will still watch the game at every level. But now a key catalyst to increase interest levels, which had arrived every four years for nearly three decades, has been lost and patience with the people running U.S. Soccer has run out.

Believing the U.S. not making a World Cup will have anything other than a negative impact on the short-term future of the game in the USA is pure naivety.

It is hard to quantify just how much money will be lost to the U.S. economy, and to U.S. Soccer, through their failure to not qualify but we can assume there will be many millions of dollars not spent on promoting the USMNT and the tournament as a whole. This is all down to the USA’s defeat at Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday and their dreadful qualifying campaign over the past 12 months.

For the team itself, a whole generation of U.S. youngsters will now not have the experience of playing at a World Cup under their belt by the time the 2022 tournament in Qatar rolls around. Christian Pulisic will not play at a World Cup until he is edging towards 24.

Think about that.

Yes, he is still incredibly young but there’s no doubting that not being at the World Cup next summer could stunt his progression, and that of several talented U.S. youngsters such as DeAndre Yedlin, Paul Arriola and Bobby Wood who may only have one more World Cup left in the tank before they have to call time on their playing career.

We will hear talk of a “lost generation” of U.S. players for many months and years to come and next summer it will be a strange and sobering sight to see the U.S. not at a World Cup for the first time since 1986.

There will be no street parties or stadium screenings of games across U.S. cities like there was in the summer of 2014 (remember how awesome they were?) not to mention a lack of the huge band of traveling American fans who would’ve traveled to Russia to experience the greatest tournament on the planet.

Hopefully positive change will come from this hugely negative experience. It could well get worse before it gets better as change is needed at the very top of the USSF but the system needs to be broken down and rebuilt. More emphasis is needed on youth development. More players need to be pushed at as young an age as possible if the USA will ever become the “world power” eternal optimists believe it can be.

The pay-to-play culture has to change if the U.S. is every going to unearth talents like Pulisic on a more regular basis. And failing to qualify for multiple Olympic tournaments and youth World Cups hasn’t helped either. There is no clear plan as to how players are developed in the USA and that is one of the problems impacting the USMNT.

The net must be cast wider than it ever has been in terms of talent identification. MLS and U.S. Soccer must work closer together to rebuild and move forward with a much clearer identity of what is achievable and possible.

For too long the U.S. has taken the CONCACAF region for granted and now they have paid the ultimate price. Their failure to reach the World Cup is not only a damaging blow to U.S. Soccer but also its many commercial partners and FIFA’s tournament as a whole.

The number of casual sports fans who would’ve watched the World Cup next summer cheering on the U.S. and then be intrigued enough to follow their local team in Major League Soccer, or even pick up a foreign team to support from afar, could dwindle.

All is not lost but you cannot sugarcoat the impact this monumental failure will have for soccer at all levels in the USA over the next few years.

Wild day in American soccer: Crew relocation, NASL LOIs, USL reserves

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The top three soccer leagues in the United States of America are dealing with varying bits of turmoil this Tuesday in October.

It began late Monday with reports that Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt aims to take the MLS founding member to Texas, seemingly only paying lip service to the idea of investment keeping the team in Ohio.

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Some have said Precourt’s goals have always been to find a way out of Ohio, and the Crew owner was asked what has changed in the four years he’s owned the club (From ColumbusCrewSC.com):

Q:When we read your story about your purchase of the team, this was back in 2013, part of that was that it was very important to the Hunt family that the Crew remained in Columbus and you said at the time that you were committed to that. So what’s changed?

