USA will win the World Cup in our lifetime, trust me

By Paul Kennedy

For those of us who have been involved in soccer for a long time -- I started writing for Soccer America 40 years ago when I was a freshman in college -- we've never wondered what it would be like for the USA to win the World Cup. But we have at least thought about what it would be like to get close.

In 2002, the USA got close, or as least as close as it has in our lifetime. When the USA exited the 2002 World Cup, there was a wistful feeling of what-if. What if Torsten Frings' handball had been called in the quarterfinals and the USA had somehow gone on to win the Germany game in Ulsan? A date with the hosts, South Korea, awaited in the semifinals in Seoul.

When the team departed after the round of 16 of the World Cup four years later in South Africa, there was a sense of shoulda -- the USA should've probably done better than it did against Ghana. (Even U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said the USA did not achieve expectations.)

This time? There is none of the same feeling.

A USA quarterfinal? Against Argentina. With Lionel Messi. On ABC. On a Saturday. (Even if at noon on a holiday weekend.) USA-Argentina would have blown a hole through the soccer ceiling. But it was never going to happen.

Chris Wondolowski
's miss at the end of regulation will be remembered a long time -- as will the photo of Landon Donovan in shock when Wondo missed -- but not like the Frings' no-call is -- even if it was only a penalty call, and a U.S. goal would have only been the equalizer.

On merit, the USA was the better team against Germany that night in Ulsan, which is why the no-call still stings. You couldn't say that about the USA against Belgium on Tuesday in Salvador.

The USA was an overachiever in Brazil. Does Jurgen Klinsmann deserve credit for that? Of course. Does that mean other coaches before him, Bob Bradley, Bruce Arena, Steve Sampson, Bora Milutinovic or Bob Gansler, could not have achieved the same thing? Of course not. (Klinsmann had massive resources at his disposal, far greater than any other coach before him, and future coaches will presumably have even more than he had as the federation grows.)

Klinsmann was right. The USA won't win the 2014 World Cup. And Russia four years away? The USA won't win the 2018 World Cup. Trust me, it won't happen.

Like that of any politician promising change and not being able to deliver on it, Klinsmann's mistake was saying his job was to develop a more proactive style, a more exciting style, at its core a more American style. It didn't happen and probably was never going to happen in three years.

But what Klinsmann has done a good job of is using his bully pulpit, communicating what it will take for players to succeed at the World Cup, day in and day out consistently playing at the highest level. We saw the evidence of that in Belgium's Red Devils. Belgium is a country with a population of only 11 million and about the size of Maryland -- and a pro league structure inferior to MLS -- but it has players scattered on the best clubs in the world.

Belgium had about a decade's headstart on the USA in implementing a serious youth development program, but the USA is catching up quickly. I'd dare suggest that the best generation of talent the USA has ever produced is coming through the pipeline at the ages of 14, 15 and 16.

It's the first generation that's grown up with MLS. More globally, it's first generation that's grown up seeing soccer and its stars as big deals. The playing opportunities are better than ever before. The money is there. And most importantly, U.S. Soccer has done a far better job of finding the talent.

A case could be made that the talent is coming along faster than MLS knows what to do with it. Many of these players are bypassing MLS and moving abroad at a young age despite the overwhelming evidence that most teenagers who move abroad don't make it.

It's easy to get all swept up in the excitement about the young American talent coming up. But until we start seeing Americans winning MLS scoring titles at the age of 17 -- like Romelu Lukaku did for Anderlecht -- or win back-to-back MVP awards at the age of 20 and 21 -- like Eden Hazard did at Lille -- and then moving on to take on important roles at big European clubs, it's all a tad premature.

What this World Cup has shown is that the USA has taken the first step. I found it funny today listening to Tim Howard on a conference call being asked about how this World Cup would boost soccer or hear commentators abroad suggest the USA's success in Brazil will be the start of a massive upsurge in interest. Start?

Soccer is as big here as it is about anywhere else in the world -- how it is played, how it is supported, how is covered -- and we don't have to be shy about it.

The USA will win the World Cup in our lifetime. I couldn't say that before.
40 comments about "USA will win the World Cup in our lifetime, trust me".
  1. G O, July 3, 2014 at 12:52 a.m.

    Frankly, with the overall very, very pooor level of play on display in Brazil from just about everyone, this World Cup edition year 2014 is the one for the taking. So, I can easily agree with Mr. Kennedy. The US boasts over 300 million people if one can believe the year 2010 national census. In fact, it is more like 320+ million. We have higher health standards than just about every other nation that arrives at a World Cup (men's and women's). We have sports medicine that is perhaps only surpassed in the world by a few nations like Germany or Switzerland. We have the training facilities due to all of our resources and focus on 24/7 sports from the MLB, NFL, NBA to all the Olympics' events, Track & Field, and even now the facilities to enhance X-Games athletes. We have the offspring of Americans growing up in nearly all corners of the world, ready to be fully nationalized within months for national team duty if their skills merit it. So winning a World Cup (as the ladies have already done) is very doable. The problem is not materiel to do it with even in year 2014. The problem is mindset, lack of character, lack of forethought, lack of planning, unfocus on all the peripheral aspects of an event like a World Cup versus just the 90 minutes. No team right now in this final 8 looks solid. All look wholly vulnerable and wobbly. Just the fact that most of their lineups feature European based players who just ended long July/August 2013 thru to May 2014 campaigns tells you how drained their minds, bodies, legs, and willpower is. Trust me, their bodies ache right now for a 3-4 week vacation before they have to gear up for the July/August 2014 thru to May 2015 grind all over again. Trust me on that. See? This can be the US's advantage with a March - September season/timetable. Just one of many advantages that the US has. Some smart coach will come along and exploit this. Until that smart fellow is in charge, Mr. Kennedy, you'll be waiting. But I do indeed wish you a long and healthy life. Because then, yes, this will indeed happen in that lifetime.

