The 2026 World Cup is scant silver lining as US fans watch Russia 2018

first_imgfeatures World Cup 2018 Share on Facebook World Cup Fiver: sign up and get our daily football email. Share on WhatsApp US soccer received a much-needed jolt of positivity on Wednesday, when it was awarded the bid to co-host the 2026 World Cup with neighbors Mexico and Canada. But that fleeting high will come with a Thursday morning hangover when this year’s tournament kicks off, and the greater significance of what happened to the US in their failed campaign to qualify for Russia 2018 begins to truly, finally sink in. The 2026 World Cup will bring welcome publicity and interest in soccer in the US but in the present day US Soccer does not appear to have entirely grappled with the long-term ramifications of missing out on Russia. Most of the players involved in the Calamity in Couva, when a loss to Trinidad & Tobago doomed the US campaign, have described the experience as a waking bad dream.“The main thought that goes through your head is shock,” says midfielder Dax McCarty, who was on the bench that night. “Being a part of it, you almost have a feeling of helplessness. You’re just hoping, praying, that something, anything goes your way. When the final whistle blows, it’s a feeling of shock and awe.”The knock-on effects of the letdown continue to reverberate even up to now. The Guardian spoke to two bars in the soccer strongholds of Portland and Seattle who estimated that they will lose something like $20,000 in revenue on days on which the USMNT would have played. Elsewhere, FourFourTwo scaled back its US operation a few months later, citing advertisers who pulled out after the Trinidad loss, putting several of the country’s best soccer journalists out of work. US sports The powers that be seem to have escaped a similar self-reckoning. During the US federation’s election this past February, it was president Sunil Gulati’s long-time No2, Carlos Cordiero, who was voted in to replace him, rather than any of the self-described “change” candidates such as Kyle Martino, Eric Wynalda and Hope Solo. /football/ng-interactive/2018/jun/05/world-cup-2018-complete-guide-players-ratings-goals-caps Despite the fanfare about the new general manager position, it went unfilled for months before the hiring of Earnie Stewart from the Philadelphia Union. It remains unclear, however, whether the role is going to hold enough power to actually bring about meaningful change – that the process to fill the position took so long, and that so many of the leading minds within MLS shied away, hint that it does not.“Whatever we’ve been doing hasn’t panned out the way that we, as Americans, expect,” former USMNT defender Brad Evans said. “We always think that we’re the best at everything, and that we deserve the best in everything. We have money. Why are we not the best? That’s the mentality through every single sport. I think it’s hard for us to grasp that what we’re doing isn’t right.”Even after Trinidad, the single most traumatizing night in the modern history of the United States men’s national team, it’s unclear whether the federation has still totally grasped Evans’s point. There are those who think that any kind of drastic change would be rash, and unwise. Soccer has been on an upward trajectory for years now – why completely shift course?“You don’t make wholesale changes based on the ball being two inches wide or two inches in,” said Gulati after Trinidad, referencing a Clint Dempsey shot that hit the post in the final qualifier and could have saved the day.That argument may ultimately be proved right. It may also merely keep the federation on track for another, unseen and even more traumatizing reckoning further on down the line. Regardless, it’ll be of little consolation to the millions of American sports fans who tune into the World Cup this month and flip channels in bewilderment looking for the USMNT. And it means that the loss in Trinidad has no silver lining, that the promise of change that sustained some in the aftermath will be unrealized, and that the hollow pit in the stomach of American soccer fans this summer will have no useful purpose moving forward. The World Cup remains the only time soccer is front and center of the mainstream American sporting consciousness. There are one-offs, here and there. The Champions League, for example, has gained in relevance in recent years. Major League Soccer continues to improve, and crowds continue to grow even if television rankings remain comparatively stagnant. Every four years, however, the World Cup thrusts the game toward the very top of the news cycle. Players pose for magazine covers beforehand and make the late-night talkshow circuit in the aftermath. Bars fill to standing-room-only even for games the US are almost certain to lose.That shared, communal experience is impossible to replicate. Ask American soccer diehards to date the beginning of their fandom, and most will reference a World Cup year —from the 1994 edition on home soil to the USMNT’s underdog run to the quarter-finals in South Korea in 2002. All of those possibilities for connecting with new fans vanished in an instant with the 2018 qualification debacle.Despite the World Cup setback, those within the soccer bubble have mostly played down and waved off concerns about negative long-term implications. Prior to last year’s MLS Cup final, just a few months after the loss in Trinidad and at his annual State of the League address, Commissioner Don Garber insisted that the sport remains on the rise in the US. Garber pointed to increased investment in the domestic league, the gains made in player development, and soccer’s rising popularity among millennials. Garber’s not wrong, per se, but it’s also undeniable that the league has benefitted from the USMNT’s regular World Cup appearances. It is impossible to separate MLS’s gains from those casual fans being introduced to the sport every four years. The players, at least, realize that Trinidad & Tobago 2-1 United States will forever be the first line of their respective career epitaphs. For a group that likes to refer to itself as a brotherhood and which has taken pride in results that have outpaced their collective talent levels over the years, to have been the first team to fall short in 32 years has been devastating.Midfielder Benny Feilhaber recalls the silence in the locker room afterward the Trinidad game, how Arena was the only one who spoke. “’Obviously, there’s not much to talk about,’” Feilhaber recalls Arena saying. “’We didn’t get it done. That’s it.’ It was up to everybody to deal with the fact that they were part of this massive failure.” World Cup 2026 World Cup beauty and outrage takes on the dizzying oddity of Russia Share on Messenger Share on Twitter USA Read more Share via Email Share on LinkedIn Topics World Cup Share on Pinterest Reuse this contentlast_img

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