Hey, guys, congratulations. We survived 2016! In general, this year has been pretty darn terrible, including for the U.S. national teams. The USMNT had a decent Copa America (minus the pounding from Argentina and the losses to Colombia) sandwiched between a couple of awful qualifying performances. There was the failure in Guatemala (though the USMNT then managed to go through the remaining matches easily enough), followed by the death of Dos a Cero and the humiliation in Costa Rica. And then Klinsmann got sacked, at the beginning of the Hex. After a disappointing year, the USMNT needs to start trending up, with Bruce Arena now in charge. With that said, here’s a few bold predictions for 2017.
The U-20 Men’s National Team will Win the U-20 World Cup
Well, I did say these would be bold. The U-20’s have yet to qualify for South Korea 2017 but I have full faith that they will make it into one of the 4 CONCACAF qualification spots after navigating through a group of Panama, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Haiti, likely followed by a second group stage made up of the runner-ups from Groups A and B. (Yeah, qualification for this tournament is kind of confusing...). From there, I think the American teenagers can make history. The U-20 age group is kind of stacked. There’s Gedion Zelalem of Arsenal, Cameron Carter-Vickers of Tottenham, Erik Palmer-Brown of Porto, and Josh Perez who’s already made a debut with the senior of team of Fiorentina. There’s also the small possibility of the inclusion of a certain teenager from Pennsylvania who plays for Borussia Dortmund named Pulisic who you may have heard of. In any case, this age group has a lot of talent being groomed both by good domestic academies and ones abroad. Guided by the steady and experienced hands of Tab Ramos, I’m predicting that these kids will go out, show the world what American soccer is really capable of, and win the whole thing.
The USMNT will Dominate Mexico 3-1 in the Gold Cup Final.
It’s been a long time since the USMNT beat Mexico in a meaningful match. Not since the USA dispatched Mexico to lock up qualification through the Hex ahead of the 2014 World Cup, about 3 and 1/2 years ago. The Gold Cup final usually is where the U.S. and Mexican teams face off, and I fully expect that to be the case this summer. However, with the Confederation’s Cup, I expect Mexico to send a weakened squad, with the end result being a solid and decisive USMNT victory.
Darlington Nagbe, Kekuta Manneh, & Bill Hamid will move to Europe over the Summer Window
We’ve already heard rumors of interest from Celtic for Nagbe this winter. Over the summer, I expect those rumors to be fleshed out into something more solid, with a move across the Atlantic in store for the Portland Timbers midfielder. He will be joined by Kekuta Manneh and Bill Hamid. All three now have American citizenship (Bill Hamid is a born-American), so they don’t have to maintain residency to get that blue passport. These are players who are still young enough to move and have the few years of professional play to be a known entity in a move. They are exciting players with a lot of visibility, so I think their MLS clubs end up getting multi-million dollar transfer offers that they can’t refuse.
Bill Hamid Will Be the Starting Goalkeeper by Year’s End
No offense to Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, or any of the other goalkeepers in the USMNT depth chart, but I think Hamid will be anointed the successor this year. Hamid has been the best goalkeeper in MLS for a few years now (sorry Rimando). He’s been an unbelievable shot-stopper and, coupled with an expensive move to a stronger league just as Howard and Guzan move back to MLS, I think he (finally) steps into that starter role.
Jones, Howard, & Dempsey Will be Fully Phased Out of the USMNT
Howard is 37. Jones is 35. And Dempsey, at 33, is out indefinitely with a heart condition. I believe all three of these players (along with DaMarcus Beasley) will play their last games in 2017. The USMNT needs to phase out the aging players who won’t be fully able to contribute minutes for 2018. Bruce Arena just so happens to have been the coach who was willing to give young players like Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley. Coupled with a glut of promising players who have been groomed by the Academy initiative (like Jordan Morris) and foreign clubs (like Christian Pulisic), there is a lot of opportunity to make the USMNT younger. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing the likes of Manneh, Zelalem, Perez, Carter-Vickers, Miazga, and Rubio Rubin starting to get integrated into the senior team.
The USMNT will Beat Mexico in Azteca and Win the Hex
Hey, what can I say? These are supposed to be BOLD predictions, right? The U.S. goes to Mexico City in June and I think there’s a solid chance that the team gets that historic result. The U.S. has already gotten broken the curse in Azteca, with first a friendly win and then a draw in qualification in the last Hex. Now, I think the team takes that next step and gets that competitive win in Mexico. The USMNT talent pool has the quality, there’s a new pragmatic and experienced manager, and Mexico has had some seriously inconsistent performances in 2016. The Mexican national team has a really full summer schedule, with Hex games, the Confederation’s Cup, and the Gold Cup, all after a long and busy European season for a number of their key players. Thanks to those European based players, it’s looked like the altitude at Mexico’s capital has looked less and less like the intimidating force that it once was. I think the USMNT goes to Mexico and stuns those fans in green, setting themselves up for a run to finish a fourth consecutive Hex at the top.
What do you think? Are these predictions properly bold? Am I overstepping and overestimating this year? What are your predictions for the USMNT? Tell us what you think in the comments!