  2. G O, July 3, 2014 at 2:22 a.m.

    Let me tuck this one in here too, this comment: If Klinsmann and his staff are so vital, so smart, so good for soccer, can someone please tell me anything smart about subbing in Julien Green in the last minute of the first overtime? Jermaine Jones ate up way too much of the clock in the first overtime AFTER the Belgians had gone up 2 - 0, with Jones laying about on the pitch. GET HIM OFF THE FIELD! if he needs treatment. The Belgians were looking on with glee at this, as they needed the rest and were happy to see a US player helping wind down the clock. Frankly, I think the Belgian coaching staff is laughing at the US contingent, thinking them the most naive, uneducated about the ways of soccer at that point, a US player killing off precious 90 - 180 seconds on the clock. When Jones is hit in the face by De Bruyne's kicked ball, okay, that hurts. But just roll over the sideline for treatment so that play can continue. Are not just the players but the medical staff of the USMNT stupid? Referees never add second for second, minute for minute exactly the seconds lost for "injury time." So then add to this American baffling time wasting when down 2-0 Coach Juergen Klinsmann bringing on Julien Green (smart move!) but doing so in the last minute of these first 15 minutes. That lost another 45-55 seconds of precious time. Can someone tell me why one doesn't do this in the interim between the two 15 minute overtime periods. Do it in the interim with the match officials as the teams switch sides of the pitch and Howard and Courtois swap goals. That looked an utterly daft move to me, subbing at that point if one is playing to win and make every second count at that point. I really don't think I am wrong. Hire me. Klinsmann is too stupid to coach - if one wants to win. Thank you.

  3. G O, July 3, 2014 at 2:34 a.m.

    Just one other point, Mr. Kennedy. I happen to know a lot about Torsten Frings. Won't go into why. In that match versus the USA when, yes, the USA was superior to a very dull Rudi Voeller led German side, Torsten Frings also simulated getting fouled near the touchline. Why this is important is this: The match official bought it and whistled for a foul against the US team. In the ensuing direct free kick, I do recall that Michael Ballack headed it in, after, yes, unfairly elbowing the US defender in the back, pushing him just enough so that Michael could get a solid head to it and put in the back of the net. Trust me, most Germans in the know at that time recognized that the Germans just did not have any real offensive firepower to create real chances and score from the normal flow of play. Their only plan and means to score was from dead balls or the more British-like term of "set pieces." This is what the Rudi Voeller DFB coaching staff was implanting in their minds: Get within 30 - 25 or even 20 meters of the goal and create the situation that leads a the match official to blow his whistle in our favor for a free kick. Then move up the tall guys (they always feature in every German squad) to nod in from just 6 - 10 meters out. That was all the Germans had as a plan in World Cup 2002 and game after game employed it as Tactic Number 1. Nothing new there; many teams have done the same over the last 100 years of the game. But on that day against the USA Torsten Frings did indeed simulate getting fouled and going down just way too easily, directly leading to that free kick, headball, and meager 1-0 scoreline over Bruce Arena's USA better side. The only good moment of that match from the German perspective was GK Oliver Kahn denying Landon Donovan in Landon's one on one.

  4. Edgar Aldana, July 3, 2014 at 4:08 a.m.

    Sure is funny how all this coaches show up to critique someone that has played at the highest levels of the game. Hind sight is always 20/20 could have should have, if you're that good as a tactician and coach maybe you should have coached the team but it's obvious you're not otherwise you would be holding the job right? I'm quite sure that JK considerd his options in all the games to bad he didn't have a direct phone line to get game advise from you because otherwise we would have taken every game hands down. I bet you also coached your rec team to the championship game. It's sometimes interesting to read and wonder where some people come up with their BS theories on what should have been done in a game when they may have never even kicked a ball or been put in the situation of that kind of pressure.

  5. Winston Reyes, July 3, 2014 at 9:15 a.m.

    Klinsmann,USA needs a 10,there is one 17teen boy in Astoria,NY, by the park, go and pick him up

  6. Gary Levitt, July 3, 2014 at 9:20 a.m.

    Paul and everyone: we have a much more significant problem than JK. Our top prospect identification system is lacking and unfortunately it will still take many years to fix. MLS academies are a start and the work that the Federation has tried to implement is respectable. Bottom line: we failed to progress from 2010, 2006 and 2002 and unfortunately (or fortunately) we are a results-driven country. JK failed and there is no reason to keep him through the next WC cycle. It is time for the Federation to move forward immediately and give Tab Ramos the time he is going to need to locate and acquire players who have the propensity of technical ability and tactical awareness. I thought our players' effort was an A+ and some of our players shined in Brazil. The Belgium match was a perfect example of why our approach to the player pool and system of play needs immediate correction.

