Morning Editorial: USA’s World Cup Failure Was A Long Time Coming
The consequences of missing the 2018 World Cup, an idea that had been entertained in the abstract by American supporters but never quite thought through until Roman Torres’s sensational finish on Tuesday night sealed the United States’ fate, came in a rush. The US team’s next World Cup game – and this is the best-case scenario – will take place during Thanksgiving week more than five years from now in the middle of a sweltering desert. Teenage wunderkind Christian Pulisic will be 24. Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard will be too old to play on the sport’s biggest stage, as will Michael Bradley and Geoff Cameron.
The Catastrophe at Couva won’t provoke national shame like it would in countries where soccer is a matter of vital public importance, but it’s a devastating blow to the millions who hope the sport will get there one day. But truthfully Tuesday night’s loss to Trinidad & Tobago was a failure years in the making, an outcome undeserving of the surprise it elicited.
Cleaning up house will be the easy part. Bruce Arena has to go. Sunil Gulati should follow him out the door. But the US must address a series of systemic failures and uncomfortable truths in the years to come. More money is flowing into domestic soccer and youth development than ever. But for all the talk of Major League Soccer’s hard-won stability, America’s top league looks to have done more for the Caribbean nations than the United States itself. The true enemy of progress is this obnoxious pay-to-play culture that’s made soccer a sport primarily played by middle class white kids.
There’s always sadness in an opportunity wasted, but make no mistake: the United States got what they deserved. The only real tragedy will be a failure to accept the invitation for wholesale change.