Look out, Russia: Jurgen Klinsmann’s saying Top 4 or bust.
The American boss used a prematch interview on NBCSN to say the goal of the States in 2018 is to make it to at least the semifinals, something the Yanks have not done since the first World Cup in 1930.
The USMNT has only advanced as far as the quarterfinals one other time, in 2002 where they nearly shocked Germany before fatigue and an absurd call helped Klinsmann’s birth nation onward.
So how do they do this? What are the major steps?
1) Get seeded. A very difficult task of being one of the top qualifying sides is even harder when you consider Russia gets an auto Pot 1 spot, and that the States have a lot of youth to work into the lineup while also moving up the FIFA rankings by beating high quality competition.
2) Get experienced. DeAndre Yedlin to Spurs is a start, but while the depth of Major League Soccer is a beautiful thing that will continue to provide important players, the States need more of their youngsters plying their trades in the world’s biggest leagues (I dig MLS, so the league continuing its upward climb could be another part of this).
Look no further than Joe Gyau (Borussia Dortmund system), Julian Green (Bayern Munich) and Emerson Hyndman (recently-relegated Fulham) as to who’s catching his attention.
3) Make the Confederations Cup and show well. It’s in Russia and means the States will have won the Gold Cup. So this is kind of a double bonus step. Achieve it, and know the lay of the land with — basically — the squad who will perform there come 2018.
4) Perform well in big competitions. The Copa America Centenario, the 2016 Olympics, the Gold Cup and Confederations Cup… all of these provide opportunities to refine the attacking but balanced system Klinsmann wants to take to the opposition.
5) Get lucky. Quiet your dirty mind! We’re talking about whether the World Cup draw plugs them into a nasty group. Sure, point No. 1 plays into this, but stop being picky. Follow these five steps, and Klinsmann gets his semi.