New England Soccer Today

Once in a lifetime?

Tomorrow, the world finds out which countries will play host to the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups. And if the United States, who is bidding for the 2022 Cup, does not get the nod, I suspect that many people will be tremendously disappointed.

But, it won’t be the end of the world. Quite the opposite.

Twenty-two years ago, the United States was a country that absolutely, positively needed a World Cup to rescue itself from the abyss it had fallen into during the 1980s. The National Team was a farce. The NASL was in a coffin. Anything less than a World Cup would have been as worthless as a preseason friendly to resurrect the sport on our shores.

Today, the storyline could not be more opposite. MLS is a wonderful league that even its fiercest detractors cannot deny produces top-flight talent (see Dempsey, Clint and Howard, Tim). The Mens National Team has crashed the World Cup six times straight. And while we’re at it, how about the Women’s side? At last check, they were ranked #1 on the world.

We’ve seen tremendous progress since those dark and dreary days. But, this isn’t 1988. I don’t have a crush of Jodi Sweetin anymore. While a World Cup nowadays would bring unprecedented attention to the sport of soccer in a country that still calls a game where the ball is carried “football”, let’s not kid ourselves: a World Cup abroad in 2022 will not injure, nor hamper, that progress.

You see, the U.S. doesn’t really need a World Cup. We don’t. The likes of Bill Clinton, Sunil Gulati, David Downs, and Landon Donovan may say otherwise and I applaud their efforts for bringing one here. I do. There is nothing like hosting the galaxy’s biggest sports event. And I support any reasonable effort to bring that glorious spectacle Stateside.

However, U.S.-based soccer futures won’t plummet into a bottomless canyon overnight if FIFA collects the sufficient monies, er, votes and calls on Qatar for ’22. Let Sepp Blatter and his well-paid associates sweat their bought butts off in the 115 degree heat. We’ll simply continue to do what we’ve done successfully since Brazil jumped up and down on the Rose Bowl pitch on that joyous July afternoon some 16 years ago: successfully grow the sport.

Besides, the U.S. will be better off using the money they would have spent on another Cup on developing its blooming talent.

Listen, it would be great if we won the bid. As someone who devotes 93% of his waking hours to soccer, I’d probably do a series of backflips if we won the bid. And I can’t even do backflips.

But, what should be more important to American soccer is the development of the talent needed to push the Men’s National team past the quarterfinals. We need to devote more energy and money toward growing the sport within our own borders. More importantly, we need to continue our efforts in identifying the home-grown talent we already have and do our best to stop stunting it with results-first coaching at the youth level.

Should the U.S. fall short in its bid for ’22, it would be wise to immediately earmark the billions of dollars set aside for its 12-year World Cup business plan toward player development. Even in their infancies, MLS academies are working. The focus should be placed there rather than, no offense to U.S. Soccer, Clinton, and Morgan Freeman, event planning.

After all, what’s more important: hosting the World Cup, or hoisting the Jules Rimet trophy over our heads?

Leave a Reply