  7. Bob Escobar, July 3, 2014 at 9:25 a.m.

    Paul, even if Chris Wondolowski scored that goal, the goal would have been disallowed, why? the lineman had his flag up.

  8. ROBERT BOND, July 3, 2014 at 10:15 a.m.

    so which happens 1st, cup or paying off the deficit?

  9. Mark Hardt, July 3, 2014 at 10:34 a.m.

    go you are hired. you are now the UMNT coach. Glad you know about Torsten Frings. As a Werder Bremen Fan since 1987 when I lived in Bremen (Rudi Voller anyone)I know Torsten too. JK made as many mistakes as he did good calls. His performance was about the same as Bradley. Due to contractual obligations he gets four more years. Green would have come in earlier if it not were for Johnson's injury throwing off the sub pattern. Finally the mistake no one is talking about is Terrence Boyd. Everyone saying we have no one to replace Altidore but here it was right in front of our eyes with 20 goals in all competitions.

  10. TK TK, July 3, 2014 at 10:54 a.m.

    Gary, why does it need to take so many years to fix?? How about making MLS academies accountable?? MLS can install a simple rule that demands each MLS team must play 2-4 U20's USa born players so many minutes a season. If they dont do it they face a penalty. Very simple rule changes everything. MLS would have to develop their own and scout much much better. USSF can set a rule in place that demands every Academy play 1-3 players up 2 years and 3-4 players up 1 year their age on every team. Also force them to play some underage players in the ever important Showcase at end of year. They must be local players or at least the majority. This forces them to develop and scout much much better. Why cant the USSF keep track of every Academy's players and how many years they have developed under them?? Whats more important than that regarding USSDA and their overall purpose??

  11. ROBERT BOND, July 3, 2014 at 11:09 a.m.

    MLS academies can help kids who are not college material.....

  12. John Richardson, July 3, 2014 at 11:14 a.m.

    I believe JK has the right formula and is the right guy for the next 4 years. Together with Tab R, identifying more dual citizen prospects, bright spots like Yedlin , the USA will do better next WC. The player identification process is critical. and getting them on to top teams is crucial (MLS is not the league of choice). JK has the vision of what it takes from a player commitment and desire criteria (adios LD - thank you for the memories and for the inspiration for the next group of what NOT to do).The foundation is in place !

  13. Greg Morris, July 3, 2014 at 11:29 a.m.

    I love it. We say things like it will take many years to fix out of one side of our mouth and JK failed and should be fired immediately out the other. All of us here are genius tacticians and talent identification experts. That's why I read on on these boards that Green should never have been on the team, the Yedlin selection was a joke, Jones could never be trusted and shouldn't be in the starting lineup and, of course, if Donovan was on the squad we would advance (despite the fact that he couldn't make the difference against the Carolina Railhawks). The fact is that no coach is going to get everything right and we will never be wrong - Bottom line, the U.S. has the ability to shock any team on a given day but lacks the type of talent to go out and play consistently high level soccer against the very best. Even if everyone here had the players they wanted and the tactics they felt were best, we would not have won the Cup. JK told us that but of course he was trashed for speaking the truth. This cup was played largely with talent cultivated by the previous regime. JK did not, in 3 years, turn a bunch of 14-18 year olds, caught in the existing development system, into world class talent. If we are going to fire coaches every cycle based on that standard then we are doomed. JK has had an impact at the lower levels and the improvement in the talent level coming thru is there to be seen - BUT, it will not happen overnight. The current coach of Belgium is not the one responsible for the level of talent on that team. it began 14 years ago when they realized their development system was broken. It took them years to change it and now it has produced a generation of talent JK would love to have. Criticize JK all you want for decisions made, but the measure of what he has done will not be in how we did in this Cup but in the pool of talent in 2022 and beyond, after he is gone.

  14. Kent James, July 3, 2014 at 11:44 a.m.

    TK TK, I like your idea of enforced local talent (thought not sure the best way to do this). Making every MLS team do it, levels the playing field. Fielding aging European stars, or inexpensive Latin American players does help MLS teams be competitive and attract fans, but doesn't do so much for developing US players. Maybe every team should be forced to have one domestic player under the age of 23 on the field at all times (or for 90 mins a game, giving coaches flexibility on how they do it). Young players need to play in order to develop. And until they get good, going abroad is unlikely.

  15. Kent James, July 3, 2014 at 11:47 a.m.

    Paul Kennedy, I like your optimism, but I think I'll be very fortunate to have the US win the World Cup during my lifetime (and I'm a bit younger than you). Possible? Yes. Guaranteed? You know better than that...Realistically, I'll buy being in the semi-finals during my lifetime (which optimistically is another 7-8 World Cups).

