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International Soccer Thread...


Cool Hand Lucroy
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Not sure if this would be better in the off topic forum given the Wisconsin theme here but thought, with World Cup Qualifying entering the late stages and the actual World Cup coming next summer, it might be good to have a place to chat about soccer for those interested. If we want to make this a club thread too, that's fine.

 

Yesterday completed one of my favorite sports stories of the year. Iceland, population 334,000 qualified for the World Cup out of Europe, probably the toughest of all qualifying regions. They're the smallest nation ever to make the World Cup by population, with the next smallest (Trinidad and Tobago) clocking in at 4x larger (1.2 mil). There's really no overstating how amazing this feat is. Despite being a small market, the Brewers can still theoretically sign anyone from anywhere. There are financial constraints, of course, but imagine only being able to generate talent by developing players from the Milwaukee area (population what? 2 million?). I've been to Iceland once, and it's a great place, but even independent of that, this is one of those stories that keeps me watching sports. Really, a remarkable achievement for everyone involved with Icelandic soccer. That's a team worth rooting for, I think.

 

Speaking of Trinidad, the US can qualify by beating them tonight. It's been a pretty crappy cycle for the USMNT, and not qualifying would be a big embarrassment given the region and our budget. Still, one away win pretty much means everything is okay. Hope Pulisic plays as he did against Panama, where he looked like everything the US has always wanted in an attacking player.

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US has once again come out completely flat against an inferior opponent. Refusing to use ball control at all, and playing their idiotic, "Kick it far and hope" offense.

"I wasted so much time in my life hating Juventus or A.C. Milan that I should have spent hating the Cardinals." ~kalle8

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Ugly all-around display from a team that hasn't been much fun to follow during the Hex. Not a lot of bright spots other than Pulisic. Seems like they had a bunch of old faces who looked plenty old surrounded by the usual MLS crew. Seems to me like the U.S. is always really shaky at the back line compared to other nations I watch. Whether that's lack of talent or discipline, I don't know.

 

I don't want to be one of those people that criticizes effort from athletes knowing how much work they put in, but, for the most part, I have to say that there seemed to be a pretty stunning lack of urgency from the US in every game I watched, with the exception of Mexico away and Panama home. I'm not even all that upset given that this team clearly doesn't deserve to be on the same stage as the rest of the world. In fact, I think I almost feel better Panama managed to qualify given how things turned out for them last cycle.

 

I'm with those calling for a top-to-bottom rethinking of the US soccer system. There's nothing to say other than that, if we can't qualify given our budget and talent pool, the system is broken. Arena saying no wholesale changes are necessary in the post-match presser (I get it, what else is he supposed to say?) felt empty and just wrong-headed. If I were FS1 and just paid a bunch for first-time Wold Cup broadcast rights stateside, I think I'd be agitating daily.

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I'm not really a soccer guy but this was a pretty pathetic showing on USA's part. I wonder what this does for soccer in the US?
"This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains." Think about that for a while.
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I haven't followed the qualifying this quadrennial as closely as in past years. I knew the USA's position was shaky but assumed everything would work itself out. I'm curious to see retroactively what the odds were of the planets lining up for USNMT's elimination.

 

On another note, NED ouster should be an even bigger stunner.

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On another note, NED ouster should be an even bigger stunner.

 

Sweden and France are actually good though. France is ranked 8th and Sweden 23rd and The Netherlands had the same number of points as Sweden, just lost on goal differential. Panama is currently ranked 60th, Honduras is 74th and literally the only thing the U.S. had to do to at minimum qualify for the playoff against Australia was get a draw against the 99th ranked team in the world and they couldn't do that.

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FiveThirtyEight said odds were 93 percent of US qualifying before Trinidad match.

 

Lots had to go wrong. Of course, the team definitely put itself in a really bad position too.

 

With this and their last election odds, they might want to take a break for awhile.

"This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains." Think about that for a while.
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Well Arena's out, which is obvious. If Gulati isn't on Arena's heels out the door, US Soccer is an even bigger farce than I thought. The US has turned soccer into a sport that requires too much of family finances and time, and it doesn't allow enough opportunities for kids without means to play at higher levels of instruction/competition. Look at just about any list of the top collegiate programs for soccer in the country - it looks much more ivy league than what traditional football, basketball, or even baseball rankings lists resemble.

 

In my opinion, the US program has done a terrible job at cultivating soccer to areas beyond upper middle class suburbia...the US federation can continue throwing money all over the place with training and facilities, but until the best athletes in the country start growing up playing soccer instead of all the other major US sports they are fooling themselves about taking the next step to being considered among the world's elite.

