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What Makes Us Happy?

The USSF's decision to lift Bob Bradley's interim tag and give him the national team job has brought out strong emotions from both supporters and detractors. One of the arguments against Bradley is that he is an uninspiring choice and will not lift the American program to the next level. I am not going to debate whether he will or will not do that. We'll discuss that issue three summers from now.

My question is: How important is it for the United States to join the elite class of international soccer and be in position to win the World Cup someday? Should we be content with first or second in CONCACAF forever and qualifying for the Cup every four years? Or do we have to show progress (quarterfinals, semifinals) to be satisfied?

Spain, home of La Liga and some of the globe's greatest players, has never won a World Cup and yet they seem happy with their futbol. England, inventor of the modern game, has won the Cup just once -- and it happened at home under controversial circumstances 41 years ago -- and despite their current national team problems, they celebrate the sport like no one else.

We want to improve. We want to win. We want to be the best. I understand that. Realistically, though, what should we demand from the USSF and the national team program?

What would make you happy?

By Steve Goff  |  May 16, 2007; 10:16 AM ET
Categories:  U.S. men's national team  
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Next: At the Copa

Comments

Fantastic point with great examples to back it up.

American soccer fans have a bit of an inferiority complex - both in relation to the rest of the global soccer community as well as to the rest of the American sports community.

I think American soccer fans will be able to "enjoy" the sport as the Spaniards and English do without having to prove their ability once the Americans bring home some sort of hardware - 1st, 2nd or 3rd (and maybe even 4th)...

Then the superficial criticisms of the detractors of American soccer will be put to rest...

Posted by: Mickey | May 16, 2007 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Didn't Alexi Lalas touch on that a little last night on the final episode of FSC's Fox Football Fone-in? I think his view (and correct me if I'm wrong -- I was falling asleep at the time) was that the U.S. needs to do more than just qualify for the Cup, particularly if it wants to advance the sport itself in this country.

Posted by: Juan-John | May 16, 2007 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Rationally, it is progress is terms of advancement (quarters, semis, etc) and an improvement in the quality of play. Gut reaction? In this country, just showing well isn't good enough. Winning (not morally, but actually) is what makes us happy.

Posted by: Sean | May 16, 2007 11:13 AM | Report abuse

I think a lot of it, at least among U.S. soccer fans, is that most other countries just play the sport better than us. The U.S. can play some awfully ugly soccer, and when that's coupled with losing, it's hard to be pleased with the current state of affairs.

Posted by: Josh | May 16, 2007 11:14 AM | Report abuse

What would make me happy is a diversified attack. One that isn't so dependent on LD. But that problem isn't something the coach can fix right now, regardless of the coach, because the US just doesn't have the talent up front. Until we get that talent upgrade we are stuck at the level we've seen for the past 10 years plus/minus. We will scrape and claw for any goals which will cause our decent defense to get unbalanced because of the offensive feebleness: The margin of error given our talent is just too small in the WC finals.

Occasionally we might get to the second round or even the quarters if we are lucky like in 02. That's the maximum we can expect. More often we will struggle to get out of the group, like in 06, 98, & 94- sometimes doing it but also sometimes finishing last in the group.

Now is this a problem? Only if WC success by the US determines your happiness and interest in the game. It doesn't for me, though of course I want the home team to succeed. In time I think we will rise to a new level with new talent. But comparing us to Spain is a stretch as they normally breeze through the group stage with their talent- talent we don't have.

Posted by: Ursula | May 16, 2007 11:17 AM | Report abuse

I think Bradley is a fine choice. Until we can fill the roster with world class players we will not win the world cup any way. I don't see how a coach is going to inspire the players to vault over the half dozen countries that are legitimate contenders.

A better example than Spain is the USA in Baseball and Basketball. I don't see the USA holding the trophy in either of those two sports, yet they remain popular in the States. (Maybe its because we call our league champion "World Champion" in those two sports that has the American sporting public fooled.)

Posted by: Tommie | May 16, 2007 11:19 AM | Report abuse

We're a long way from winning it all, and that's OK. But we need to show progress, and to play well even in losing (e.g., against Germany in 2002). And we need to have a domestic league that is good enough, and pays well enough, that it can be a worthwhile home to national team players who are showing that progress and playing well.

