Yesterday, I started my morning off like any other: making the huge mistake of logging into Twitter for the purpose of wasting time. While not unusual to see some terrible soccer debates on our small corner of the interweb, this day brought forth a special kind of terrible. It started with an overly optimistic tweet discussing the future prospects of the USMNT winning a World Cup. One can imagine the type of finger-wagging and tweetstorms that ensued in response.
If the USMNT doesn’t win a World Cup in the next decade, it could be one of the biggest flops in football history. This team has too much talent. https://t.co/G2IM6tF18o— Jem | Young Sasuke (@OfficialWOLFE3Y) March 15, 2021
This blog post will neither dissect the analytics in order to decipher the odds of the United States winning a men’s World Cup within the next 10 years, nor will it go through the player pool with a fine comb to construct a reasoned hypothesis for an expected range of results. This is simply a discussion of optimism and hype.
We are in the midst of something unprecedented in regards to the USMNT program, the likes of which we’ve never experienced before. Optimism is probably at an all-time high and rightfully so.
This newfound Fujiwhara effect of optimism and idealism is the result of a four-part recipe that has seemingly formed together at the perfect time.
1 — The biggest cause for this unfamiliar euphoric feeling is the current success of the American player abroad. There are USMNT regulars featuring, and in some cases, starring for some of the biggest clubs in the entire world. From Weston McKennie scoring scissor kick goals in the Champions League against Sergino Dest’s Barcelona to Christian Pulisic dribbling past five different Liverpool defenders for an assist, the sky truly feels like the limit now for American soccer players.
2 — Gregg Berhalter’s part in this overall excitement shouldn’t go overlooked. When he was hired, less than a decade into a decidedly unheralded career managing Hammarby and the Columbus Crew, his tactical acumen was questioned. However, since the return from quarantine, his ideas and vision for the team have clearly taken shape. Currently, the tactical overhaul is not a finished product, but the style of play since coming out of lockdown has become constant and identifiable. This definitive “American game” is something supporters have desired for a long time, only now coming to fruition after years of unfulfilled promises. The tactics and players are molding together to create a team that is both capable of winning while earning style points in a visually appealing fashion.
3 — In addition to the sense of structure on the field and the extraordinary amount of talent at big clubs, the recent success of U.S. Soccer’s dual-national recruiting process has only added fuel to the fire. Gregg Berhalter and company’s latest coup is that of 18-year-old Yunus Musah, who could’ve chosen England, Italy, or Ghana, but instead opted for the USA. The whole marketing rollout of Musah’s announcement shows exactly why it’s a fool’s errand to attempt to dampen excitement for this USMNT rejuvenation.
4 — Which brings us to the final and probably most important ingredient: This group of players is just fun as hell. Ever since Musah arrived on the scene, it was easy to see the camaraderie and togetherness this team has developed. From the love between the young players on Instagram to the handful of older players accepting their mentorship roles with grace, everything just feels kismet at this juncture of the process. While in the recent past the player pool may have appeared a bit stoic and stodgy, this group embodies the new vision and direction of in-your-face excitement and youthfulness. Whether it’s Tyler Adams making fun of Gio Reyna and Josh Sargent about their Bundesliga clubs in an interview or Weston McKennie creating his own trademark Harry Potter-themed celebration, this group just makes you want to root for them.
All this is to say, it’s okay to get turn your personal hype meters to all the way to 11. It’s been a very difficult time, both as USMNT fans since 2017 and as human beings since the start of 2020. Sometimes you need some optimism and happiness in your life wherever you can find it, a reasonable outlet for one’s more exaggerated passions. The wave of positivity and good feelings produced by this current USMNT setup should be celebrated and spread. If you want to scream from the mountain tops that your favorite team is going to win the World Cup in the next decade because it has you feeling those feels — no matter how ridiculous of a statement it may or may not be — I say go for it.