This year started well and ended in what most fans consider armageddon, and that makes all of us anxious about what’s in store for the United States in 2018. Still, we press on and we have to consider 2018 a brand new chapter in the book of life for the USMNT. Nothing has yet been written, so we have a chance to have a bold outlook on how things can go when the calendar flips to January 1st.
First, let’s examine the 2017 predictions and see how we did:
- The U-20 Men’s National Team will Win the U-20 World Cup
- The USMNT will Dominate Mexico 3-1 in the Gold Cup Final.
- Darlington Nagbe, Kekuta Manneh, & Bill Hamid will move to Europe over the Summer Window
- Bill Hamid Will Be the Starting Goalkeeper by Year’s End
- Jones, Howard, & Dempsey Will be Fully Phased Out of the USMNT
- The USMNT will Beat Mexico in Azteca and Win the Hex
Sooo yeah...that’s a whole lot of nope. Some of these predictions sounded pretty credible back in January. Now, looking at some of them probably just makes people mad again. The only one that comes close is the USMNT winning the Gold Cup final. It just wasn’t over Mexico...Jamaica earned the honor of runners-up.
Alright, what about 2018? To keep people interested in the team, we’re going to need to set the bar really high. Bold predictions may yield bold results, even things outside the realm of what we think is possible. If we’re wrong, who cares? But if we’re right, we walk into every cocktail party with our heads held high...and it means the USMNT did some amazing stuff in 2018. Let’s borrow a page from the Tecate commercials and get bold:
Christian Pulisic will emerge as the captain of the team for CONCACAF Nations League
Christian Pulisic is already the man. He’s the 19-year-old star of the USMNT and he’s already scoring and creating goals at a record pace. But, fans take to him because they see something more in him. They see a leader. And, with a team that’s on track to get younger in a hurry, there will be a need for young leadership. And that’s why that when the USMNT walks out onto the pitch for their first CONCACAF Nations League match when it debuts in September, Christian Pulisic will lead that team out of the tunnel wearing the captain’s armband. It would be an incredible move for whoever the new coach is to replace current captain Michael Bradley, but fresh blood is necessary for growth on this team. Pulisic has it, and I think he wants to do more. He will get his chance by becoming the captain in 2018.
Peter Vermes will be the next USMNT head coach
There are a lot of candidates that are either being put forward or adding themselves to the mix to replace Bruce Arena as head coach of the USMNT. In the end, I think the next head coach will be one who has longed for the job for a number of years, is a product of the system and is one that makes sense: Peter Vermes. The Sporting Kansas City head coach is a former USMNT player, knows the system, commands respect from players, and has been known for finding young talent and playing them to maximize their potential. Finally, he’s a coach that can energize the fans and shortly before the World Cup, Vermes will get the call up to the national team bench.
Bill Hamid will beat out Zach Steffen for the #1 goalkeeper spot
Step one of this prediction: there is a two-man race for the #1 goalkeeper position on the USMNT: Bill Hamid and Zach Steffen. Zach Steffen has become one of the best goalkeepers in MLS, while Bill Hamid recently left D.C. United for Denmark and a chance to test himself against European competition and secure that #1 spot. It will be a year where the goalkeepers will battle back and forth to win the permanent starting job. In the end, Hamid wins it over Steffen with several clean sheets, including against some top European teams.
Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard will have a testimonial final match for the USMNT
This is the difficult prediction for me, because Clint Dempsey is my favorite MNT player of all time and it’s not close. Tim Howard is one of the best goalkeepers in national team history, and i think both of them have seen their last meaningful matches in a United States jersey. I think both will be afforded the opportunity to have a testimonial match of sorts, where they will have a chance to play one final time before the adoring fans and say goodbye. Then, just like Landon Donovan’s last match, they will be subbed out and fade into history, to be debated by us fans on how they compare to the greats in this game. Other players won’t get a testimonial, and we’ll see several of them fizzle out. Still, don’t expect Howard or Dempsey to be on the team come September, as a major chapter in U.S. Soccer history closes.
Weston McKennie will be the new engine for the USMNT
There’s another young star emerging for the USMNT, and that star is 19-year-old Schalke 04 midfielder Weston McKennie. He has the tools to become the holding midfielder of the present for the national team. HIs friendship with Christian Pulisic and his ability to set him up for success (and also create some of his own) is going to keep him on the field. By the end of the year, McKennie will be a main starter at holding midfielder, and he’s going to be the guy that sparks the entire offense for a team hungry to get goals. He has the ability to do that, and he has the passion and plays with enough juice to pump some new life into the team. They’re going to need it, and he will have the chance to be the central nervous system of this team.
The USMNT will not lose a game after May
The MNT will start out the year with some struggles as they work to find the key components that will form the core of this team going forward. While many think that there will not be a new head coach until after the World Cup, I think that a coach will get hired just before, and while it will take a few games to get everyone on track, the USMNT will begin to put it together. While they will likely be playing some tough teams that will be preparing for the World Cup, this new young core will play with no fear, gel as a unit, and start a new unbeaten streak. This unbeaten streak will carry them through the end of the year, so we will look back at that point where the team began to win again and see that they defeated some pretty good teams. That leads me to my next prediction:
You’re probably thinking to yourself, “How Sway?!” Yes, the United States of America are going to waltz right into Wembley Stadium in London, Parc Olympique Lyonnais in Lyon, and Allianz Arena in Munich and upset England, France, and Germany in 2018. These matches may take place as a sendoff match for these teams as they prepare for the 2018 World Cup (we already know we will take on France in June), but we will beat three teams that may think have the tools to either advance far in Russia or win the whole tournament. This will help the players gain confidence as they progress throughout the year.
The USMNT will end 2018 ranked in the top 15
This might be the boldest prediction of them all. The USMNT is currently ranked 24th in the FIFA World Rankings, but I think this year will see them go higher. This team will undoubtedly experience some growing pains. With many young guys attempting to play their way into the fold with the national team, they will run up against some great teams that will give them a bad day. However, the team is going to have some major wins during the year and they will progress rapidly up the FIFA rankings. This time next year, you will see a team ranked in the top 15 and have a young, hungry player pool that’s ready to compete with the big boys.
And there it is, the 2018 bold predictions for the USMNT. Am I onto something here? Am I just crazy? Discuss that and give us your bold picks for 2018.