Posted by: Dave | May 16, 2007 11:22 AM | Report abuse

i think this is a question of recognition and pride. we will be happy when we can look at a player or a team and be proud to say they are ours, and when the us mens team is recognized as something more than second rate (how about a better nickname than "the USMNT"?).

we are far from that position right now

Posted by: moses | May 16, 2007 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Simply put, the World Cup is always a crap shoot and factors such as the draw, location, injuries, and luck factor in how far a team goes. In 2006, our group was the toughest in the tournament and we could have gone through in many of the other groups. In 2002, we played well to get through and had a fortunate round of 16 opponent, Mexico, who the team knew very well and could beat. Some bad luck prevented us from moving to the semi-finals.

Therefore, I would like to see some of our top players playing on the top teams in Europe, starting. Not every player needs to go since MLS is an up and coming league. The only way this is going to happen is if young players go over there earlier (Jose Angulo, Gabriel Ferrari, etc.).

Once we have much of the top 18 players playing at the top level in Europe, this will be a great accomplishment and raise the level of the National team.

Posted by: Stone | May 16, 2007 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Go Nats! Go Nuts! Gonads?

Well, we need to consistenly make the second round and make an upset in the second round to somebody who isn't in our group. Mexico isn't really an upset. Even by 2002 we had owned them in head-to-head. Now, knock out England or Germany in the second round and the world community will take notice. But we're a ways from that. Right now, we're the team you don't want to be 3rd in your group.

Posted by: DCAustinite | May 16, 2007 11:27 AM | Report abuse

this guy's more eloquent than me:

http://football.guardian.co.uk/worldcup2006/comment/story/0,,1786908,00.html


i think we'll get there. and there's no reason we shouldn't aim high.

Posted by: longfellow | May 16, 2007 11:36 AM | Report abuse

The key is to progressively get better, and beat the elite teams. I would be extremely satisified if we moved passed the group stage, and upset a couple of giants like Brazil, Argentina, and Italy. We don't have to win it all, but if we prove that we can compete on an equal level as though countries, I would be very happy.

Posted by: DC United Fan | May 16, 2007 11:38 AM | Report abuse

"Should we be content with first or second in CONCACAF... Or do we have to show progress... ?"

They're not mutually exclusive. We should *expect* to be first in CONCACAF and to show progress in the WC. Showing progress is the hard part because of the four year cycle. One setback makes everyone think that we haven't shown any progress despite the deepening of the player pool.

"Spain ... has never won a World Cup and yet they seem happy with their futbol."

I disagree that they're happy (not the Spaniards I've met). It's more like they are resigned to the inevitability of the quadrennial disappointment.

"American soccer fans have a bit of an inferiority complex..."

Well, we are inferior as a footballing country. But we should accept that and strive to improve rather than pretend to be what we're not. I make no apologies for DC United being my favorite club team and for not closely following any Euro team.

"What would make you happy?"

A Men's WC trophy, of course. But other things include:
- A national team made up of players who start for their clubs in the EPL, Serie A, La Liga, etc followed by,
- Improved quality in MLS such that US-based players are equal to the above,
- A really creative midfielder
- A few more Brian McBrides
- Consistently moving past the group stage
- A rib-eye, a cold beer, national holidays for USM&WNT matches, and a healthy Heather Mitts.

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | May 16, 2007 11:38 AM | Report abuse

The least that would make me happy is "Looking Dangerous". "LD" is the one stat that no one keeps. Earnie Stewart was the King of Looking Dangerous here with DCU. He always had the ball, attacked the goal, served a good cross or was inches away from putting one in. He occasionally scored but he always looked like he was about to.

The US National Team needs to reach that level. They need to be capable of beating (offensive and defensively) or matching any other team they play. They've surpassed that level in CONCACAF but as the 2006WC shows we are still below the teams of Europe.

I think no matter who coaches the team the US will eventually reach this level. The continuation of MLS and increasing opportunities for professionals overseas due to economics/value of the American player and the globalization of the game will raise the National Team level of play.

Once the team is able to "Look Dangerous" against the world's best then coaching will be crucial to taking the next step. At that point I'd be way more than "happy".

