The USMNT has missed the 2018 World Cup. What happens now?

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The United States men’s national team will not play at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The Americans lost 2-1 to Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday, while both Honduras and Panama won their matches, leaving the Americans fifth in the Hex and out of the tournament.

That embarrassment has fans wondering what the USMNT program’s immediate future, and if there are some positives that could come out of the Americans failing to qualify for Russia 2018.

The answer is that there are very few. Bad outcomes would outweigh good ones. Here’s a guess at what might happen now that the USMNT has totally blown it.

US Soccer has less money

FIFA’s payout to U.S. Soccer for making the Round of 16 at the last World Cup was $9 million. But that’s not all the money the USMNT program loses from missing out. There’s lost friendlies, decreased ticket sales in the years following, and loss of leverage in negotiations with sponsors to consider too. Missing out on the World Cup will cost American soccer tens of millions of dollars.

While U.S. Soccer isn’t exactly broke, there are still financial obstacles to creating an academy system that rivals the likes of Germany and France in a country that’s much larger and more spread out. Losing tons of money makes this much harder.

Tab Ramos, come on down

Dreaming of David Wagner, Marcelo Bielsa or another ambitious hire as USMNT manager? That now seems unlikely. After years of slow and steady progression, U.S. Soccer tried for a massive shake-up with Jurgen Klinsmann, who alienated youth coaches around the country while getting the senior team into the mess it’s in today. His failures could lead to USSF president Sunil Gulati thinking about an internal hire and Under-20 national team coach Tab Ramos getting the gig.

Ramos’ teams have produced good results over the last two Under-20 World Cup cycles, making the knockout stages of back-to-back tournaments. Failure to make the 2018 World Cup will increase calls for a younger team to start preparing for the 2022 World Cup immediately, and it would make more sense to put Ramos in charge of that task than a coach who isn’t familiar with the player pool of young Americans.

As good of a coach as Ramos is, he’s not noted for being particularly tactically astute. He sticks to his preferred game plan and his teams eventually get found out because of it. He makes truly baffling squad decisions that leave fans wondering how good his teams might be if he just called up certain players. Without the right assistants around him, it’s easy to see him struggling.

Gulati doesn’t get ousted

U.S. Soccer holds its presidential election in February, and Boston lawyer Steve Gans intends to challenge Gulati. Calls for Gulati’s head are already getting very loud, but fans aren’t the ones on USSF’s board. Most of those people care more about the business than the actual soccer. And when it comes to the business of American soccer, Gulati’s doing a great job.

Gulati’s leadership guided U.S. Soccer to a massive profit in 2016, and the organization now has $100 million in the bank. Despite strike threats from the USWNT, he negotiated a new CBA in time for the start of the NWSL season and avoided a work stoppage. And thanks to his growing reputation internationally, he figured out a way to deliver the 2026 World Cup to the United States virtually unopposed.

Overseeing the success of the senior men’s national team program might be the most important thing about Gulati’s job to most fans, but it isn’t to anyone with any say. Gulati has performed too well in the business aspect of his job to get booted.

National training center plans accelerated

If you’re looking for a potential positive thing that could come out of the USMNT screwing up terribly, here it is: US Soccer is reportedly interested in building a national training center like France’s Clairefontaine with the $100 million it has lying around. With the USMNT missing the World Cup, US Soccer will know it needs to look like it’s extremely serious about addressing that problem and will be very happy to tell you about plans for a shiny new facility.

MLS keeps its lame squad rules for at least four more years

As American soccer players and development improve, MLS should get a bit more chill about squad rules. Fewer restrictions on foreign players in MLS would give USMNT players better competition to play against, and American players are now good enough that they can get into the starting XI of a team with fewer squad restrictions. If MLS had more good players, presumably the quality of soccer would improve and more people would want to watch it.

But with the USMNT missing the World Cup, MLS will likely pump the brakes on any plans to loosen foreign player limits. Everyone will be stuck with a default of eight international slots, and the quality of MLS will stagnate.

The soccer internet becomes terrible

If you’re reading this piece, I assume that you have spent some time online. And if you made it this far, there’s a good chance that you partake in conversations about the USMNT and/or the state of American soccer on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Maybe you’ve sifted through waves of bad takes and hate-shared articles by soccer haters who love to tell anyone who’s listening that soccer will never make it in America.

Imagine how much worse it will get now that USMNT has missed the World Cup. Imagine how many cranky old columnists who have never watched soccer will come out of the woodwork to tell you that soccer is bad. Imagine how many people who studied abroad in Europe will be itching to tell you why America isn’t a real soccer nation. Mr. One Semester In “Barthelona” has all the answers, you guys.

