In the last game of the World Cup qualifiers, the United States Men’s National Team needed to tie against Trinidad and Tobago to at least give them a chance at a playoff game to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
A country with a population of over 300 million people versus a country with a population of just over one million people. Yet, of those 300 million people, the U.S. failed to produce 11 players capable of beating a small island the size of Rhode Island. The United States will not be represented in the World Cup for the first time in 32 years.
Is the problem really that the U.S. weren’t able to produce good enough players, or are young and talented American players not getting the chance to get on the field?
The USMNT had a total of 15 of their 25 players over the age of 30 on their last World Cup qualifying roster. How many did the previous World Cup winner, Germany, have? Zero.
The top teams throughout the world are constantly preparing and adapting for the future. They incorporate young guys into their roster to give them a chance to prove what they can do. The USMNT time and time again refuses to give young players that same chance.
The one young player who has gotten a chance is 19 year-old Christian Pulisic who has not disappointed. He has either scored or assisted on 12 of the team’s 17 goals in the final round of the World Cup qualifiers.
Yes, Pulisic is a special talent, one that the U.S. has never seen before so not every young player would be as impactful as he’s been. But it certainly makes you wonder what other young players the U.S. could produce if they were simply given the chance.
One of the biggest problems with U.S. soccer is the culture. Football, basketball and even baseball may always be the most predominant sports in America, but as a country, the U.S. players do not feel enough pressure on them.
There were 15 of 25 players on the World Cup qualifying roster that were over 30 years old, some of these guys have been on the team for over a decade. But, in the last decade, the U.S. has not made it passed the knockout round. Yet all these players are still on the team. Why? Because the players do not feel like their job is on the line each game.
“Look at Christian Pulisic, the first thing he said when you talked to him was what? Every week, every day I’m fighting for my spot.” former USMNT player Taylor Twellman said on ESPN.
Pulisic plays for one of the top clubs in Germany, Borussia Dortmund, and over there he feels the pressure to perform each day in order to keep his job. When a player feels that sort of pressure, it pushes them to become better players. U.S. players simply don’t have that same pressure.
Veterans like Michael Bradley and others know they’re locked in as starters for the next game. They don’t feel like they have to perform at their best to keep their job and until that changes, the USMNT will continue to struggle to compete against the top teams around the world.