Posted by: Jeff | May 16, 2007 11:42 AM | Report abuse

How about actually getting the seeding for the draw that we earned? :)

Posted by: JkR | May 16, 2007 11:44 AM | Report abuse

2nd round expectations, quarterfinal hopes and semifinal dreams.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 16, 2007 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: longfellow | May 16, 2007 11:45 AM | Report abuse

-to be the seeded team from the CONCACAF region for the Cup
-to be able to beat a European team in Europe in a meaningful match
-good MLS attendance and level of competition where US players don't feel they need to go to Europe to prove they are world class

Posted by: pat | May 16, 2007 11:48 AM | Report abuse

What would make me happy is beating the French. How come we don't play them? Besides Mexico, the French should be our natural rivals. The best feeling would be to beat the French in the World Cup. I hope one day that we draw the French and beat the hell out of them, and tell them that they stick their snobbish noses up their own ass!!!

Posted by: DC United Fan | May 16, 2007 11:52 AM | Report abuse

We'll threaten in the World Cup when we have elite players. Until that time our hopes are with coaches that can get a team to play at a level greater than the sum of it's parts and that is going to come from a coach that understands the psyche of American players - who are different in many respects from players in other parts of the world.

Posted by: Matt | May 16, 2007 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Let's start with changing the question a bit. I think it is a two-fold question.

Question1: What will make the current American soccer population happy?

Short Answer:

1.) To raise the level of play of the MLS and USMNT to be on par with the elite of the world, particularly by improving our offensive creativity.
2.) To produce a world-class player in the offensive half of the field. It could even be a utility player like Essien, but a striker would be better.
3.) Consistently get to the Round of 8.


Question2: What will make the American population happy and take soccer seriously?

Short answer:
1.) Win the world cup. America loves winners.
2.) have the best league in the world outside of Europe. Have a league on par with the top European leagues. Americans like minor league baseball, but don't take it seriously. We call our chapionships World Series and Superbowls because we think we're the best.
3.) Have several American players and teams that are competitive with any players or teams in the world. We count medals in the Olympics because we want to be the best.

Posted by: LeesburgSoccerFan | May 16, 2007 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Charles Renken will take up to Cup victories in 2014, 2018, 2022. ; )

Posted by: Hoost | May 16, 2007 12:01 PM | Report abuse

How important is it for the US to join the elite of soccer? On the one hand, it is just a sport and one that relatively few Americans watch. On the other hand, we have more youth playing that sport than does any other country. Some of them hope some day to play at the highest level. Success for the US in the World Cup (being competitive; not necessarily winning the thing) should lead to better opportunities for those players. It may also lead to a more exciting and successful MLS, which in turn could lead to better players from around the world coming here to play with and against the Americans players.

Unfortunately, no coach is likely to take the US-MNT to the elite level between now and 2010. All but a couple of the players who will make up the team are pros now. None are viewed among the best in the world. (Our keepers come closest to those rankings.) What we need is a new system for developing elite players going from the youth clubs (through colleges?) into the pros. Such a system will require that USSF, MLS, USL, and the colleges work together to find a way to identify a larger pool of young players with potential and the institutions to turn them into world-class players.

Posted by: ho | May 16, 2007 12:10 PM | Report abuse

I agree with "Looking Dangerous!" One goal in the 2006 WC and a HUGE loss to Ghana when a win would have put us through (thank god freddy wasn't on their team). We should be capitalizing on opportunities like that, running through small african nations like a hot knife through butter; especially when the stakes are that high. Hopefully Bradley can implement this mentality into our team. He has us playing some really good football right now and probably the best we have been on home soil. With that being said; I would like to see us advance in 2010 and 2014 and make an agressive bid for the 2018 WC. Carrying that mo' from the past 2 WC's onto our turf where we should have some great soccer stadii that our players are well accustomed too. It's also imprtant to note, we already have placed in the top 4. that would be in the inagural tournament where 4 nations prticipated!

Posted by: J-Mart | May 16, 2007 12:13 PM | Report abuse

sorry my info was wrong, 13 nations participated in the first WC.

Posted by: J-Mart | May 16, 2007 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Merely as a contrarian perspective to the debate - perhaps the greater American sports community that does NOT follow soccer will be just as pleased with an American team that really performs well at a World Cup without the hype brought by big name European-based players and big name coaches.