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Well Arena's out, which is obvious. If Gulati isn't on Arena's heels out the door, US Soccer is an even bigger farce than I thought. The US has turned soccer into a sport that requires too much of family finances and time, and it doesn't allow enough opportunities for kids without means to play at higher levels of instruction/competition. Look at just about any list of the top collegiate programs for soccer in the country - it looks much more ivy league than what traditional football, basketball, or even baseball rankings lists resemble.

 

In my opinion, the US program has done a terrible job at cultivating soccer to areas beyond upper middle class suburbia...the US federation can continue throwing money all over the place with training and facilities, but until the best athletes in the country start growing up playing soccer instead of all the other major US sports they are fooling themselves about taking the next step to being considered among the world's elite.

 

Agreed. I mean, part of the reason for this is because the Dempsey, Howard guys are aging, and the next wave isn't ready yet (Pulisic is a wunderkind). Sill, that shows there's a gap in the development strategy. I keep hearing how missing the World Cup is going to really set the youth development back, but people always talk, every World Cup cycle, about how USMNT success is going to really kickstart soccer and allow them to sustain momentum. Yet, it seems to me like the program has been on a treadmill, where we do things basically the same, and sometimes we're lucky enough to get to a quarterfinal, and sometimes we go 0-3 (or fail to qualify, apparently). Probably means the system is either not capitalizing on momentum or there just isn't as much as people want to pretend.

 

For me, I don't think the US is ever going to commit to soccer in a way that makes the team among the "world elite." The American sports landscape is too crowded, and the game just doesn't have that kind of base. That's fine, really, to me. But you do have to cultivate more than the same old same old players. You've got to be able to turn out a Pulisic pretty regularly (with how much the US pours into sports, it's pretty shocking that American players aren't regularly playing big roles for European clubs). You've got to diversify the talent base enough to keep the team near the top of CONCACAF. You certainly have to develop players who aren't entitled, and it does seem like there was a lack of real competition for roster spots this cycle. Maybe this failure shakes something loose. You have to hope so.

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With this and their last election odds, they might want to take a break for awhile.

 

Yeah, I don't think you understand how close to a lock the U.S. was. This was really the only realistic scenario that would knock the U.S. out (there was another scenario where the U.S. drew with T&T and Panama beat Costa Rica by like 6 goals and Honduras beat Mexico by like 13 goals) but those were literally the only two outcomes that would've knocked the U.S. out. Just because probably the unlikeliest outcome happened doesn't mean 538's odds were wrong.

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With this and their last election odds, they might want to take a break for awhile.

 

Yeah, I don't think you understand how close to a lock the U.S. was. This was really the only realistic scenario that would knock the U.S. out (there was another scenario where the U.S. drew with T&T and Panama beat Costa Rica by like 6 goals and Honduras beat Mexico by like 13 goals) but those were literally the only two outcomes that would've knocked the U.S. out. Just because probably the unlikeliest outcome happened doesn't mean 538's odds were wrong.

 

I guess poor attempt at a joke.

"This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains." Think about that for a while.
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In my opinion, the US program has done a terrible job at cultivating soccer to areas beyond upper middle class suburbia...the US federation can continue throwing money all over the place with training and facilities, but until the best athletes in the country start growing up playing soccer instead of all the other major US sports they are fooling themselves about taking the next step to being considered among the world's elite.

This is an excellent point. Three of my four children played for a reputable club in the Milwaukee area -- and it cost a lot of money. I do not know of any programs towards the inner city. Some teams that exist outside of some of the larger metro areas (Milwaukee, Madison, Appleton / Fox Valley) aren't very consistent. It gets back to the mighty dollar. How many Milwaukee Wave players will "donate their time" to help out with the Kickers? I think when Alex Nicolic started the kickers, he didn't do it with the intent of making a huge money-making empire, but wanted to promote the game of soccer. When I was coaching 5-10 years ago, nobody worked harder than him.

 

Unfortunately, I don't think soccer is the only sport that is affected. For softball, it costs around $2000+ to be on a BATS team (unless you "know" somebody). The Bandits, Wisconsin Lightning, and other clubs are just as expensive, or more expensive.

 

My son plays on a community baseball team in southwestern Milwaukee county. While he gets some adequate coaching, he does not get the "scout from the White Sox" or other coaches who have Major League exposure / experience.

 

I don't know if there is an answer. I found this article which shares thoughts from a few years ago. Is this the answer -- for any sport?

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/06/magazine/06Soccer-t.html

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Not sure it's about money, or at least mostly about money. I think space available in the inner cities is a bigger driver. Basketball courts are small. Soccer fields are large- and need to be maintained. Same thing happened to baseball fields in most parts of the country.
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Not sure it's about money, or at least mostly about money. I think space available in the inner cities is a bigger driver. Basketball courts are small. Soccer fields are large- and need to be maintained. Same thing happened to baseball fields in most parts of the country.