  16. I w Nowozeniuk, July 3, 2014 at 11:53 a.m.

    Here's an example of talent development that has not been implemented by the USSF. Giuseppe Rossi, American born, talented youth player, goes to the Parma Academy at 14 yoa where he HONES his talents. If he would have remained in NJ, what are the chances that he would have developed into a player that he is. Love to hear your comments amici sportive vicini et lontani. This is a prime example of successful youth development. Others are Colombia and Belgium in recent years.

  17. TK TK, July 3, 2014 at 12:29 p.m.

    Kent, I gaurantee you that if playing local talent was promoted correctly you would have many more die hard fans. Brining in aging stars is cool but we all know it is what it is and thats hard to get behind hard enough. But if your MLS team commits to pushing local talent and shows they are a true pro club that devel;ops true talent then that wins over alot of people. Fielding those players you mention would help our rookie players if MLS enforced that rule.

  18. TK TK, July 3, 2014 at 12:30 p.m.

    I w, do you know what happened between Rossi and USA National team officials?? Can you tell us??

  19. Jeffrey Organ, July 3, 2014 at 12:55 p.m.

    This is one of the most perceptive columns about the state of soccer in the US I have ever read in my 40 years as a fan. I feel exactly the same way as Mr. Kennedy, but have not been able to express in words what he does in this column. As a soccer knowledgable old codger.....I think he is right about everything. I always believed that our run to the quarterfinals in 2002 was much too soon, too fast. It created a set of expectations that were completely unrealistic and, in retrospect, were a driven by a set of circumstances that will likely never be duplicated again. The fact that South Korea and Japan made the semis should be enough to understand the uniqueness of 2002. Mr. Kennedy is also right about the US not winning the WC in 2018, maybe for reasons having nothing to do with US Soccer. With 4 more years of Putin in charge and the fact that no non-European team, except maybe Brazil, will ever again win the WC on European soil, I personally believe that there is more chance that the US will boycott that WC than win it. Finally, I am as excited about the state of youth development in the US as Mr. Kennedy. Like everything else in our public discussion it seems, we argue about the wrong things in our youth development. Pay to play, inadequate colleges, not having the best athletes, ignoring the Hispanic community, etc. are all true, but are secondary issues not inhibiting anymore. I personally believe that Sunil Gulati and a number of other forward thinkers have not received the credit they should for the steps that are now underway. First, as much as we blame Rongen for his coaching failures, his dogged efforts to fire up a world wide network of contacts to find a pool of dual citizens for us to recruit is arguably as important to us getting out of this group in Brazil as anything. Second, hiring Reyna and Ramos to revamp our programs and selecting Cabrera to coach a US youth team were also future thinking moves. Third, bringing on Klinsmann as coach. Not that he is a God and he is certainly not the best tactical coach around, but he has charismatically shaken up the old guard and been the best thing that could have ever happened to US Soccer. The next step he needs to take is focus on his technical director role and harness the extraordinary amount of effort underway to identify talented youth. Finally, Klinsmann needs to do what all good leaders do..put in place a succession plan. I am willing to bet that he will be the last foreign, and I use the term loosely because Klinsmann is a US citizen through marriage and as American as all of us, that will ever coach a USMNT ever again. At least until 2050 when we have our next need to reinvent ourselves. Trust me...times have never been this exciting. All is good, we just need to keep challenging the establishment and move forward.
    To paraphrase what Churchill said...Americans will eventually do what needs to be done in spite of themselves. Ingenuity...don't sell it short.

  20. Kevin Leahy, July 3, 2014 at 1:02 p.m.

    When you see the U.S players be able to take balls out of the air like Robben did against Spain, you will have a team that can play for the Cup. Almost every player for the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Argentina, Brasil, Columbia & Uruguay can do that 90% of the time or better. The effort and desire are admirable but, only goes so far. Everyone involved in the conversation would probably pick a different pool of players past the first 6 or 10. Everyone likes something different. That doesn't mean people don't know what they are talking about. You did not have to play @ that level to coach @ it but, you do have to be good.

  21. Santiago 1314, July 3, 2014 at 1:04 p.m.

    Great Insight G O…
    **To Edgar 7/3@4:08** You don’t have any Clue as to G O’s Background, so why do you attack him for Bringing up some very Good Points???
    But if you don’t want to Listen to him , Let me Spell it out for you, as someone with an “A” License, National Championships, and who has been in the Fires of El Salvador, The Pitch Invasions of Trinidad and Pissed On in the Dugouts of Guatemala…
    I have been to 6 World Cups, including 2 Finals…’82 and ‘86
    This is the Weakest World Cup ever… We Could have Won it…
    Take 9 players from any team, change their Jerseys and You Wouldn’t Notice the Difference..
    Only Messi, Neymar, James, Muller, Robben, Lukaku, are the Difference Makers…
    You just have to Man Mark them Out of the Game, and it’s a Toss Up… They don't Hold any Position, They Float..
    Dempsey could have been our Difference Maker, Except He was Forced to Play “TIED DOWN” as Hi-Forward

    Klinsmann Screwed it up...