George Mason University wasn't on the radar of the overwhelming majority of fans of college basketball yet they were probably the most memorable team of last year's March Madness - without winning the tournament.

Posted by: Mickey | May 16, 2007 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Trying not to echo others' sentiments...I obviously would love to see the MNT win the cup, but for me I would be happy just to start seeing some consistency.

I think one of the reasons Spain and England's fans love their teams so much is because they know what they will get with them once they step on the pitch.

For me I just feel like the MNT's efforts have to sporadic the past few years. Win or lose...if they could play consistently good soccer game in and game out - I would be happy...baby steps.

Agree with others, that consistency would start with solid holding midfielders and one or two dangerous strikers. We just don't have that currently.

Posted by: Mike | May 16, 2007 12:23 PM | Report abuse

I want us to play a kind of football that inspires -- inspires respect from the football old guard and inspires the next generation's LeBrons and LaDamians and Zimmermans to kick a soccerball around rather than those other sports.

We don't have to win it all, we just have to play smart, creative, fun, passionate football that gives us glorious wins and glorious losses. Then I'll be happy.

Posted by: matt w | May 16, 2007 12:24 PM | Report abuse

The tough part of this is that most in this country only look at the 3 games every 4 years as a barometer on where we stand. An own goal or bad call can be the difference between advancing or going home. Unlike Europe, our regional championship is kind of a joke (the Gold Cup) and means nothing to most. If there was another more regular way to evaluate thru competitions I think progress would be easier to measure. That said, I think we need to try to play more agressive and attractive soccer and not just gut out results for 3 years until WC 2010. In qualifying, we need to go the smart route but get a friendly with someone good and tell the boys to just get after it and have fun.

Posted by: JJ | May 16, 2007 12:31 PM | Report abuse

The tough part of this is that most in this country only look at the 3 games every 4 years as a barometer on where we stand. An own goal or bad call can be the difference between advancing or going home. Unlike Europe, our regional championship is kind of a joke (the Gold Cup) and means nothing to most. If there was another more regular way to evaluate thru competitions I think progress would be easier to measure. That said, I think we need to try to play more agressive and attractive soccer and not just gut out results for 3 years until WC 2010. In qualifying, we need to go the smart route but get a friendly with someone good and tell the boys to just get after it and have fun.

Posted by: JJ | May 16, 2007 12:31 PM | Report abuse

I think consistently increasing quality in MLS is much more important. For anyone who follows soccer every year (instead of people who follow the spectacle of the WC every 4 like they do the Olympics) MLS will provide much more of the soccer experience than the WC does.

In many ways MLS is pretty impressive today. It has probably earned a solid ranking among second tier leagues in that we've seen MLS teams become competitive with a fairly broad range of international teams in competitive matches. We certainly aren't a power among those leagues, but nor are we an easy point on the road (or at least not an easy 3). Additionally, MLS has been fairly dynamic in developing new players, building some solid supporters groups and adding teams. Officiating is the one area that isn't noticeably better after ten years.

If 20 years from now MLS has made similar progress per year, I think we'd be looking at something really quite incredible for anyone following soccer for more than a few years. You'd have an MLS where the teams are regularly expected to win regional tournaments, perhaps a productive multi-national tournament where we regularly defeat champions from Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, etc.... You'd have a 16 team league all in soccer specific stadiums where some are sold out via season tickets.
If at that point we're still qualifiers to WC but no more than that, then in terms of exciting, locally relevant soccer to watch that would be plenty to ask for. I think the opposite (WC success and MLS without development) isn't possible and wouldn't be as interesting.

Posted by: cap hill | May 16, 2007 12:31 PM | Report abuse

I believe that Joe Six Pack won't give a damn about American Soccer till we win a World Cup. In "his" eyes, we're the best sporting nation in the World, and should be able to win anything we enter. To a degree, I agree with that, it's hard to argue the FACT that America produces the greatest athletes in the World. It might not happen in 2010, or 2014, but by 2022, I think the USMNT will have at least made a trip to the Semi-Finals if not won the Cup outright.