AP: I was committed to that and I believe that I demonstrated my commitment through significant investment in infrastructure, in personnel, in the quality of our product on the field. What has changed? Our League has grown leaps and bounds, it’s been unprecedented the improvement we’ve seen year over year and new markets that have come in the League have shown dramatic attendance. Let’s look at Atlanta with over 70,000 fans over their last few games, with Orlando building a new facility and averaging over 30,000 fans a game, with New York City FC. The list goes on and on. Our peers get stronger and stronger, year in and year out and I have to get back to our ambition as a club. This is key: our ambition as a club is to be a standard bearer in Major League Soccer, to be respected on and off the field in terms of our soccer operations and our business operations and to operate world-class, soccer-specific infrastructure. We’re going through growing pains now. It’s time for us to explore building a world-class, soccer-specific stadium so that we can be celebrated and successful and sustainable.

So, yes, barring a king’s ransom — word use intended — from the Ohio business community, it’s not being cynical to read Precourt’s intention to leave Ohio as very strong. The idea is very sad for the league, and makes every pro/rel honk’s argument against the closed model.

Then there’s the NASL, where it’s almost head-spinning to keep abreast of the future of the league. New York Cosmos owner Rocco Commisso has taken the wheel in an attempt to not only see the NASL rise, but remove Sunil Gulati from power at the United States Soccer Federation in the hopes of a complete overhaul. In what should not be read as a footnote, the NASL is currently suing the USSF.

There are reports that the league could have as many as 17 teams next season in a bid to regain sanctioning from the Unites States Soccer Federation, including a series of teams from the fourth-tier National Premier Soccer League.

According to SocTakes.com, the NASL has letters of intent from NPSL clubs in Boca Raton, Boston, Detroit, Arizona, New Orleans, and Virginia Beach. Additionally, there’s interest in Hartford and it may not be the NPSL club.

Then came this Tweet:

Now here’s a league, the USL, whose only issues have been perception-related. Growing well and instituting a D-3 companion, the biggest concern has been the mentioned MLS Reserve sides creating a minor league feel for the league.

All of this is manageable, and you could argue that the disappearance or at least rebranding of most of these reserve sides would be a boon for the league.

Taken in a vacuum, any of these stories has the potential to carry a day’s news. Together, and in the wake of the United States men’s national team’s failure to qualify for the World Cup, they give Tuesday one of those Soccer-USApocalyptic feelings.

UEFA Champions League Weds. preview: Chelsea, Man Utd look to break out

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Only one of 16 teams was held off the score sheet on Tuesday. Could the same level of entertainment reach the UEFA Champions League a day later?

Two more Premier League teams take the pitch on Wednesday, with Manchester United facing its stiffest test of the group stage and Chelsea with a tricky visit from AS Roma.

[ MORE: Champions League Tues. wrap ]

Manchester United has a significant challenge in Benfica, and may need a man familiar with the Estadio da Luz to help them out. Center back Eric Bailly remains out for United, which could bring Victor Lindelof into the fold to help stop Haris Seferovic, Gabriel Barbosa, Raul Jimenez, and especially Jonas.

Coming off a sleepy weekend draw versus Liverpool in an underwhelming derby, United will take on a desperate Benfica team which is traditionally strong but lost at home to CSKA Moscow and was crushed in Switzerland by Basel.

(AP Photo/Armando Franca)

Speaking of the need to rebound, Chelsea’s loss to Crystal Palace still has many scratching their heads. Fortunately, Roma is also in a mini-funk after a weekend loss to Napoli that ended a five-match winning streak.

There’s a reunion for Antonio Rudiger inside Stamford Bridge with Roma in town. I Lupi has been pretty one-dimensional in terms of offense, with ex-Man City man and reigning Serie A capocannoniere winner Edin Dzeko. He’s scored eight times in nine matches for Roma this season.

Full Wednesday UCL schedule
All kickoffs at 2:45 p.m. ET except where indicated

Qarabag vs. Atletico Madrid — Noon ET
Anderlecht vs. Paris Saint-Germain
Benfica vs. Manchester United
Juventus vs. Sporting Lisbon
Barcelona vs. Olympiacos
Chelsea vs. Roma
Bayern Munich vs. Celtic
CSKA Moscow vs. Basel

U-17 World Cup wrap: England advances to meet USA

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The United States now knows it’ll have to take down England’s best to get to the semifinals of the U-17 World Cup in India.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

England, don’t laugh, won in penalty kicks after a scoreless match with Japan, advancing to meet the Baby Yanks.


