World Football: Could the U.S. National Team Succeed in English Premier League?
Under Jurgen Klinsmann, the United States men's national soccer team is more internationally diverse than ever. Whether that translates to World Cup success remains to be seen.
Still, in the current USMNT talent pool, there are players representing club teams in more than 10 different major international leagues, many of whom play in some of the top leagues in Europe.
That got us thinking. Could a team made up exclusively from the USMNT talent pool be competitive in one of Europe's top leagues? Could the U.S. national team compete in the Barclays Premier League?
As most fans in America consider the Premier League to be the world's most competitive league from top to bottom—not counting the UEFA Champions League—we thought it would be fun to place the U.S. national team in the EPL to see how it could compete.
With the help of EA Sports' FIFA 13, we did just that.
The results should excite American soccer fans and could surprise those around the world who may not respect the quality of the American game as much as we have grown to here in the States.
FIFA 13 has a fun feature that allows users to create custom tournaments. The game features many pre-set tournaments, including one to play the current EPL season. I was able to create this tournament and replace Reading—one of the teams expected to be in the relegation zone all season—with the most updated team for the USMNT.
As you can see in the video, the roster reflects the most recent World Cup qualifiers, not the current lineup chosen for matches this week. I could not change the roster to include recent additions like Sacha Kljestan or Alan Gordon, but I suspect most American fans are probably pretty fine with that. (Note: If you try this yourself, the updated rosters may be available.)
Players like Jose Torres, Terrence Boyd and Jozy Altidore did make the list.
The simulation was run as a single EPL season, not taking into account all the other cups being played in and around Europe.
This simulation did not factor in the August or January transfer windows. While that would have enabled us to select players that were not on the most recent USMNT roster, the FIFA 13 engine seems to go a bit overboard with big-ticket transfers during season mode.
Playing the EPL season with Karim Benzema on Manchester City, Ricardo Quaresma on Manchester United and Luis Suarez playing somewhere in Italy didn't seem to make much sense. (Now if I could have put Frank Lampard in China...that may have been a different story.)
With the simulation being just 38 matches, it was easier to see if the top U.S. players could stand up to the rigors of a single EPL season.
As the video illustrates, we were in for a historic run through much of the first half of the season. After 16 matches, the USMNT was in second place in the EPL behind Manchester City.
Things got tough in mid-December for the squad, recording just 16 points over a 12-match span, dropping it out of the Champions League zone and into Europa League territory.
Things leveled off even more in the second half, as the USMNT settled into a solid seventh place, finishing the season as essentially the best of the middle-of-the-pack clubs.
Clint Dempsey led the USMNT in scoring with 12 goals and eight assists in 35 matches.
Jozy Altidore scored 11 goals with four assists, playing in every match. Clearly FIFA 13 disagrees with Klinsmann's decision to keep Altidore off the latest qualifying roster.
The USMNT had the fourth-most goals in the EPL. Who said there's no depth at forward? Speaking of that, the computer loves Herculez Gomez. His work rate surely translates to the video game world.
It's interesting that the computer pulled Geoff Cameron from the regular lineup despite having him in the First XI to begin the campaign. Maurice Edu did not play in one match, making way for Torres, who the computer also seems to love.
So, just because you play in the EPL in real life doesn't mean you are guaranteed many minutes in the EA Sports universe.
Over-reactive Conclusion: American Owners Should Try This!
It's fun to simulate this using FIFA 13, but would any team be savvy enough to try it?
Let's be honest: Most of the players would love a chance to play in one of Europe's top leagues, so if an owner could convince some of the top stars—Dempsey, Howard, Michael Bradley, et al.—to join up under the same shield, it could feasibly and reasonably occur. There aren't any U.S. players who would currently break the bank, so paying all the players wouldn't be an issue either.
It almost makes too much sense not to try.
Looking around the world, placing a handful of internationals on the same club team can be a recipe for success.
The Spanish national team includes 10 players from Barcelona and five from Real Madrid. The German national team includes eight players from Bayern Munich and six from Borussia Dortmund. The Italians feature seven or eight players from Juventus.
The current USMNT squad features no more than two players from the same club team anywhere in the world. With five Americans controlling ownership of clubs in the EPL, it stands to reason that someone could come in and convince the top 15 or 20 Americans to play together for club and country.
Still, with the wacky experiment going on at QPR this year, surely some aspiring owner looking to avoid relegation and make a run up the EPL standings could try to make this work.
Convincing all the top U.S. players would surely be tough, but it would be rather amazing if someone tried.
Until then, FIFA 13 simulations—and our digital theatre of dreams—are all we have.
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