    #1. No Sub for Altidore, Causing Ripple Effect of Dempsey & Bradley out of Position..
    Causing YEARS of Preparation of Team Structure and Rhythm, to be Thrown OUT THE WINDOW

    Sunil, You should ask for our MONEY BACK

    Leaving aside the fact of Hamstring Injury…

    What if Jozy got 2 Yellows, or a Red??? We would have been Screwed for Next Game
    What if Jozy got Tired??? Who was going to Sub in for him..???
    What if Jozy was just being Jozy,.. and Played Lazy and Crappy???
    To not bring a Substitute for Jozy was STUPID!!!
    QUIXOTIC is a better expression….Tilting against the Windmills….
    No Sub for Altidore and NO Donovan(Doubtful LD would have helped much)

    JK was going to do it his Strange way… Ask the People in W.Germany 96 or Bayern Munich
    #2. Starting Besler instead of Brooks… Lukaku was always going to ManHandle Besler… Brooks is also Taller, Besler was getting Out Jumped by Taller Belgians…JK was worried about the Size and Speed of the Belgians...Besler had shown through Cramps and Injuries that he wasn’t up for 120 minutes..

  22. Santiago 1314, July 3, 2014 at 1:05 p.m.

    #3. Starting Cameron as Def Mid over Beckerman…
    I do not like Beckerman as a Player, BUT why do you FIX what isn’t BROKE..
    Cameron did OK, But there was a better way to get Cameron on The Field..
    JK wanted Cameron on the Field for his Defensive Heading, On Set Play I guess,
    Because Belgium didn’t play the Ball UP to Fellaini’s Head in Run of Play...Remember neither Jones or Dempsey could head with Broken Noses..

    #4. Cameron should have started as the “Altidore” forward… Zusi OUT…
    Cameron was the only one left on the Roster with the Size, Range and Skill to be “Hold Up” Player...Cameron was an Offensive Player coming out of College and when he first started with the Dynamo…He didn’t start Playing Defense, until Kinner forced him to. (Out of Necessity, due to Dynamo Injuries)

    This would have let Bradley & Dempsey move into “Normal” Positions....
    Go back and watch the Tape,… US was EXCELLENT when Bradley was Deeper…

    **And why didn’t JK Switch Bedoya and Zusi(who was getting Manhandled),Like he switched Zusi and Davis(who was getting Manhandled in Germany Game)
    And if the Cameron Experiment didn’t work, you could have always moved Jones Up, and Cameron Back.
    It would have been hard for Belgium to Out Head Gonzo, Brooks and Cameron…
    #5. Yedlin should have Started for Bedoya.
    Seriously, The Kid is BIG TIME…. Bedoya .. So, So…Doesn't hurt you, Doesn't help you..

    #6. Why did JK WASTE 45 seconds putting in Green, with One minute left in the 1st Overtime??? at that point why not wait until the Change Over....But Really, why didn’t he make the Change as soon as Belgium scored the 1st Goal at 2 minute mark of 1st OT.

    A Good Coach is always thinking;.. If they score, I do this Sub…If We score, I do this Sub… Why did it take 13 minutes to get Green on the Field??? Watch the Tape…JK was Deer-in-the Headlights

    But what do you expect from someone who has Coached so few REAL games… The Klinsmann Record before he became US Coach;

    Remember he had NONE, before taking over Germany in 94.. All his Games in Preparation for WC96(in Germany) were Friendlies(Exclude Confed Cup95??)…at WC96(as Home team) he beat those “BIG” Powers; Costa Rica, Poland, Ecuador, Sweden,… only Toughie was win vs ARG on PKs…Lost in Semi’s to Italy…as for Coaching Bayern Munich??? ++ 22-9-8 in UEFA/Bundesliga before being FIRED with 5 games to go in Season….

    Remember, JK was supposed to be the Risk Taker Coach that was going to Change the Face of USMNT…


    Having said all that… I would NOT Switch Coaches at this stage…

    We have Gold Cup next year/The Copa SurAmerica after that, to see if JK has learned anything…

    But, Sunil must hold him ACCOUNTABLE, as He did when he Fired the Women’s Coach…


    If the Coach Doesn’t Believe, GET RID OF HIM….!!!

  23. G O, July 3, 2014 at 1:09 p.m.

    It's one thing to have youth development. We actually have that. As we do teens playing sandlot ball unsupervised to a very high degree of creativity, intensity and with great regularity. That is occuring everywhere from corner to corner of the US and in its 7 Territories. That's not the problem. It is the "powers that be" that have the arduous task of learning who these kids are, locating them, watching them, taking an interest, not losing them to another sport, or not losing them to a host of youth problems from the dumb/stupid like X-Box and Playstation addictions to the truly dangerous like alcohol, pills, pot, spice and much, much worse. The US really does not lack the raw talent. It comes down to selection, and we typically select the kids with nicer high school transcripts that will, at a minimum, get picked up by colleges so that a "development" can still be monitored within what we think is an acceptable NCAA Division II or I structure. Obviously there is more to this, as we have literally thousands of US citizen teens overseas short term or even long term and they are not funneling themselves toward a NCAA program, rather playing in adult amateur leagues in those foreign countries. Ultimately what is needed is those with hawk eyes and keen insight (like a 6th or 7th sense) who can sift the wheat from the chaff. The wheat is right there, just needs to be IDed. That takes pure sweat equity, long hours of in person scouting, and commitment by the grown adults in US Soccer who need to get off their rears and earn those paychecks. There are literally thousands of diamonds in the rough out there. No, they are not in the state run programs that bring us just the nice, shiny suburban kids. Again: Give me just Texas and California, and I will bring you this US team. Add Florida for my talent pool possibilities and I will win in 2022 (so long as Qatar is not the host and we can play at a reasonable temperature of 77 - 80 degrees).

