The United States men’s football team flamed out and failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia next summer after losing to Trinidad & Tobago, leading to a lot of finger pointing and outrage in the United States and on various social media platforms.
England fans will remember, of course, failing to qualify for Euro 2008 ten years ago and the abject failure of the England team at the World Cup in 2014. And the loss to Iceland at the Euros in 2016. And the failure of the team to win the World Cup since 1966.
England fans could take this opportunity to laugh at the United States, give a little bit of stick to the interlopers from the New World, but honestly, before this World Cup qualifying cycle, if you had to choose a team to not qualify for the World Cup between England and the USA, 90% of people would likely have chosen England. And rightfully so.
The US football team’s failure to qualify, and the qualification of Panama, is hard to explain to European fans. Yes, it’s unlikely, but just how unlikely? Qualification in CONCACAF is set up in a way to make it almost impossible for the United States and Mexico to fail to qualify, and yet, here we are.
Bruce Arena, USA team manager, said that qualifying in CONCACAF was a lot more difficult than in UEFA because of the conditions that the team faces in smaller Central American and Caribbean countries. And while he’s correct that the condition of the pitches and the stadiums are miles away from what the average European team faces during qualifications, the quality of teams is superior in UEFA than it is in CONCACAF. Of course, UEFA has its own issues with pitch conditions, with Belgium complaining about the pitch the team played on in Bosnia for example, and it’s not as if all of the matches are played at expensive national team stadiums like Wembley or the Stade de France.
So England fans, show some sympathy for US fans today. You’ve been there before. Tell USA fans that it will get better, even though it likely will not. This failure to qualify is a disaster of the highest order for the USSF, and perhaps it will lead to some changes in how the United States operates and develops its youth system, although that’s pretty far-fetched.