With the United States playing in its first friendly after the World Cup on Wednesday, facing the Czech Republic in Prague, it's hard not to look back both on what the team accomplished this summer and what it might achieve in the future.
Jurgen Klinsmann was certainly doing just that. The USMNT manager shared his thoughts with Arlo White of NBCSN on the team's World Cup in Brazil and what it'll be aiming to accomplish in Russia four years from now, via Joe Prince-Wright of Pro Soccer Talk:
I would have loved to go further. Ending the tournament in an extra-time thriller against Belgium might be exciting for all of the people watching on TV and in the stadium, but really, on the losing side it's no fun. And I was left with that feeling, once again, that if you get out of the best group in the World Cup you should go further than just the round of 16.
And then he raised the stakes, adding, "This is our goal going toward Russia, not to stop in the round of 16, maybe to not stop in the quarterfinals. We have four years to prepare this cycle. Our goal is going to a semifinal in a World Cup. That means a lot of work, a lot of competition, a lot of grinding."
You can listen to his full comments below:
Obviously, Klinsmann is shooting for the stars here, and why not? While many from the team that went to Brazil likely won't be traveling to Russia in four years, there is a combination of a solid foundation of veteran players with an exciting generation of younger players set to star in 2018.
Michael Bradley and Fabian Johnson will be 30 by then and likely still playing key roles. Jozy Altidore will be 28. The young guns who went to Brazil (Aron Johannsson, DeAndre Yedlin, Julian Green, Mix Diskerud and John Anthony Brooks) will all be in their primes. If Gedion Zelalem and Junior Flores choose to play for the United States—all indications are that Flores will play for the United States in the future—they could give the team a major boost in the attack. Joseph Gyau is another player to watch.
Still, there will be skepticism about Klinsmann's comments. Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated found out as much:
You can't blame folks for perhaps not sharing the manager's optimism. After all, the United States isn't a traditional power in world football, and reaching the semifinals in the modern game would be the most impressive showing from the country in its international history. Most folks were pleased to escape a tough group this season.
But for Klinsmann and company, that type of result is no longer good enough. The manager is raising the expectations for the USMNT. Whether the Americans can live up to those lofty goals is another thing entirely.