Klinsmann's U.S. plans hamstrung by FIFA calendar

After the USA fell to Argentina, 4-0, in the Copa Centenario semifinals, Jurgen Klinsmann reiterated his call that his players get a chance to face the top teams of the world to gauge their progress. The reality is, the USA will see nothing but a steady diet of Concacaf teams for the next 15 months thanks to the FIFA calendar.

After the loss to Argentina in Chicago, Klinsmann spotted U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati in back of the interview room at his postgame press conference.

“I see Sunil sitting there,” Klinsmann said. “If ever we can get a friendly with Argentina, please do it. With Brazil, please do it. Even if we get lessons here and there, that’s part of our process. You’ve got to take those teams on in order to learn.”

Those possibilities for friendly games have decreased as FIFA, under pressure from European clubs, has reduced the number of dates on the international calendar, the only dates for which clubs are required to release players.

That reduction will force Concacaf to stage the final round of World Cup qualifying -- the Hexagonal -- over two years for the first time. It will begin with two dates in November before resuming in March 2017. The single date in February -- remember the USA's disastrous opening game in San Pedro Sula against Honduras in 2013 -- and a third date in June have been eliminated.

The only open dates on the FIFA calendar before the end of the Hexagonal in October 2017 are a pair of dates in October 2016. But other confederations have reserved those dates for World Cup qualifiers, so unless the USA wants to play another pair of Concacaf teams or teams from Africa or Asia who have already been eliminated or perhaps New Zealand -- Oceania is off until March 2017 --  it will have to skip those dates.

The 2017 schedule is complicated by the Gold Cup, which will again be held in July. Klinsmann has repeatedly complained about how the July dates in 2015 worked against his European-based players, who had shortened vacations and were then still trying to find their rhythm when the Gold Cup was held -- a Gold Cup at which the USA finished fourth.

If the 2017 Gold Cup is a repeat of 2013 -- which also followed June World Cup qualifiers -- Klinsmann will be forced to use the tournament as a chance to work with his second-string players.

The first chance he could get to schedule Brazil or Argentina with their full squads would be in Nov. 6-14, 2017, during the FIFA dates that follow the end of confederation qualifying. That assumes, of course, they haven't been relegated to the intercontinental playoffs.

U.S. Schedule (2016-17)
Sept. 2, 2016 -- at St. Vincent & the Grenadines
Sept. 6, 2016 -- Trinidad & Tobago (in Jacksonville, Fla.)
Oct. 7, 2016 -- open
Oct. 11, 2016 -- open
Nov. 11, 2016 -- Hexagonal, Day 1
Nov. 15, 2016 --  Hexagonal, Day 2
March 24, 2017 -- Hexagonal, Day 3
March 28, 2017 --  Hexagonal, Day 4
June 9, 2017 --  Hexagonal, Day 5
June 13, 2017 -- Hexagonal, Day 6
July 9-30, 2017 -- Gold Cup
Sept. 1, 2017 --  Hexagonal, Day 7
Sept. 5, 2017 -- Hexagonal, Day 8
Oct. 6, 2017 --  Hexagonal, Day 9
Oct. 10, 2017 -- Hexagonal, Day 10

24 comments about "Klinsmann's U.S. plans hamstrung by FIFA calendar".
  1. James Froehlich, June 28, 2016 at 11:20 p.m.

    Looks like JK is trying to pad his resume with easy games. Fire him!

  2. Eric R., June 29, 2016 at 7:35 a.m.

    I agree with James's sentiment, but I also think JK's right. I wish we could play Copa America every time...even if we get beaten down. Skip the Gold Cup! I don't think friendlies will do much for us as JK says. These games need to be competitive and matter.

  3. Joe Goss replied, June 29, 2016 at 10:26 a.m.

    The reality with the Copa has been it's not on the FIFA calendar for the invited teams (it's also not cap-tying). Not on the calendar, you don't get your Euro players (and potentially not your MLS players either). It's similar to what happened in 2007 with the Copa for us.

    The Gold Cup is on the FIFA calendar, so we have to focus there rather than Copa. If the 2nd Gold Cup goes away, then we have some room to do something different.