Posted by: AlecW81 | May 16, 2007 12:34 PM | Report abuse

I am happy right now. Sure, I would like better play, but I am content. I don't think that the current US population will ever be satisfied.

Posted by: Martin | May 16, 2007 12:44 PM | Report abuse

I don't think that winning the World Cup should be expectations for success. Instead, the US should strive to have their name tossed into the discussion that takes place every four years as a team capable to win it, like Argentina, England, Holland, Portugal, and Spain. They might not win it, but they're always capable of it. In order for that to happen, several things must change: attitude, frequency, and away form.

Right now I think that the US has a problem when it plays outside of CONCACAF. I get the impression that they go into games against countries like England, Italy, Argentina, etc thinking that they can win the games... and they're right. They can win those games, except for their opponents go into the same games thinking that they can't lose. And guess who wins? It's a frame of mind, an attitude, an expectation that has to change before USMNT can succeed in becoming a contender.

Carrying this step further, the US has to consistently show they are capable of winning against the top tier (or the FIFA top 10 or 15 teams. We have to be able to beat the Argentina's and England's with the same frequency that we beat Mexico. Until we can do that, we won't be able to turn the battle of belief in our favor.

And again going further, we've got to be able to win whether we have to cross the Atlantic, Pacific, or the Rio Grande. If we can't win big games in Europe, then we'll never be a contender.

Winning the World Cup would be great. Hell, even finishing third or fourth would be exciting. But if we're not expected to be there then the US Soccer program will only have succeeded in putting a good team on the field, and not in making the USMNT a contender.

Hell, I doubt winning the World Cup would cause celebrations in the US... at least not without addressing the issues noted above.

Posted by: TCompton | May 16, 2007 12:55 PM | Report abuse

AlecW81: That's exactly what I was trying to convey by breaking it into 2 questions. Expectations are different for "Joe Sixpack" then they are for us on this board.

Posted by: LeesburgSoccerFan | May 16, 2007 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Winning isn't necessary to make following sports fun, but the prospect of winning is absolutely necessary. Case in point: I'm a Cubs fan, and in case you haven't heard, we've hit a bit of a dry patch in the post-Theodore Roosevelt era. But I still love baseball, because every year MIGHT be the year. That's what I want from US Soccer, except that the measuring stick is a little different: I want the US to win one World Cup in my lifetime (I'm 26). As long as we're working towards that goal, I'm happy. If we're making progress - in the form of better international results, more Americans playing in top leagues, and improving quality of play in MLS - I'm interested. In 1990, just qualifying for the World Cup equaled success. In 2006, I would have defined success as qualifying for the second round. By 2018 or so, just qualifying for the second round won't be good enough anymore.

Posted by: Jeff M | May 16, 2007 1:16 PM | Report abuse

I'm inclined to second cap hill's post for the most part. I do think that the national team's growth and MLS's growth are more strongly linked than he/she indicates, but the main point is entirely right in my view.

There are some other points I'd like to make:

Everyone who said we deserved a seed at the last World Cup -

We did not deserve a seed. The problem wasn't that we had a seed snatched from us, it was that Mexico was thoroughly undeserving of a seed.

If you were going to give a CONCACAF team a seed, it had to be the US since we keep beating Mexico. However, no CONCACAF team deserved a seed, so it shouldn't have been an issue.

JJ -

It's not just here in the US that the World Cup is the only measuring stick. In the buildup to 2002, anyone I talked to that wasn't a US fan would immediately mention that we finished dead last in '98. Since we have no other prestigious tournament (national team or club) to gain respect in, the World Cup is a massive portion of how the entire world judges our soccer.

Posted by: Chest Rockwell | May 16, 2007 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Having a single player and/or manager that strikes fear into the rest of the world's teams...bottom line. We just haven't reached that point yet. Landon Donovan is viewed by all Europeans as a Bundesliga reject. Our big, bad defender Onyewu is viewed as having lots of potential but hasn't been able to put it together yet. As said earlier, our goalkeepers are the closest to achieving this...but we still have no Kahn or Buffon.

