Recent efforts and circumstances involving the US Soccer Federation (responsible for the National Teams, development/promotion of the sport, representation in FIFA, and other duties) have become a sore spot for many soccer devotees in this country. And there are more and more of us every year.
Questions abound, criticism flows freely, on topic large and small. We will attempt to summarize and analyze some of these – in order of relative importance. One theme at the heart of many questions/criticism goes back to cold hard cash – how much does the USSF have, and what are its priorities for raising and spending money? Some of that information is likely available if we were to scour the tubes for it, but perhaps that’s another blog post.
- Qatar 2022 – What are the chances? If you listened carefully to USSF President Sunil Gulati recently, you heard a man dancing a careful geopolitcal verbal jig. Yes, he voted for Sepp Blatter instead of abstaining (like England and some others) amidst a flurry of corruption charges. Why? Because it was politically smart to do so. Bin Hamman, the other guy in the FIFA Presidential race had been suspended from running against Blatter for attempting to bribe our Caribbean friends (with the help of suspended CONCACAF strongman, Jack Warner). It is widely assumed that Bin Hamman, head of the Qatari Federation employed the same corrupt tactics to buy votes for the 2022 hosting rights. But nothing has yet been proven,and FIFA has a way of sweeping unpleasantness away. Are Gulati and American FIFA Executive Committee Rep Chuck Blazer shrewdly biding their time and building up cache? Everyone knows the US could host a hugely successful World Cup, and would be next in line if Qatar were found culpable. And if you ask anyone outside an Arab country, they would much rather come to America for the World’s Greatest Sporting event in eleven years (and probably some of your wealthier Arabs would also agree – anonymously)
- What more can the USSF do? What should they have done? Can the USSF bring pressure and enormous conglomerates like McDonalds, Visa, Coca-Cola, and Anheuser Busch In Bev – huge FIFA sponsors one and all? Could that possibly help? Can Gulati and Blazer, shrewdly falling in line with Sepp Blatter again, forge the alliances necessary to force a revote or reallocation if the Qataris prove guilty. Could such an alliance at least help insure a decent investigation? What about the whole bid process last year? If you thought Bin Hamman and his cronies were out there buying votes, why not hire an investigative/intel/security outfit to follow them, document their activities, so you’re ready to provide evidence? Did the USSF not anticipate this? Did they have the money for such an endeavor?
- Whither Bob Bradley? Bob is our coach, and we support him (unless he fails to win the Gold Cup this month). He seemed like the best available option based on the timing and what the USSF was willing to spend. But just how much are we willing to spend? Who can we afford? Can we not throw money at the likes of Guus Hiddink or Juergen Klinsmann or even Jose Mourinho? Or is it more an issue of control? Bob is a good soldier who follows the party line and does as he’s told when it comes to scheduling, call-ups developmental models, etc. Personally, we like Coach Stoneface, but we also understand his tactics, biases, and limitations. We can do well with him at the helm – but is it enough?
- Development Models – What are the priorities? We still have the regional ODPs, aka the petty fiefdoms of the old soccer guard. The folks are strong within the USSF, and they represent Gulati’s and other executives roots. Meanwhile, MLS teams have their academies and are beginning to develop more players for the league and youth national teams. But Germany or Holland we ain’t? Why doesn’t the USSF get fully behind these club based systems? How much money can we spend on this? Can we develop a national program structure like the Germans and still take advantage of the mixing bowl diversity of our soccer culture?
- Can we finally exert ourselves in CONCACAF? It appears the days of Jack Warner and his syndicate may finally be finished. Enough with bribes, toadies, and incompetence already. The USSF, along with Mexico and others should step in an lead CONCACAF to a better place. It will only help the smaller nations, and maybe we can get away from arcane away-match coverage on World Cup Qualifiers. Can we now reinstate the Hexagonal again? Can we ensure that something like th U20 qualification debacle does not happen again? One would hope so; after all, without the USA hosting the Gold Cup CONCACAF’s coffers remain empty.
- Stupid Friendlies. What are the priorities for US internationals? It seems to revolve around making money at the expense of logic, reason, and even the health of players. The timing and execution of the Spain match was just dumb. Last summer’s Brazil match wasn’t much better. Playing in stadiums with sod over field turf should be phased out immediately. Who makes the ultimate decisions here? We understand there are many factors, including availability, etc., but can we not listen to our coach and factor in our players’ well being?
- Youth Coaching ranks. Thomas Rongen proved to be a great scout and recruiter of dual-citizen prospects, but a below average U20 coach. Wilmer Cabrera is already downplaying expectaions as the U17 World Cup draws near – and he’s shown a penchant for not being able to control his most talented guys without kicking them off the team. Is it time to turn elsewhere, to broaden the pool? What about Tab Ramos and Claudio Reyna, John Harkes or Thomas Dooley? What about a guy like Caleb Porter, currently tearing it up with Akron in the NCAA? How much money can we spend? What are the priorities?
- The US Open Cup. Can the USSF not get behind this, tournament with its historic roots and (potential) knock-out excitement? The US Open Cup should have major corporate sponsorship, should be a priority for MLS teams, should have some TV coverage, and most importantly, should include a worthwhile purse for the winners. Sunil – can you not make this happen, buddy? Don’t you see beneficial a robust US Open Cup could be?