It took me a few days to get to writing this blog. I’m utterly crushed. I won’t lie I haven’t slept well in the last two days and it hasn’t fully hit me that the United States won’t be going to the World Cup in Russia in 2018. I won’t get into the game as much as I will the impact of what this loss means.
This isn’t just about the World Cup next summer, it’s about the last 8 years and the next 8 years. The last 8 years haven’t been focused as much on the success of the team as it has been on the success of accepting and popularizing the sport more in this country. Plain and simple, it worked. The World Cups of 2010 and 2014 brought along a newfound support not only for the national team, but for soccer as a whole. Watch parties popped up around the country and players became household names; people began to care more and more.
Whether it’s bars packed at 7:30 in the morning for an early Premier League tilt, Seattle averaging almost 40,000 fans a game in the MLS or 80,000+ sell-out crowds when worldwide powerhouses come to play in the hot summer; soccer became an accepted and popular sport in this country. With each World Cup I got more and more friends to watch games and care about teams, something I never thought I could do. Hell, Americans bought the most tickets to the World Cup in Brazil in 2014! Now that we won’t have a country to unify around (which seems to be greatly needed these days), it’s no doubt the popularity will take a hit.
Not making a World Cup has a domino effect worth four years of time and sometimes more for a country’s national team. We will never see legends Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard play for the United States in a competitive match ever again and BabyJesus Christian Pulsic will have to wait until he’s 24 years old until he can play in his first World Cup. This four-year drought will also include the stunted growth of youth players who were looking to get a chance to punch their ticket to their first World Cup. This exciting young core of players will also not get to play in competitive matches for their country for another two years until the next Gold Cup. We will maybe see 5 (maximum) of the same players on this entire roster, on that team in two years.
All in all, we didn’t deserve to make this World Cup and that’s the part that hurts most. Every qualifying cycle we never have any issues, and it led us to take this one for granted when we fell behind losing our first two matches in the Hex and not winning a single away game all of qualifying. That is the exact recipe for disaster when playing these Central American/Carribean who want to destroy every American team every year. Plain and simple if you do that and don’t beat a team that has the population of Idaho, you don’t deserve to make the world’s biggest sporting event. Period.
About the actual match; we played like complete garbage and it seemed like our squad didn’t realize what was at stake. It’s the World Cup, I don’t care who you’re playing you have to have the mentality as if it is the last match of your life. All you have to do is tie Trinidad, something that has always been so easy but seemed so hard on Tuesday night. Oh, not to mention the exact results we couldn’t have happen, happened. A Panama goal that shouldn’t have counted because the ball didn’t cross the line, two second-half comeback wins from Panama and Honduras, and two total fluke goals from Trinidad added to the lacklustre performance from the United States. It was the perfect storm, sending us out of the World Cup and providing us with the darkest hour in American soccer history.
The haters may laugh, but next summer will have a deep hole in it. Whether you like the sport or not, having the United States in the World Cup beats any other type of patriotic sports moment there is. Don’t tell me that beating random countries in Olympic basketball 95-57 compares to games being watched by a billion (with a ‘B’ folks) people. No summertime parties, no reason to skip work or watch on your computers at work at 10am, 12pm and 2pm to get your fix of America and most importantly there’s no possibility of a run to the Quarterfinals and showing the world that we can play this game; because now we’ve shown them that we can’t.