Posted by: fcmuenchweiler | May 16, 2007 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Let's face it. American soccer, and the state it is in, is somewhat of a miracle when you consider how far it has come in such a short period of time. But we are Americans. We are supposed to win, and we demand it. We should. One day we will, I think it is inevitable if you consider the growth of the sport at the current rate. With that said, the Europeans will ALWAYS look down on us, no matter how many times we win. Why? Because they are Europeans, and that's what Europeans do, whether it's politics, wine, or sports.

Posted by: Duke | May 16, 2007 1:44 PM | Report abuse

In response, if it hasen't been said yet, it should be stated that what makes one person happy will not do for another. The dreams of today's American children are critical to our success in the future. When my children dream of playing soccer for club and country and when they are willing to forgoe playing baseball or football, basketball or hockey, we will win the world cup. My son turns 5 next week. If, in the next 20 years, we can get 25% of those kids that will turn to other professional sports to choose soccer, we will win the Cup. Proof? Take 25% of the American players on any major league pro sports team in America and imagine them as soccer players.

I know that this may be a simplistic, tired argument to some, but I think it is a strong one. I certainly respect the opinion of those that disagree.

Posted by: Dan | May 16, 2007 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Well obviously the Cup...hopefully in my life time and i'm only 25 but more so just as simple as RESPECT. Then to live up to that respect on a consistant level.

Posted by: DjB | May 16, 2007 1:57 PM | Report abuse

we're Americans. we always want to see progress and be the best in the world.

Posted by: de | May 16, 2007 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Chest Rockwell--

My post only implied the MLS and NT weren't that linked because that was the way I read the question (e.g. should we demand WC success or MLS quality). In general, I think I agree with you...the two are very linked.

I think if you want to win the generic sports viewer the fastest way to do it is win the WC (witness the Women's World Cup). But that won't necessarily translate to year round MLS support (witness WUSA). Further, I don't think it's really possible to succeed in the WC until we have a league that is better. Having more people play in Europe is certainly good, but we just won't build enough of a player pipeline and competition for MNT slots until we have a league that provides top level competition for literally hundreds of US players.

When people say winning the WC will win over the average sports fan whereas MLS success will not, I agree. It's just that I don't think that scenario can ever happen, so I think we should focus on making MLS great. Hopefully that leads to a better MNT, WC success and then general acceptance.

I think another interesting question is how good does MLS have to be? Maybe France is a good model. No one would put the French league up there with England, Germany, Italy or Spain, but it's good enough to deliver a WC contender. Maybe that's an exception because Zidane is so unique, but Holland certainly contends without a league at the absolute top. Those are levels of competition MLS could aspire to over the course of two decades, and the implications for the MNT would be pretty amazing.

Posted by: cap hill | May 16, 2007 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Gotta disagree on the comment from fcmuenchweiler:

"...As said earlier, our goalkeepers are the closest to achieving this...but we still have no Kahn or Buffon..."

Friedel was voted top goaltending honors in the EPL last year...

Posted by: Mickey | May 16, 2007 2:12 PM | Report abuse

You guys like the way Mr. Goff dodged this very question on the chat? Thanks a lot! I think "Duke" is right in that we've already come so far in the last 25 years. Back to what "Cap Hill" said so eloquently, "Officiating is the one area that isn't noticeably better after ten years." I'd have to agree and say that that is just a sign of how immature soccer is in our coutry. I'd say officiating is a lagging indicator, while today's youth involvement is a leading indicator of what is to come.

Posted by: LeesburgSoccerFan | May 16, 2007 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Spain and England are happy with the state of their CLUBS and LEAGUES, they are not happy with the state of their NATIONAL TEAM. Please make distinction there. They have the $$$ to buy the best players in the planet, unfortunatley it comes ata price - price of not letting their own make it big at the big clubs, and that reflects on their overall dissapointing national team performances at the Euro's and the World Cup.

They might get to QF but they play ugly.

Posted by: Vic | May 16, 2007 3:16 PM | Report abuse

What the USMNT should strive for:

Play as often as possible the first teams of Argentina, Brazil, England, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain in their respective homelands or neutral ground and surface with no less than two wins and two ties, every 8 games, and always be considered a threat when playing them anywhere.

Posted by: 12th man | May 16, 2007 3:43 PM | Report abuse

"Spain, home of La Liga and some of the globe's greatest players, has never won a World Cup and yet they seem happy with their futbol."