  4. Ginger Peeler replied, June 29, 2016 at 1:54 p.m.

    Joe, thanks for explaining. I don't think our posters here understood that the only dates when MLS and European clubs are REQUIRED to release their players to a national team are those dates on the FIFS international calendar. Any other dates, the coaches/clubs can refuse to release their players for any national team game. Our schedule already takes us through October of 2017, with only 2 days this October that are available. As the article points out, other clubs may be in the midst of their own World Cup qualifying then, so we may not be able to schedule a friendly then. There's been some talk of combining the COPA and the Gold Cup, but it's only speculation right now.

  5. NJcoach Coaching, June 29, 2016 at 8:57 a.m.

    Had we stuck to a plan of training our younger player back when JK started and putting them in these big games. We would see a significant change in our program and be ready for 2018! Now we are scrambling as the older players are trying to keep up with the game and young players are benched watching what is yet to come. We need younger, hungrier, nastier players who are willing to fight hard for every ball. I know we ask for that mentally...but still players didn't show that hungrier in game against Columbia, at least not 100% of the time. So far what I see is JK playing young players at nonsense friendlies, and playing the experience players in the big games. This way he keeps his job or at least puts on an ok show for us to watch. Play the young guys, get them experienced, take the lost, take a chance. The one thing you can't measure is the American Spirit, we will train, fight hard if giving the opportunity. Older players, teach them, pass the torch on.

  6. Thomas Sullivan, June 29, 2016 at 8:58 a.m.

    You just got smoked by Argentina and lost twice to Colombia. Those are world class teams. The call for good scheduling is total BS. JK is looking to create a story that paints him s the victim, first of his players now Sunil. He sucks, get rid of him.

  7. Winston Reyes, June 29, 2016 at 12:04 p.m.

    Mr Klinsmann,do as Messi,and quit

  8. John Lander, June 29, 2016 at 1:15 p.m.

    Why are we bashing the head coach? No coach in the world can do better. US soccer issues cannot be fixed by changing the senior team head coach. Who are they going to put out there? Backman and Wondo? Dempsey and Bradley? Not good enought.
    We need world class player and the soccer system in the US cannot and will not produce world class players.
    So no matter who the HC is, we will have the same results. The national team HC job is not to develop players. Its to take a collection of already developed player and get them to play together and win games.
    US need a better player development system so the HC has better players to select from.

  9. Ric Fonseca replied, June 29, 2016 at 1:42 p.m.

    John Lander: Well put. It seems that it is a situation of "damned if he does, and damned if he doesn't!" As you put it above, "US soccer issues cannot be fixed by changing the senior team head coach.... who are they going to put out there?...(sic)" This like wanting the herdsman wanting to change his horse in midstream, etc. Lastly, you are 100% correct that it is the head coach's job to bring together already developed players and "get them to play together and win game..." Granted, not every game played through thick and thin will go on the win column - ask Argentina and England and Spain - this is part and parcel of the game!

  10. Karl Schreiber replied, June 29, 2016 at 2:48 p.m.

    John: Finally a comment that makes sense. Thank you! Ric as well. I sometimes wish people who are commenting here needed to state their credentials. Many of the outrageous comments made about the USMNT head coach are indicative of a lack of understanding. The head coach assembles the best players with US player credentials and guides them to perform as a team. He/she can expect the players to arrive with excellent skills, fitness, tactical understanding and game experience at highest levels. They would probably come from top leagues on this planet, that is, La Liga, Bundesliga I, EPL, Serie 1 etc etc where they would be colleagues of Rodrigues, Schürrle, Messi, Quadradino, Mascherano, Higuain, Chicharito, Fabian Johnson, Bravo, Sanchez . . . Yedlin and Pulisic are being given a chance to get there. Morris did not get a guarantee for a starting position (by my interpretation) and choose MLS, our top goalkeepers lost their starting positions in EPL, our two top strikers, too, came back home to MLS from EPL. Also - the UK National Team with mostly EPL players but without its international stars lost to Iceland in the Euros. Food for thought in this one, with a trend reminiscent of the (old) NASLwhen over-the-hill foreign players where the backbone of teams and domestic player development suffered. – So, IMHO, US player development needs to be analyzed, and if Klinsmann is involved in that, perhaps that area needs to be revisited.
    I also believe player development for girls and women needs to reviewed. Other countries have already caught up with U.S., soccer countries.

  11. don Lamb replied, June 29, 2016 at 4:26 p.m.