  24. Jeffrey Organ, July 3, 2014 at 1:10 p.m.

    One more thought as it relates to youth soccer development. Did anybody ever suspect we would really have a direct pipeline to use LigaMX as a youth development resource? I certainly didn't. I think the Xolos phenomena, and to a lesser extent the growing role of the Monterrey clubs in US soccer development, is one of the most fascinating stories of this past WC cycle. I guess it makes sense when you consider that Tijuana and Monterrey are almost as connected to California and Texas as they are to Mexico City. Our youth LigaMX US players didn't play a role in the actual WC, but they did in qualifying. I believe we are only beginning to tap the potential there and the Mexican soccer community will have one more reason to hate us. This I love. Thank you Herculez for blazing this trail and finally breaking through the wall.

  25. G O, July 3, 2014 at 1:31 p.m.

    Santiago, you are probably a walking, talking storehouse of amazing soccer, soccer travel, trips, humorous anecdotes, match memories, and treasure trove of experiences. When can we look forward to seeing your 16 chapter book on Amazon and at Barnes And Noble? ;) Thanks for the insightful comments posted here over the last few days. You are right about poor Besler. He really gave his all for the first 80 - 85 minutes. But any defender is going to have a momentary let down (as did Omar Gonzalez) when under such unrelenting pressure, knowing that just one tiny error and a 1-0 score by the Belgians would never be compensated by the wholly absent offense by everyone in the lineup playing in front of the back four. People forget that defenders need a breather too. Bradley's easily intercepted passes, same for Cameron, Zusi,, Jones, and Bedoya's errant passing and dribbling just meant that there were never pauses long enough for guys like Besler and Gonzalez to get even 20-25 seconds to regroup. You are wholly correct about the World Cup 2006 run made by Germany as hosts with Klinsmann in charge, Santiago. For that 2006 home tournament the Germans also chose and got their dream venues to best give crowd support, using the Munich stadium for Bayern, the Dortmund stadium and the historic Berlin Olympic stadium. It was a well choreographed, nay, well scripted World Cup run to the semis versus Italy. That was not difficult coaching and leaves his coaching resume thin as he did not even complete a full season at FC Bayern, only coaching there for 9 months, albeit in a very tempestuous Munich environment. This is not hammering on someone; it is keeping things in proper perspective. Summary: A coach needs to actually have proven and effective coaching (over time) in the resume, with provable, measurable player development/progress readily evident.

  26. Kent James, July 3, 2014 at 3:04 p.m.

    Jeffrey Organ, you make to great points. One about the Mexican-Texas/CA connection, the second about the importance of Klinsmann shaking up the establishment. Building on that 2nd point, JK did break up what was probably a too cozy coaching fraternity (college coaches that went to the MLS). JK has attempted to bring in European professionalism, which is certainly powerful. But what I hope JK understands, is that the US cannot replicate Europe, the conditions are too different. So importing dual citizen players from Europe is a short-term fix, not a long-term strategy. I think where the focus needs to be is on developing the MLS into European-caliber clubs (with youth clubs, high enough wages we don't lose our stars, etc.). And we have to better develop domestic talent (especially from the under-recognized Hispanic and under-served Black communities). Kony's urban futsol idea would help with that, especially if they were tied to MLS clubs.

  27. Barry Tuck, July 3, 2014 at 3:04 p.m.

    My concern is the same phenomenon we see in other sports that are big here in the US. Despite our size, population, wealth, diversity, etc., youth sports tend to get dominated by teams/clubs/associations where kids coming through there get phenomenal training and excel at the young ages. Great for those who can afford it, but very discouraging to those who can't, or who discover that particular sport "late" and can't crack the line up at 12-14 because they don't know the rules/moves/etc. like those that have had the 4-6 years of extra training, even though they may have more natural talents and speed. Look at how many players from Latin America are breaking into baseball, Eastern Europe into Basketball, and never mind other former US "powerhouse" sports like Tennis, where we used to be better represented. My theory is that the common thread is that these sports are dominated at the Youth level by the better off, suburban kids that are not playing out of love of the game - - hence not seeing the passion we see from South American teams. Ones that are not playing in the hopes of a ticket out of a desperate situation like we see in slum kids from France, Brazil, etc.. They're playing because that's what all the kids in the neighborhood are doing, and they can share rides. It's only the rare cliques that actually go to the sandlot and really work their game with the addiction and true passion, finding every spare minute to play pick up games. So while the sport is growing,and tremendous improvements have been made in the quality of training, we are still not tapping into the kids that cannot afford these high priced youth leagues. Those kids cannot make their HS Baseball, Soccer Tennis, etc. clubs because they don't have the routine drilled in to them yet that the youth league trained kids have had. While HS isn't the answer (yes, I agree with a lot of what Paul Gardner has said over the years about school ball), it's the only venue for the lesser socioeconomically strata to get noticed. They're not gonna even know where to find the ODP tryouts, let alone compete and beat out kids with years of higher level training that play frenetically and look all flash, but can't dribble through defenders. Maybe USSF should spend more time and resource on programs like Soccer in the Streets, Soccer on the Farms, etc., and pick and scholarship these raw talents. And MLS clubs could start doing same . . Germany, Belgium, and especially France have done tremendous jobs finding young talent in odd places, often through the youth programs of the Pro teams that willingly lose money in order to make it affordable. Most of our "non profit" Youth Leagues are essentially for profit. If it don't make money, they won't do it.

