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.

Suspended Villar says Spain in danger of missing World Cup

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The suspended president of the Spanish soccer federation, who is under investigation for corruption, tried Monday to stoke up fears that the country could be kicked out of the World Cup because of government interference.

Angel Maria Villar, who is free on bail, spoke at a news conference in Madrid and again denied any wrongdoing. He also blamed the government for meddling in the federation’s affairs by suspending him.

“This government is putting Spain’s participation in the World Cup at risk,” the 67-year-old Villar said in his first news conference since being arrested in July along with his son, Gorka Villar, and two other officials.

[ BLANC: I turned down USMNT talks ]

“The risk is serious,” Villar said. “The only party responsible for Spain not going to the World Cup will be the Spanish government.”

Villar spoke three days after FIFA said it was concerned about the independence of the Spanish soccer federation and that it would soon send a delegation to analyze the situation. FIFA made no mention of a possible suspension of the federation, which could keep Spain out of next year’s World Cup in Russia or even knock Real Madrid and Barcelona out of the Champions League.

Villar, who has spent time behind bars to impede the possible destruction of evidence, and the other three officials are being investigated for alleged improper management, misappropriation of funds, corruption and falsifying documents.

Villar resigned his vice presidencies of both FIFA and UEFA following his arrest. But he tried to stay on as the head of Spanish federation, a post he held for three decades.

His refusal to listen to pleas for him to step down led the Spanish government to suspend him from the post for one year pending the outcome of the investigation. Court documents allege that besides misappropriated funds, Villar is suspected of corrupting several regional federations by offering favors in exchange for votes.

Villar fired back at the government, saying his suspension had broken FIFA rules since it represented interference in the federation’s management.

“It’s easy to see that the source of concern was my arbitrary and unjustified removal from the presidency of the federation and for not respecting the presumption of innocence,” Villar said, adding that other teams are ready to take Spain’s place at the World Cup.

“Be careful. There are other powerful countries that didn’t qualify like Italy that are waiting to pounce and take our place,” Villar said.

Spain, which won the World Cup in 2010, is considered to be among the favorites for next year’s tournament.

Blanc: I turned down USMNT talks

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U.S. Soccer has not been inactive when it comes to the USMNT coaching search, despite its uncertainty with an impending presidential election.

Le Parisien has an interview with Laurent Blanc in which the ex-Bordeaux, France, and Paris Saint-Germain boss says he was approached by the United States Soccer Federation, but was not interested in the gig.

[ MORE: Making sense of the PL table ]

Blanc said an international job would have to touch his roots, and he’s most certainly not American. The tall 52-year-old had a glittering playing career with Saint-Etienne, Barcelona, Marseille, Inter Milan, and Manchester United amongst other stops.

More important, it shows that Sunil Gulati and his men have to some degree moved forward with keeping their imprint on the national team.

That’s a little worrying on any team: A hierarchy that may not be around much longer may be working to fill a position arguably more important than its own. It’d be nice to have them commit to not hiring anyone until after February’s election.

Premier League Preview: Everton vs. Swansea City

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  • Everton leads all-time 15W-9D-3L
  • BUT Swans unbeaten in 7 vs. Toffees
  • Toffees go ninth with win
  • Swans four back of safety

Everton hopes its up-turn in form can end three seasons of futility against visiting Swansea City when the two sides meet at Goodison Park on Monday (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

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Gylfi Sigurdsson gets a chance to face his former club for the first time, while longtime Swans man Ashley Williams may also feature for Sam Allardyce.

Swansea has no time to focus on the past, as Paul Clement‘s men sit deep in the drop zone. The last place Swans are four points shy of safety.

What they’re saying

Everton’s Ashley Williams on facing his former club (again)“The game is a little bit more important to me, I would be lying I said it wasn’t. You always want to play against your old teams and it’s a fixture you always look for.  I have been looking forward to this one and it will be nice to see old faces and old friends. It is a game we want to win and to keep a clean sheet in, especially at home, in order to keep our momentum going.”

Swansea City’s Roque Mesa on the match“This is a massive game for us. We need to pick up points because we are bottom and we need to improve our position. Everton have a new manager and their players have done very well under him – you can see their confidence has grown since he joined. But we did well against West Brom and picked up three points, which was very important. Then we faced Manchester City and they proved too good for us. They are the best team in the league, and unfortunately, we couldn’t match them on the night.”

Prediction

Swans need to move past that Man City loss and build on a 1-0 win over West Brom a few days previous. That may not be possible at Goodison, and the Welsh side would be thrilled to escape with a draw. It seems unlikely. Everton 2-1.

Report: Man City, Guardiola to discuss new contract this summer

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Manchester City does not want to let Pep Guardiola start the third year with the club without signing on for longer term.

Guardiola enters the third and final year of his deal in August, and the BBC reports that Man City plans to negotiate a new deal with the Catalan wizard this summer.

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This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given City’s outstanding sophomore season under Guardiola.

Unbeaten City has an 11-point lead on the Premier League table after 18 weeks, with one draw and a PL record 16-straight wins. They have 56 goals scored, conceding just 12.

They’ve won five of six UEFA Champions League matches, only losing a match their opposition needed and they did not, 2-1 to Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine. City faces Basel next, and visits Leicester City in the League Cup quarterfinals Wednesday.