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.

[ MORE: Where did it all go wrong? ]

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.

[ MORE: 3 things | Player ratings ] 

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.

MLS 3 Things: Resurgent Zardes, Toronto up, New England down

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A busy Saturday in Major League Soccer sees three interesting results bolstering the story lines of the final few months of the season.

[ MORE: Unstoppable Josef | Zlatan, too ]

1) Imagine a world with the reigning champs as your reward for finishing first.

With 14 matches to play, Toronto FC has Jozy Altidore back in the fold and has pulled to within eight points of the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot after a 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire on Saturday.

Sebastian Giovinco looks like Sebastian Giovinco in scoring another outstanding goal, just his fifth of the season, while Jonathan Osorio also scored in the win.

Before you watch Seba’s goal, picture you’ve won the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Now picture TFC as your semifinal reward.

2) New England is well and truly slumping

Brad Friedel‘s Revs are slipping after losing a third-straight league match, and New England has gained a solitary point since the calendar turned to July following a 2-0 loss at Red Bull Arena.

Fourth through ninth in the East are separated by nine points, and New England is very much in that mix now. Friedel is certainly at the most trying time of his tenure.

Second half goals from Bradley Wright-Phillips and Daniel Royer did the trick for RBNY, who have claimed 15 of the last 18 points available to them (The lone blemish is the Hudson River Derby).

The Red Bulls are now 8-1-1 at home this season, while New England is 1-4-4 away from Foxboro.

3) Gyasi Zardes’ return to form is surprising and wonderful

Columbus has its second win since May 19, and will be feeling much better about itself following a 3-2 comeback win over Orlando City which included a pair of equalizers.

One of those came in the 88th minute, as Gyasi Zardes completed his brace by converting a penalty won by new arrival Patrick Mullins.

The Crew won late via a rare Wil Trapp goal — the USMNT midfielder has just two in 161 matches — but let’s focus on Zardes.

Zardes’ 13th goal of the season continues an amazing turnaround under striker whisperer Gregg Berhalter. It’s Zardes’ second double-digit season, and his first since 2014. He is firmly in frame for another USMNT look, this time as a center forward, but first there’s plenty to like about the big man.

Surging Galaxy ride Ibrahimovic magic to 3-1 win (video)

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a man on fire, and the LA Galaxy are rounding into form.

The Galaxy overcame an early deficit in Chester to clobber the Philadelphia Union 3-1 on Saturday behind a goal and an assist from their world-class striker.

[ MORE: Neymar on diving ]

Romain Alessandrini had two assists, while Michael Ciani and Ola Kamara also scored for LA. CJ Sapong scored for Philly, assisted by Borek Dockal.

Unbeaten-in-seven LA moves into fourth in the West with the win, while Philadelphia remains three points back of sixth in the East.

Ibrahimovic has now scored in six of his last seven matches, and has 12 goals and two assists in 21 matches overall.

Let’s start with the assist, which we must’ve seen two dozen times when the big Swede was with Paris Saint-Germain.

Ibrahimovic takes a difficult pass out of the air with absurd touch, then waits for the right time to send an impeccable through ball into the path of Kamara.

As for the goal, you almost feel for Mark McKenzie.

The Union’s Homegrown defender has to choose between Alessandrini darting into his box and allowing Ibrahimovic a lick of space.

He gives it, understandably, then rushes to close down Ibrahimovic.

It wasn’t fast enough. Boom.

Americans on both sides, Weah scores as PSG fall to Bayern (video)

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Two hopes of the USMNT’s future — one more immediate than the other — squared off in the International Champions Cup on Saturday.

Paris Saint-Germain teenager Timothy Weah, 18, went 90 minutes and scored his side’s only goal in the 3-1 loss in Austria.

[ MORE: Neymar on diving ]

On the other side of the field was 62nd minute substitute Chris Richards, far less known to the American supporter.

Richards is on loan from FC Dallas, where he’s a Homegrown Player. The 18-year-old center back is going to play for Bayern’s U-19 side following a successful trial in April.

Both Bayern and PSG were without key pieces, as Weah went up against a decent Bayern back line of Juan Bernat, Javi Martinez, Josip Stanisic, and Rafinha.

Arjen Robben, Sandro Wagner, and Franck Ribery were the biggest names in Bayern’s XI, while David Alaba, Kingsley Coman, and Serge Gnabry came off the bench.

For PSG, Gianluigi Buffon started as did Adrien Rabiot.

Weah’s goal is below, and here’s what he had to say about it:

“It’s an amazing feeling and getting a well-done job. Me scoring goals, I was really happy to get my first goal for PSG and first goal in this competition. We’re going to Singapore with our head on our shoulders. We’re going to be really humble and keep playing.”

Klopp talks Pulisic, Liverpool’s spending

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Jurgen Klopp admits he’d love to work with Christian Pulisic again, but isn’t going to butt his nose into Borussia Dortmund’s business.

Speaking ahead of Liverpool’s International Champions Cup match against BVB, Klopp was asked about his interest in the American teenager.

[ MORE: Josef Martinez bags 3 more ]

Klopp was quick to point out that Pulisic is under contract to Dortmund and not for sale, as much as he’s aware.

From The Liverpool Echo:

“He had not his best season last year but he was still a decisive player but it’s important in that age group that there’s no rush. He still has 14 or 15 years to play in his career and that’s good and he wants to be the best Pulisic he can be. For this, there is still space for development.

“If – at one point – he will join us, I don’t know. I like him, it’s not that that could be the problem, but we respect contracts still and there’s no market I know about at the moment. We did our business and Dortmund are doing theirs. All good.”

Also all good? Klopp’s evolution on spending after blasting other Premier League clubs for big money buys in the past.

Klopp said he would quit football if transfer fees like Paul Pogba‘s became the norm. Well, they have, and no club has spent as much money as the Reds this summer.

“That’s the problem these days, hey? Whatever b.s. you say, nobody will forget it. On the other side, it’s still kind of true. I couldn’t have imagined since then that the world would change like it has. Two years ago £100million was a crazy number. Since then the world has changed completely.”

He said he’s going to do whatever it takes to make Liverpool successful, and Klopp now has the world’s most expensive goalkeeper and most expensive defender in his squad.