    Maybe because we know and understand the limitations of the players. The coaching, right or wrong, seems like something that could be done better without expecting someone to all of a sudden improve their abilities. Just make better decisions, have a little humility, etc. etc. You can't expect the players to get better overnight, but the coaching can change that quickly.

  12. Richard Brown, June 29, 2016 at 2:17 p.m.

    Got to tell you stopped reading when I saw the picture of a happy Jurgen. Much rather see a sad Jurgen after he is dismissed. But I guess that will never happen. I loved him as a player but I hate him as a manager.

    Some ex cons have 2 tattoos on each hand on the knuckles. One says love and the other says hate. When they get annoyed you only see the hand that says hate rapped around a gun or a knife :)

  13. Ginger Peeler, June 29, 2016 at 4:02 p.m.

    Okay, okay, I think I've got it now: If we lose a game by 3 or 4 goals, it's because none of our players are really good enough, the coach stinks and it's all his fault. If we win a game by 2 to 1, the coach still stinks because he didn't start the young, inexperienced-in-major-tournaments-guys or sub them in sooner. We all know we would have played better by not using those older, experienced veterans. If we win and shut out the other team by 4 points, everybody complains about the stadiums not being filled and how the US Soccer Federation has failed to fill all the seats for all of the games. We won't even talk about that 4-0 game.

  14. Ginger Peeler, June 29, 2016 at 4:03 p.m.


  15. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, June 29, 2016 at 4:10 p.m.

    Not right - the team hasn't progressed in five years under JK. At best, it's stood still. Time to move on.

  16. Richard Brown, June 29, 2016 at 4:47 p.m.

    You put a good team on the field no one has to worry about empty seats.

  17. Bob Ashpole, June 29, 2016 at 4:55 p.m.

    Any informed reasonable review of the past five years is going to notice the extremely poor performance last year. The Gold Cup performance was the worst in 15 years. Any informed reasonable review is going to note the repeated coaching errors coinciding with the poor performances. The failure of the U23s to qualify for the Olympics is also a major issue. There certainly has been a lot of intemperate opinions on both sides of the controversy, but that doesn't change the poor performance last year. JK is a celebrity coach. Look at what has happened to national team coaches suffering unexpected defeats in the Copa and Euros this year. They were immediately fired.

  18. Ric Fonseca replied, June 30, 2016 at 3:47 p.m.

    Yeah, right Bob, those coaches are"over there" and ours is, this side of the pond! Just 'cause it happens elsewhere, doesn't mean it has to happen here! Look how long it took to fine the Lakers D'Antoni HC, and how long Byron Scott lasted. Now I wonder if Phil Jackson is available to take over our USMNT and inject some Zen learning skills? Hey, JK, you available to attend a Phil Jackson Zen skills session???

  19. Richard Brown, June 29, 2016 at 5:50 p.m.

    Anyone that says Klinnesman should not be fired. Doesn't know the game or coaching. You think Klinnesman does know he should be dismissed? He knows, but he is not going to quit for them. If he did he will lose the money on his contract. If they fire him they still have to pay him.

  20. Quan Bui, June 29, 2016 at 6:41 p.m.

    We keep harping on the friendly win against Germany last year. These are meaningless games to the Germans. Look at what happen to Slovakia when the game does matter. I highly doubt that US can be Germany when the game counts. This win gave a false hope that our skill gaps are not that far off against the world champion.

  21. Richard Brown, June 29, 2016 at 7:35 p.m.

    That game against Slovakia was not as close as the score said. Did you see the first half it could easily have been 7-0 after the first half.

  22. Ric Fonseca, June 30, 2016 at 3:44 p.m.

    HEY FOLKS, HOW ABOUT GINGER FOR US SOCCER PRESIDENT??? No, really she has hit the ball into the upper right corner (a-la Leo Messi, and almost Il Duece!!!) Thanks Ginger!

  23. Clayton Davis, July 1, 2016 at 11:42 a.m.

    The article doesn't mention that friendlies against top UEFA teams are even more out of the question.

  24. Paul Roby replied, July 1, 2016 at 2:54 p.m.

    I think that was the point to the article: right after Klinsmann pleads with Gulati to schedule Brazil or Argentina, it says, "Those possibilities for friendly games have decreased as FIFA, under pressure from European clubs, has reduced the number of dates on the international calendar, the only dates for which clubs are required to release players."

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