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Things we learned from 2018 World Cup qualifying

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The USMNT lost. How do they avoid a repeat result in the future?

Soccer: 2018 World Cup Qualifier-Panama at USA Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The US had a 3% probability of not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup according to ESPN’s SPI. However, Honduras defeated Mexico. Panama defeated Costa Rica. And finally, the US let in two goals to a young and scrappy Trinidadian team who wanted the win more. The US couldn’t claw back, and they lost. So they do not get to go to Russia. Sad as it is, there are some takeaways we can learn from this situation, so that this failure will not happen again.

Hire a coach for one cycle

Clearly, after the first cycle of a coach’s national team career, a change at the helm is needed. The international game evolves so quickly, and with so little time to prepare, a new face is needed to lead every cycle. Every US coach has faltered in their second cycle, because this position is not built for someone to hold it for more than one. (Klinsmann and Bob Bradley were both fired midway through their second cycle) In the same vein, once someone has taken the lead for a cycle, they shouldn’t do it again. Basically, we need new faces on the field, and in the managers box. Which leads me to my next point....

The team needs new faces

Matt Besler, Tim Howard, Michael Bradley, Omar Gonzalez, Clint Dempsey, and DeAndre Yedlin all played in the USMNT’s last game of the 2014 World Cup against Belgium (Jozy would have played too if he wasn’t hurt). All those players featured against Panama. Not that they are all bad players, but some change is needed. While several new faces were integrated, there is still a clear need for more competition in the player pool. Part of the lack of competition could be on the players not challenging the veterans, but a lot of that is on the coach for not handing opportunities to new faces. After all, competition can only improve the team.

Sunil Gulati needs to be replaced

Not only that, but USSF is sitting on $100 million surplus. What’s the point of having all that cash if you can’t make it to the World Cup? You need to invest to succeed. America is such a large country. We need more scouts, better coaching training, scholarships and subsidies for youth players. All these new expenses could be paid for with the surplus money.

New USMNT leadership will need to be perfect

The US has zero margin of error for hiring Arena’s replacement and voting in Gulati’s replacement. The new leader has to navigate a tricky situation. They are going to have to learn everything I said above, and more. It is no easy task, but these hires will be essential to right the ship.

Final thoughts

The USMNT is not making the 2018 World Cup. And it sucks. I am really sad, and I am sure everyone reading this is too. No matter what you think, this loss will set back the USMNT. But that doesn’t mean that they will never make the World Cup again, or that they will never recover. There is light at the end of the tunnel. The US will make another World Cup, and they will learn from these mistakes. And there’s always Christian Pulisic, even though he won’t feature in a World Cup until he is at least 23. He emerged as a key player and will hopefully lead the USMNT to the 2022 World Cup.

In the meantime, ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. What are you going to do to help the US improve? Are you going to coach a youth team? Watch every game? Bring a friend to the next game? Everyone can contribute to the US qualifying for the next World Cup. Let’s look to the future and all help ensure this never happens again.