The reason why Spain doesn't care about having never won a World Cup is because the Catalans and Basque do not think they're "Spanish". Barcelonans do not want to play for Spain as much as they want to play for Catalonia.

"Catalonia is not Spain. Catalonia is a country."

Go to Barcelona sometime and try not to see that grafiti.

Posted by: Fuego Fanatico | May 16, 2007 4:18 PM | Report abuse

"Spain, home of La Liga and some of the globe's greatest players, has never won a World Cup and yet they seem happy with their futbol."

The reason why Spain doesn't care about having never won a World Cup is because the Catalans and Basque do not think they're "Spanish". Barcelonans do not want to play for Spain as much as they want to play for Catalonia.

"Catalonia is not Spain. Catalonia is a country."

Go to Barcelona sometime and try not to see that grafiti.

Posted by: Fuego Fanatico | May 16, 2007 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Mickey:

I'm aware of Friedel's honor, but since Friedel wouldn't play last World Cup, he's out of consideration for discussion.

cap hill: Gotta disagree about the French league. Have you actually watched/followed Ligue 1 Orange? Way more entertaining than the Italian and German leagues...very similar to the English league in speed of play (perhaps due to the influx of French players in England) and much more parity relative to other leagues. In my opinion, EPL > La Liga = Ligue 1 Orange > Bundesliga > Serie A...with the Dutch, Portuguese and Scottish leagues just behind.

Posted by: fcmuenchweiler | May 16, 2007 4:19 PM | Report abuse

more brasilians in MLS

Posted by: vasco | May 16, 2007 5:00 PM | Report abuse

more brasilians in MLS

Posted by: vasco | May 16, 2007 5:00 PM | Report abuse

"What would make you happy?"

Winning the World Cup. Filling every MLS stadium with loud supporters.

But if I had to choose between those two, I'd go with the latter. You make a good point: We should ask ourselves what we want with US soccer.

Posted by: Joe S. | May 16, 2007 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Re appeal to the general population -- we need a term for them a la mugwumps or whatever it is in the Harry Potter books -- we would probably need goals. Getting through the WC semis on a 0-0 tie would do nothing to impress the masses.

Then again, who cares -- for geezers like me (40) I think playing in an adult soccer league makes some of my coworkers confused and uneasy, which is cool . . . much more cachet than playing golf. If soccer gets too popular, I'll lose that.

WMMH is individual players who are fun to watch, like Moreno when he is "on," Donovan, Ronaldinho, Akers, even Erpen; and a team that is moving, moving, moving the ball, passing the opponents dizzy, as United was doing early last year.

Posted by: gringo | May 16, 2007 5:35 PM | Report abuse

Spain and England are in a highly competitive environement full of countries playing the game at the highest level.

It's just us, Mexico, and Costa Rica in CONCACAF basically.

I think you know that steve, you're just playing 'devils advocate'.

You can't compare mexican soccer to spain or us soccer to england.
lol

Posted by: Anonymous | May 16, 2007 5:55 PM | Report abuse

There is no reason we shouldn't be competitive in every World Cup. Advancing from our Group should be the minimum in each Cup. Of course there will be slip ups, but at this moment, we are still not competitive.

Posted by: Eric | May 16, 2007 6:06 PM | Report abuse

We Americans expect winners, but I'm not that caught up with winning the World Cup, the greatest sporting event in the world. There have only been a handful of winners: Brazil, Uruguay, Italy, Germany, England, Argentina, and France. It's unrealistic to think that we ought to win the World Cup when the likes of Spain, Holland, Russia (Soviet Union had some exceptional teams), and heck Mexico have never won the title. But I expect the US to be a contender, a country that can challenge the favorites on the field and is feared, a la Portugal, the Czech Republic, Sweden, etc. When we get to that level and MLS is on the level of the top European leagues in terms of competition/stars/compensation, then I think we're okay. Soccer doesn't need to displace American football (it won't); it just needs to be competitive and comparable to sports like baseball (a sport that if it weren't for the money, would be dying) and basketball (do people care about pro basketball?), and displace sports like hockey (soon, very soon). Maybe in my lifetime.

