Never one to shy away from ambitious goals, U.S. national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann is at it again. After being asked what he wants to accomplish in the upcoming Copa America, Klinsmann responded with the following.
"The goal, then, is really to get to the final four," Klinsmann said. "We want to get to the final four."
Setting lofty standards before a major tournament like this is unquestionably a risky move. If it works, such as it did in the 2014 World Cup, Klinsmann looks like a genius. However, if we see the team fall short of their goals, such as they did in the 2015 Gold Cup, Klinsmann will face major scrutiny.
At its core, international soccer is hard to predict. Simply put, the better team doesn't always win over 90 minutes. For proof of this, take a look at Michael Caley's expected goals rankings from the 2014 World Cup. Bosnia and Herzegovina, eliminated in the group stage, were the 6th best team based on expected goal difference over three matches. This isn't to say results don't matter, just that we must be careful solely using them to evaluate progress.
The most likely route to the semifinals is avoiding Brazil, the heavy favorite to top Group B. To do this, the U.S. must win their own group. This scenario would see them face a much more inviting Ecuador, Peru or Haiti in the quarterfinals.
With the mounting pressure around Klinsmann's job security, it will be fascinating to see what happens if he fails to reach the standard he's set.