  28. James Madison, July 3, 2014 at 5:29 p.m.

    When I got my new knees in November 2012, my goal became to live to be 100, so I would get my money's worth from them, i.e., 20 years of use. Dear Paul, you have given me added motivation.

    On a related subject, when the Mexico physician who refereed the 1990 Final later presented at an assessor training in San Francisco, he predicted an American would referee the final before the US played in one. Until Mark Geiger failed to give straight red to the France player who broke his Nigeria round of 16 opponent's leg with a studs up tackle, we had a shot at making that prediction come true this year. IMHO, it still will.

  29. Scott O'Connor, July 3, 2014 at 5:38 p.m.

    The only way that happens is if we buy Argentina out of their current financial troubles and make their players eligible to play for us (like many European teams have done with their colonial ties to African countries). Seriously, we haven't even made a semifinal yet and haven't come close in the youth World Cups either. We are a long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long (get my point?) ways away. Spain just won their first World Cup 4 years ago. France 16 years ago. England has only won once. Mexico with a huge infrastructure of players hasn't won but at least they've won at the youth levels recently. Netherlands haven't won. Do people seriously think we are going to leap frog all of those countries? No way. Not the way we played against Germany and Belgium. Pathetic park the bus soccer. I give Algeria a better chance to win before us, at least they took the game to the Germans and made them sweat and work for it....

  30. Andy Wagner, July 3, 2014 at 8:32 p.m.

    We are a long way from winning one. The powerhouses of the world exited because all of their players were burned out from an overcrowded domestic schedule where none of our players were involved. This is why all of the so-called underdogs over performed. These were the teams that went in fresh. In the end, quality caught up to us.

  31. Karl Schreiber, July 3, 2014 at 10:41 p.m.

    Not related to anything here, just interesting, exciting even: Terrence Boyd signed a contract ‘till 2017 with Red Bull Leipzig of the Second Bundesliga. Boyd was the “Wunschkandidat” of manager Ralf Rangnick. Just read this in the „Sueddeutsche Zeitung“ of Friday. “Terrence is a dynamic striker, very strong with headers, someone who is great and aggressive on the ball and therefore, a perfect match for our system of play. He is a true reinforcement for our team,” stated Rangnick. [published in Munich on July 3]

  32. Sean Johnson, July 4, 2014 at 12:33 a.m.

    The team played poorly and achieved good results. Those results came from the inherent US determination to fight until the end, not due to Klinsmann's tactics. In fact, Klinsmann's contributions to the team have been poor - except for talent acquisition. I'd rather have JK in charge of acquiring talent than making real personnel decisions as he's shown he can make personal (not professional) decisions that serve himself over the good of the team.

  33. Vendetta diPirlo, July 5, 2014 at 12:07 a.m.

    The yanks won't win a WC because all the youth leagues require shin guards and the kids whack each other too much. We spend summers abroad, my kids play with locals, then they come back to the US and they get kicked. There are still too many youth coaches acting like Woody Hayes with baseball hats, clipboards and whistles yelling things like "Kick" or "hustle" or "Good job" - as if playing a game were work.
    I also run pick up games for international students at a college and the yanks usually come in to ruin the game - they have no quality and run around like Wondolowski.
    Klinsmann was burned by Wilmots in the 1st overtime when the Belgians sat bacck and countered with Lukaku. Zisu (sic.) and Wondo are not international level players. If you best player is your goalie, then the rest of the team played poorly.
    Refs have ruined a number of games in this and all WC - the expulsion of Marchisio in Italy- Uruguay ruined the game and last night in Columbia Brazil the ref should have expelled a couple a players - they eventually broke Neymer's back - seems like the US youth league and FIFA have a lot in common.

  34. Ginger Peeler, July 5, 2014 at 2:04 p.m.

    James, every day, I go online to see if Mark Geiger has been assigned any more games. On reviewing the foul, I, too, felt he should have issued a red instead of the yellow. But I don't think he's been sent home yet, so maybe he'll at least get a semi to whistle. G O, part of the problem identifying our talent is the vastness of our country. I know AYSO is still around, but USYSA was the group that governed most of the traveling teams in California when I still lived there. ODP was split into the northern and southern regions. The logistics alone of coordinating players from all over the country, not just California, is mind-boggling. I don't doubt you could put together a World Cup team just using players from California, Texas and Florida. That's just the higher levels. Sad to say many of our young players have parent coaches start them off on the wrong foot. I see the first graders' coaches just yelling, " kick it! Kick it!" I doubt that they spend much practice time on the kids learning to dribble with the inside and outside of their foot; I know they don't move the kids around to play different positions. Even at that age, so many of the parent coaches are only playing for a win! They never played the game themselves and the kids' parents don't seem to know any better. I realize they are volunteering and trying their best, but a lot of those kids develop into good players despite those coaches.