England 0-0 (5-3, PKs) Japan

There wasn’t a single miss amongst the England shooters, as Rhian Brewster (Liverpool), Callum Hudson-Odoi (Chelsea), Phil Foden (Man City), Nya Kirby (Crystal Palace), and Curtis Anderson (Man City) converted from the spot to set up a date against the U.S.

Mali 5-1 Iraq

Lassana Ndiaye scored twice to join France’s Amine Gouiri atop the goal scoring list for the tournament as Mali advances to face the winner of Ghana vs. Niger.

France 1-2 Spain

Barcelona prospects Juan Miranda and Abel Ruiz get the better of France to set up a date with high-flying Iran.

 

Iran 2-1 Mexico

Iran conceded for just the second time in the tournament, but not before Mohammad Sharifi and Allahyar Sayyad (both of Iranian club Saifa) made it 2-0 by the 11th minute.

UEFA Champions League wrap: Tables turned on wild day

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One clean sheet in eight Tuesday matches certainly helped the entertainment value of the UEFA Champions League, and the group ramifications follow suit.

Borussia Dortmund whiffed on a chance to take advantage of Real Madrid’s home draw versus Spurs, while Sevilla was waxed in Russia, and Besiktas continues to strut in UCL play.

Real Madrid 1-1 Tottenham HotspurRECAP, VIDEO

Raphael Varane’s plans to mark Harry Kane were subverted by the French defender’s unwitting legs, but Serge Aurier chopped down Toni Kroos in the 42nd minute for a yellow card and penalty that Cristiano Ronaldo sent beyond the reach of Spurs backstop Hugo Lloris.

It was Lloris’ outstanding day, along with a couple timely Keylor Navas saves, that kept the score line 1-1 after 90 minutes. The backstops will likely match wits again come Nov. 1 at Wembley Stadium.

Manchester City 2-1 NapoliRECAP

Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus scored in the ninth and 13th minutes as City has been an unwelcoming host for the Neapolitan side. Ederson stopped a Dries Mertens penalty, adding insult to Napoli’s twin concessions, but Napoli would get a second penalty kick and pulled back a goal courtesy of Amadou Diawara.

Monaco 1-2 Besiktas

Reported Newcastle United and Crystal Palace target Cenk Tosun scored a pair of goals as group-leading Besiktas came back to beat Monaco after Radamel Falcao made it 1-0 to the hosts.

Feyenoord 1-2 Shakhtar Donetsk

Similar story in the Netherlands, where Ex-Watford man Steven Berghuis gave the Eredivisie hosts a lead only to see a Bernard brace lead Shakhtar at De Kuip.

Spartak Moscow 5-1 Sevilla

Liverpool’s score line was a bit surprising, but this one raised eyebrows even given Sevilla’s long road (or flight path) to Russia. Quincy Promes scored twice to make Sevilla consider its Europa roots (though plenty of time remains in the group stage).

Spartak’s Luiz Adriano scores past Sevilla’s Sergio Rico (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Maribor 0-7 LiverpoolRECAP

Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds are sent their finishing demons off a cliff. It was 3-0 after 20 minutes, 4-0 at half, and when all was said and done there were braces for Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah to go with single markers from Philippe Coutinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Trent Alexander-Arnold.

APOEL Nicosia 1-1 Borussia Dortmund

A significant step backward for BVB, who would’ve done well to take advantage of Real and Spurs drawing at the Bernabeu. The Germans even trailed for five second-half minutes before Sokratis Papastathopoulos provided the equalizing goal.

RB Leipzig 3-2 Porto

Five first half goals felt like the start of something special, but the upstart Germans held on through a scoreless second half to claim their first UCL win.