The USMNT has failed soccer fans who spend way too much time online. We must now endure four years of horrible post-qualification failure takes.

Comments

5 people would care

? 0/10 trolling.

I like how

this article got recycled from Saturday.

Yes, no one cares about the things you don't care about!

You are Normal! Everyone is either like you or failing to live correctly (in your model).

I want everything that brings you joy in life to die and rot in front of you, you solipsistic inanity. You are mold grown from ESPN comment sections. Live your life and die never knowing how little you have ever truly mattered and if we are lucky your corpse will be transformed from you to worm shit to something that could ever possibly add something to the world.

Forty years and counting since the "soccer revolution" in America

It has been forty (40) years since Pele and company set off the the "soccer revolution" in America. Countless orange slices and wasted weekday evenings later the US team still can’t beat an egg, never mind another national team.

It should be noted The Netherlands is also missing the World Cup.

They aint exactly Burkina Faso.

Chile too

But those are MUCH more difficult qualifications

I think there's a big difference

between being denied a World Cup spot by France and Sweden and being denied a spot by Panama and Honduras.

This is a really sad day. This puts all of US Soccer years back now. I mean, we weren’t ahead to begin with. But this not only hurts the men, but also the womens squad. This is a brutal result.

It’s simply time to blow it up.

By blow it Up, I’d like to be clear. If you are over 28-30 years old. Bye, Bye. Thank you for all your caps and service. It’s time to move on.

Agreed.

Time to start setting up teams for the future, not just in 4 years necessarily. USMNT’s leadership needs to start identifying phenoms in their late teens somehow. Perhaps it is to have a national training center.

You’ve 3 Cup tries with Pulisic. They’ve screwed the one in 4 years as I just don’t think they’ll recover quickly from this mess. So that leaves 2. Get some kids around him and go. If they can’t hack it grab another kid. Ask for friendlies against anybody that will give them.

I think this is an opportunity for the Women's team. Hope they save face for U.S.A.

And if they do, hope they get a raise.

You can only play friendlies on certain dates

FIFA has a pretty strict calendar for when the professional clubs are required to release their players for international games. That’s why there weren’t any MLS or EPL or Bundesliga matches over the weekend.

The USMNT almost always plays a friendly with somebody on those dates.

No mention of the stale, unimaginative return to Arena?

He’s the one who chose the roster and coached the team. It sucks to miss a World Cup, but if it means we stop coming back to that well and move forward, I’m ok with it.

I'm late to this conversation

Here is what I don’t like about tonight’s game and how we played.

We aren’t the more physical or aggressive team or even close to it. Every game, we get out muscled and out hustled for loose balls.

And I can’t stand Bradley. Please retire him.

A team needs to be able to battle for loose balls, sure. Not sure a team has to be packed with bruisers, though, to succeed. Is that how you would characterize recent WC winners, for example?

Has a chance of being the best thing to ever happen to the USMNT

Now they can stop being so reliant on guys past their prime or ones that are proven to be simply outclassed at the highest level and give more attention to the younger generation, and they get a 1-year head start on doing so.

The only one I feel bad for is Tim Howard, he deserved better.

Uh what

USA. Soccer. Is. Good. Our. Women’s. Team. Is. The. Best. In. The. World.

GD sexism sucks.

Not disputing that, but FIFA pays higher money to the men. US men missing the world cup is bad for the entire system, men and women.

No just the men

Women get paid nothing

The entire US Soccer pool draws the same money. There is no distinction between Men, Women, U-17, development… It’s all US Soccer, and the same people who manage that money negotiate the contracts with the women, and set the standards. So, yes it does affect the women.

The men’s team should actually take a page from the WNT’s book and not play the same aging lineup they started two years ago, though. The women’s national team is playing well because they’re seeing problems (For instance, a goalkeeper who wasn’t holding her own anymore) and finding solutions to them. This week, Arena trotted out a team of mostly over-30 year old players, they were fatigued all game, and they lost out.

The women however have the luxury of a talent pool that far exceeds any talent pool globally. The Men do not. I will say though that I would rather have seen our U-20 team out there on the field over what we sent to play T&T.

But the problem is it isn’t just about the talent pool, its about discovery and development. Like Twellman said in his rant, Iceland just qualified for the world cup with a population the size of Corpus Christi.

And, as I have stated, if other nations put just 50% of the effort into their women’s national teams that we do, it is likely our women would be in that second tier as well. I know nobody wants to realize this, but this is a sad reality. Our women are great, but it is because our women athletes have only 2 real choices to become professional, and also our culture allows for more women to desire to play sports in the first place. This attitude is changing albeit slowly all around the world and some of the recent results where the US Women are losing matches is proving that out.

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