 

It's all about money. Money is the driver for everything. Suburban sports in this country are a for-profit industry, not a for-talent industry.

 

We can start here: https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2016/jun/01/us-soccer-diversity-problem-world-football

 

http://www.npr.org/2017/05/26/530162575/immigrant-families-find-soccer-shockingly-expensive-to-play-in-the-u-s

 

Around the world, soccer is played by the rich and poor alike. It's a cheap sport - no pads, no special equipment, you just need a ball. But in the United States, soccer has become the domain of the white suburban well-to-do. Just registering for a club team can run about $1,500 per year.

"I wasted so much time in my life hating Juventus or A.C. Milan that I should have spent hating the Cardinals." ~kalle8

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Its like you didn't even read my post. You sent there's virtually no soccer fields in inner cities? If there was enough interest, there would be fields.

 

Every sport scams money out of suvuburanites, don't even get me started. But basketball has aau traveling teams and the best players in the country play aau ball regardless of where they're from.

 

Soccer, while more popular, is still a niche sport with limited interest in the US. Money isn't going to change that.

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I read your post. It simply isn't true. If kids had the opportunity to play for a decent price, they would. Period.

 

For example, in Milwaukee, there are ~50 fields available for use just through Milwaukee County Parks.

 

You bring up AAU, those kids travel just as much as any club soccer player, the difference being, if you're poor and good, you get sponsored in AAU. In soccer, you get turned away.

 

Soccer has been the second most played sport in the US for 30 years, right alongside baseball, both of which trail basketball by a huge margin. Kids are playing, they are playing all over.

 

The problem is, in order to get better, to reach that next level, you need to play more, have good coaches, have a good club. 95% of it is cost, and a lack of opportunity as a result.

"I wasted so much time in my life hating Juventus or A.C. Milan that I should have spent hating the Cardinals." ~kalle8

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Soccer has been the second most played sport in the US for 30 years, right alongside baseball, both of which trail basketball by a huge margin.

 

 

Agree with this. I think the sense of stagnation is what's so frustrating about soccer in the US. There has supposedly been all this momentum since the World Cup in '94, and it seems to have produced a fairly successful domestic league and not much else. And even the MLS has, arguably, been better for countries like Panama, Honduras, and Costa Rica since it provides a hemispherically strong professional spot for player development. This is a great thing for CONCACAF as a whole. Don't get me wrong, I think it's a great thing period. I just wish it translated to more success grooming talented US players. Ideally, you'd have a situation where MLS would regularly groom US talent, send some of that talent abroad for a few years (before those same players returned to the US late-career), and keep the USMNT well-stocked with exciting players. Fans would tune in to MLS games to watch not just local teams but future European players and national team stalwarts. Whatever structural problems are preventing that need to be dealt with. Probably that means finding ways to grow the game that don't involve so much expense being borne by individual players and families.

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  • 7 months later...

I was able to catch the first 25 minutes of the England v Tunisia match which the English thoroughly dominated and had a 1-0 lead. Shocked to see it took a stoppage time goal to win it.

 

The Germans looked very vulnerable against the Mexican counter-attack. Interesting to see what adjustments will be made.

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I read your post. It simply isn't true. If kids had the opportunity to play for a decent price, they would. Period

 

I don’t think it’s nearly that simple. Kids can grab a soccer ball and play just as easily and cheaply as they can a basketball. But they don’t. They grab the basketball. Why?

 

Two big reasons I think. The first is cultural. Black kids in the inner city look up to black professional athletes. That’s why basketball and to a lesser extent football are so much more popular in the inner city than baseball and soccer are. Sure there are popular black baseball players and, probably, soccer players. But honesly name three players on the US men’s national soccer team. I can’t. And I’m sure kids in the inner city can’t either. But they can probably name 100 NBA players. And so can I even though I don’t watch the NBA.

 

The second reason is money but not in the sense you’re talking about. How much does the average soccer player in America make? Not nearly as much as the average NBA player. Poor kids grow up dreaming of making it big and being rich and famous. You don’t get rich and famous in America playing soccer.

 

The reason why USA can’t compete with the other nations in offer is because our best athletes don’t play soccer....or they don’t continue it I should say. They play basketball. They play football. And to a lesser extent they play baseball. If the USA ever hopes to become a World Power in soccer they have to figure out how to get the best American athletes to play. That means advertising. That means sponsorships. That means paying their players close to what athletes in the other major sports make.

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