The USMNT isn’t going to the World Cup for the first time since 1986. It feels like a massive step back for a country that had slowly gained traction on the international soccer scene in recent years.
Hopefully these next two years will force the American soccer federation to actually change things at the grassroots level, the tactics used on the field, and the general attitude of the players and fans, the culture as a whole.
Most importantly we need to move past this whole napoleon complex. We should be able to compete with the best teams in the world, as Christian Pulisic pointed out in his Player’s Tribune article earlier this week, when we act like we belong, we can finally do something on the international stage,
“To me, the global level — that’s the next big step for our country. Because that’s when soccer stops being this ‘cool new thing,’ this novelty item that is part of our lives once every four years … and becomes something so much better than that.”
I’m a die hard soccer fan. I’ve been following international soccer since I can remember. One of my first sports memories is watching Zinedine Zidane’s France thrash Brazil in the 1998 World Cup final. I’m an avid fan of the Premier League, I follow La Liga in Spain and Serie A in Italy to varying extents.
This is to say that I’ll still be watching the World Cup and following closely along regardless of the fact that the USA won’t be there.
I realize this isn’t the case for most American sports fans.
For casual soccer fans, who tuned in every four years as the USMNT made their patented gritty run past the group stages only to fall to superior nations like Ghana or Germany or Belgium, not having the USMNT in the World Cup basically means they won’t be tuning in.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
This goes out to all those American soccer fans that were looking forward to getting involved in the USMNT’s run in next year’s World Cup and now feel a shocking sense of loss, I’ve got some tips for y’all to get into this whole soccer thing.
So in hopes of establishing some real soccer culture, here’s what casual American soccer fans can do until 2022.
Watch the kids
Despite the latest iteration of the USMNT featuring a bunch of washed up old dudes from the previous generation led by a 19-year-old stud Christian Pulisic, there’s a whole crop of American youngins that are ready to take the leap.
Along with Pulisic, who plays week-in-week-out for Borussia Dortmund, one of the best teams in Germany and Europe, 19-year-old midfielder Weston McKennie is making waves with Dortmund’s biggest rival Schalke.
McKennie scored on his debut for the USMNT in a friendly against Portugal on Tuesday.
Then there’s Josh Sargent, a 17-year-old striker that missed out on the friendly due to a minor injury. Sargent could be the goalscorer the USMNT has been crying out for years. In January, Sargent will move to Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga, growing the amount of Americans in Germany’s top league.
Tim Weah is a Brooklyn-born 17-year-old. Weah, a striker who plays for Paris Saint-Germain in France (the same team as Neymar), is the son of former Ballon D’Or winner George Weah.
Weah’s extremely young and will probably have to leave PSG to get first team action, but he was recently listed as one of the top 60 prospects in the world by The Guardian (which is notably a non-American publication) alongside Atlanta United’s 17-year-old Andrew Carleton.
Tyler Adams is an 18-year-old midfielder who impressed against Portugal and plays for New York Red Bulls. Adams has recently attracted interest from Europe and could become a crucial cog for the USMNT going forward.
Watch these dudes’ moves over the next couple years, they might be leading the charge in 2022.
Pick a team in Europe
I’ve been a fan of The Arsenal since the days of Dennis Bergkamp. This decision was initially wonderful as Arsenal were one of the most successful clubs of all-time and now it is terrible as they find new ways to make me miserable and sad every week.
Regardless, I couldn’t recommend picking a team in Europe enough. Maybe you’re a Knicks fan who just wants to see some sort of success, pick Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, PSG, Barcelona, or Real Madrid. If you like masochism, join the ranks of the American Arsenal fans. If you want to be a hipster, fuck with an overachieving underdog like Dortmund or Sevilla.
If attacking soccer is what you like, may I recommend Napoli in the Serie A?
The options are literally endless and as American networks broadcast more and more European soccer (NBC broadcasts all Premier League games and FOX does Bundesliga) you can wake up every weekend with a little early morning juice.
Maybe fuck with the MLS a little?
So this may be hypocritical because I do not especially fuck with the MLS, but maybe I should? I was there at the beginning of the MLS, going to watch the ‘Kansas City Wizards’ play in front of 800 people in Arrowhead Stadium.
Over the years, the MLS has gone through an impressive rebrand (Kansas City Wizards are now ‘Sporting KC’) and huge fanbases in Cincinnati, Atlanta, and Toronto have changed the face and perception of the league.
Newly-minted Atlanta United sells out Mercedes-Benz Stadium every week. The MLS is changing. It’s nowhere near the best leagues in the world, but it may be worth checking out.
Root against England this summer
The USMNT’s absence from the World Cup is obviously a massive tragedy. But it now affords us the opportunity to direct all of our attention towards pointing and laughing at the inevitable and hilarious failure of England’s National Team.
They will be over-hyped, they will convince themselves that this could be the year, droves of Brexiters from Bournemouth and Sunderland will flock to Russia and get their asses kicked by wild Russian ultras.
In the end, the English will fail. They will fail in the greatest of ways. I will be there with all of the schadenfreude as England capitulates next summer.