Posted by: highbury | May 16, 2007 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Looking dangerous depends an awful lot on US players developing ball skills, e.g., improving the first touch so that fans don't cringe everytime they see our players trying to control the ball, sufficient control of the ball in a variety of elements so that our midfield passing is not dependent on one or two players, deadly finishing combined with a no prisoners attitude, etc. I just don't see cheatin bob even capable of teaching our players much of anything. While a coach at FIFA level should not have to teach players anything, we must recognize that our players are remedial futbolers.

A coup at USSF would be wonderful, replacing all the suits with an internationally experienced leadership who have actually played the game.

cheatin bob will produce more of the same inferior futbol against top tier opponents. His study of the game might result in more corner kick goals, where we should absolutely dominate CONCAGAG (sic).

I want DC United to start beating Mexican teams in Mexico on a consistent basis. US players will be produced from such crucibles.

JMO; YMMV 'cause I really don't care all that much about USMNT. They are futbol during international dates, but my passion lies with DC United. Maybe if we had some more skillful players my attitude would change a bit, but I don't see it happening in the USSF infrastructure.

Posted by: GrillMaster | May 16, 2007 6:34 PM | Report abuse

what will it take to be competitive, or even win a WC? it's not simply having a deep team, it's about having a superstar or two. and that won't happen until a poor kid can rationally say, "I can help my family by being a pro soccer player" And that will come when a: there is enough money on the table to convince a kid (and his parents) that he can make it in soccer, and b: when there is more joy in soccer for kids. Sure, we have more "organized' soccer players than anywhere else, but how many unorganized players, kids playing on the proverbial sandlots, are there? I see pickup games of adults, but not kids. You think Allen Iverson learned his stutterstep playing on his high school team or on the playground?

can anyone seriously say that if they had a kid, age 12, who was rated in the top 20 nationally in both soccer and basketball. Your kid is getting recruiting letters from college baketball teams and you need to make a choice now, focus on Soccer or Hoops. Which is the better financial decision? the top pick in MLS, Edu, pulls $132,000. the 30th pick in the NBA got $700,000. Which is the smart call?

Posted by: northzax | May 16, 2007 9:48 PM | Report abuse

I think that those people who focus on trying to lure young athletes away from other sports are barking up the wrong tree. Most people who excel in basketball, American football, etc., would not make good soccer players, because soccer requires a different set of skills. Besides, people who play these other sports are generally outstanding athletes only with respect to the upper tail of the height distribution (in the case of basketball) or weight distribution (in the case of the pigskin game). If they were in a sport in which they had to compete against people from the entire height/weight distribution, most of them wouldn't look so hot.

Rather, we should be focusing on those people who are known to be top-flight soccer players, but who opt for non-athletic careers, either because of low MLS salaries or for any other reason. A classic case in point is the former UVa star Mike Fisher (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Fisher_(soccer)).

Posted by: Go Penn State! | May 17, 2007 11:56 AM | Report abuse

We need to be competitive. We won't attract broader interest in this country if we aren't competitive internationally. We don't have to win the cup, but we will need to progress to being seeded, routinely advancing out of group play, and being considered a contender, even if a 2nd tier outside chance contender, like the U.K.! :)

Posted by: DCUnitedFan | May 17, 2007 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Spain and England love their 'futbol' because 99% of the people playing on the top teams are from neither country. The top tier in both countries is loaded with top players from national team sides from around Europe and South America. They are seeing a mini-version of the WC every time out to the park.
In addition, the US mindset is different than most other places in the world. It is at once a help and a hindrance. In the US we believe that unless you want to be #1, you are wasting your time. Therefore to truly attract Joe Casual to the game, US Soccer needs to show that it is improving and capable of winning.
Do they need to win the WC immediately? No. Do they need to start showing soon that they can be a legit match for the Germanys and Brazils of the world? Yes.
Look what has happened to the popularity of international basketball in this country ever since the rest of the world caught up to the "dream team" no one talks about them anymore and the hype leading up to those tournaments now is virtually non-existent and we are still no worse than #3 in the world at any given time!
The general US public demands excellence and I'm afraid that's exactly what US Soccer needs to deliver if they ever expect to make a real breakthrough.

Posted by: papa bear | May 17, 2007 7:24 PM | Report abuse

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