U.S. Soccer woe amid great wins
For 32 years and seven World Cups, the sight of the red, white, and blue on the soccer pitch was a given. And yet, the United States Men’s National Soccer Team (USMNT) failed to qualify for the World Cup this year and will be staying home from Russia next summer. It’s been described as the most shocking failure in American soccer history and has fans across the country debating the state of the American soccer program as a whole.
On an amateur level, soccer is the second most popular sport in the United States, with 30 percent of households having at least one soccer player. It’s the fourth most watched sport as well, overtaking hockey in 2012.
Yet, the USMNT has never placed higher than third in 20 World Cups, and has yet to advance past the first round in any Olympic tournament. This failure to win on an international level is nothing new, and although this loss comes after a long streak of international success, the United States had previously missed qualifying for nine sequential World Cups before beginning their 32-year streak.
And yet, overall, the United States soccer program as a whole remains increasingly successful. Despite the repeated failure of the men’s team to win any major title, the United State’s Women’s Soccer Team (USWNT) has three World Cup wins and four Olympic gold medals. Ever since the Women’s World Cup has been hosted, the USWNT has medalled, and in six Olympics, the USWNT have placed in the top three, five times.
However, the focus continues to fall on the overall failure of American soccer as a whole. Despite the fact that the USWNT is one of the most successful international programs, continued failure by the USMNT is seen as the sign that soccer in the United States is failing.
It is true that despite active youth programs, few players continue to play soccer at higher levels no matter their gender due to popular alternatives, but considering that the women’s team gets far less development from the board of United States Soccer as a whole, their success is far more remarkable.
It is undoubtedly disappointing to watch the USMNT fail time and time again, but this is not an overall sign that the program is hopeless.
As other nations continue to improve their international soccer programs, it is likely that both the USMNT and the USWNT will struggle in the future. However, this loss is not the final sign of a destroyed program. Instead, it only emphasizes how little attention is paid to the USWNT, despite their countless successes.
The men’s team already gets more money in development and salary, and yet continue to underperform. Although this loss is nothing to be proud of, it will hopefully encourage United States soccer to value both of their teams equally and begin to improve the nation’s program as a whole.