The United States of America has a tradition of being the best at many things.
The US is a world power; it drives the world economy, world politics, and world events. We surely are not accustomed to being poor at a task when we put our mind to it and work together.
That’s why it is such a surprise that men’s soccer in the United States has shown little growth, poor success, and even worse planning and development of the national team.
International soccer dates all the way back to 1885 in North America, so it’s not like the country has not had enough time to develop a modern day winner. The US men’s team actually won a medal in the 1904 Summer Olympics.
And yes, the United States did play in the first World Cup tournament in 1930, making it to the semifinals where they lost to Argentina. But it has been downhill from there.
After 1930, the national soccer program basically became more of a secondhand hobby and floundered in mediocrity, all the way until the mid 1980s. And for the past 30 years, the US has been trying to play catch-up with the rest of the world and the historical national teams.
After all these years, the US has still not established a successful player development program, and is still miles behind other international teams and world leagues. And the country is still in search of its first home-grown soccer star.
The lack of willingness to adapt to the world game has really held back the US national team. If the US wants to attempt to be the best, they have to mimic and model their program after successful soccer countries. That includes bringing in people from around the world.
But that has not happened yet. And until it does, the US is going to struggle to improve beyond where they are today.
In late 2006, the US head coaching job was vacant and German national team manager (and California resident) Jurgen Klinsmann was interviewed for the position. This was a perfect opportunity to get a worldly education in soccer from a very successful ex-player and coach.
Klinsmann was coming off an exciting third place finish in the 2006 World Cup. But astonishingly, the president of the US Soccer Federation, Sunil Gulati, did not hire Jurgen.
The Federation stated that Jurgen wanted too much control. But total control is exactly what would be needed to take the average US program and make it into a world class team.
If you haven’t noticed, Mr. Gulati, what you're currently doing is not working. Again the US made a terrible decision and failed to bring in a proven world wide winner.
Nothing against Bruce Arena and Bob Bradley, but having ex-college coaches lead your national team has not worked thus far and will not work in the future.
There is a world of talented soccer minds out there, but the Federation has yet to bring in any of those people to build a winner. They need scouts, front office members, coaches, and teachers to help build a better program and unfortunately the Federation is stuck in the century-old mold of using domestic people to fill all those roles.
This spring, Claudio Reyna was named the US Soccer Youth Technical Director. Claudio was a good player for the US National team, but he is not experienced in this type of position. Do you really want an inexperienced person in charge of your future? Another decision that boggles the mind.
I am a soccer fan, and hope the US national team can do well in the 2010 World Cup, but the Federation is not making it easy. I don’t know if it is the stubbornness or just sheer stupidity of the Federation and those in charge, but the national team is no better today than it was in 1930. In fact, they are worse.