  35. G O, July 5, 2014 at 2:41 p.m.

    I have no idea for why some express pessimism above to what Mr. Paul Kennedy aserts in his article above. If anything, in the few days since this article's publishing here, his points have been all validated. What do I mean by this? The level of play, as now witnessed in matches like France-Germany and Belgium-Argentina, only underscore how abysmally poor most all of these national sides have performed. The level of play is near the atrocious level. Yes, I harp on climate, and the level of field level heat, humidity and lack of wind/breeze means we shall see only lackluster, slow, more lethargic pace on the whole over 90 minutes. Yes, that is a large factor for why these matches are so utterly dull. But it also speaks to the opportunity of a cunningly wise and astute men's national team staff that can exploit all of this to reach a World Cup final. This really is not so hard anymore to do. I know, to some that sounds like simple-minded folly. No, it is not. Mr. Kennedy's assertion within his lifetime is well within reach to those who will fully embrace what pioneer America and Americans were all about.

  36. G O, July 5, 2014 at 2:47 p.m.

    Let me add the word era so that it reads "pioneer era" above. I trust that real students here of US American History will fully well know what I mean by this. Something we should all be reflecting on anyway on Independence Day. Embrace the spirit that drove those lives in that long era of amazing development in America from coast to coast, and that Adidas marketing slogan of "nothing is impossible" is truly real.

  37. David V, July 6, 2014 at 3:02 p.m.

    Paul Kennedy....whose lifetime are you referring to? How old are you? OK, I see you are about my age, you were 22, 40 years ago... with all due respect, you're crazy... it WON'T happen in your or my lifetime.... the game has to become popular on the streets and backyards, it can't flourish with $2500-$3000 per year team fees for each kid playing at the elite levels in their states (how many families with 3 kids playing can afford $9,000 per year for soccer fees?)... we're too afraid of letting our kids go out to the local park for fear they will be abducted, etc. I don't know who or how... and without knocking the official team training of high quality at a young age... if something doesn't change to get the kids to play every day... morning, noon, and night... as they do in Spain, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Holland, etc, etc... it WON'T happen... if you, or ANY OF US, truly want to win a world cup, figure out a way to get kids playing again, in pick-up games... there they learn a love for the game, a passion, a chance to be creative, to dribble, to fail without the scorn of a coach or parent, they learn responsibility and how to think for themselves... they get those 10,000 touches on a ball, and the innate talent can come out and later be fostered... there, they aren't thrown on the scrape heap by US Youth coaches because they didn't get the attention that the coach's son gets, or because they are too "small" or their growth rates are behind at 9 compared to the rest, or they were born in the 2nd half of the calendar year for soccer players playing at U-10 (pick any old U-xx and insert a number for xx)... if you want to win a world cup, the base has to be there...figure out a way to get pick-up games to happen, and we recover the base...

  38. David V, July 6, 2014 at 3:06 p.m.

    Even with the subpar quality of these world cup teams... the US will still not be in the running as other posters have said... hunker down, defend, and try to survive, can't work for 7 straight games... maybe 1 or 2, but not seven... you have to have the technical skill to possess the ball, and attack, and YES, tiki-taka (that is NOT dead, and don't kid yourselves if you think it is... all major teams copied the tiki-taka philosophy) and because it was and end of a cycle in Spain for the current generation, they have myrads of players in the queue (current EU U-21, etc, etc)... US can't try the hunker down and survive game and win the whole thing... no one can

  39. David V, July 6, 2014 at 3:10 p.m.

    Vendetta diPiirlo - your English won't go anywhere, and your HOWARD WEBB is a Disgrace... 3 clear red cards should have been given in the 2010 final in the first 20 minutes (Karate Kick De Jong got off Scot free)... horrible ref, GET RID OF HOWARD WEBB --- why is HE still officiating in this tournament... a disgrace

  40. Vendetta diPirlo, July 7, 2014 at 4:42 a.m.

    David V - I agree that Webb was awful in the 2010 final, the Dutch did nothing but foul and a potentially beautiful final was ruined.
    TOO MANY GAMES/WCs HAVE BEEN RUINED BY BAD REFS! The worst - Moreno and Rodriguez - inexplicably assigned to continue calling games after extremely poor performances - Moreno's ejection of Totti and annulling of 2 valid Spanish goals in 2002 and Rodriguez who kicked out Marchisio in Uruguay-Italy but did nothing against the vampire Suarez. INSTANT REPLAY NOW!
    The solution is instant replay - or whatever process got the madman Zidane kicked off the field by Elizondo after the insane headbutt of Materazzi in the 2006 final.

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