U.S. Men's Team Misses Out On 2018 World Cup Play

Oct 11, 2017
Originally published on October 11, 2017 6:43 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Next year's World Cup will not include the U.S. men's soccer team. Americans lost a game to Trinidad and Tobago 2 to 1 and, with that, lost their chance to compete.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The United States eliminated, missing out on the World Cup for the first time since 1986 - unbelievable.

INSKEEP: And yet, we have to believe it. Jason Davis is host of "United States Of Soccer" on SiriusXM and joins us. Good morning.

JASON DAVIS: Good morning.

INSKEEP: Did you see this coming?

DAVIS: No. Until the very last moment, I think we all believed that the United States would figure this out and that the other events that needed to happen in order to knock the Americans out of the tournament were very unlikely. And that confluence of unlikely events came about. But this was always in the hands of the Americans to take care of their own business and beat a very beatable team last night. They didn't do it.

INSKEEP: We should just remind people there were multiple games, multiple teams trying to qualify. It depended what happened on other fields as well as this field, and yet if the United States had just tied Trinidad and Tobago, it would have been good enough. And I was looking at population figures for the United States - 326 million people. Trinidad and Tobago - 1.2 million. How'd they field a better team?

DAVIS: They didn't field a better team, but this is soccer and this is sports. And, you know, the United States came out after having won a game on Friday night against Panama in Orlando that they had to win and didn't have the energy and didn't have the - whatever it was that carried them forward in that game, they didn't have it. They used the exact same lineup. Head Coach Bruce Arena chose the exact same tactics and yet, the United States just looked flat, uninterested; lack of energy was clear. And the field's conditions may be somewhat of a factor here. But there's really only so far you can go with an excuse like that before it just comes down to a desire to see the game out. The Americans gave the Trinidadians enough space that a couple of shots, one excellent world-class finish and a fluke own goal was enough to beat the United States.

INSKEEP: So we have some tape of the U.S. goalie Tim Howard. And what he says is not actually that profound, but the tone of voice in which he says it, well, let's just listen.

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TIM HOWARD: If I said disappointment, it would be an understatement. Not how we anticipated tonight going, that's for sure.

INSKEEP: So the United States is out. And let me just ask you in the few seconds that are left, are there larger implications for the future of U.S. soccer, the direction of soccer in the United States?

DAVIS: Certainly, on the men's side. I mean, of course, we do have the reigning World Cup champions on the women's side of the game...

INSKEEP: There you go.

DAVIS: ...So we have to keep that in mind. But, for Sunil Gulati and for, certainly, Bruce Arena, there will be a reckoning. Gulati is up for election - or re-election as U.S. Soccer president in February, should he choose to run, which is not yet clear. He certainly will have more of a challenge for that position than he's ever had before in light of this failure. What actually happens, and what comes out of this I think is anybody's guess. There are some entrenched interests in American soccer. Certainly Major League Soccer, as the top professional league, has a lot of pull, as do the owners of that league. So whether or not we see fundamental change, I think, is the question. And you're going to see - you're going to hear a lot of yelling and see a lot of people going in that direction. It just depends on whether somebody can pull those strings together.

INSKEEP: OK. Jason Davis, thanks very much, really appreciate it.

DAVIS: Thank you.

INSKEEP: He's the host of "United States Of Soccer" on SiriusXM, talking with us after the United States failed to qualify for the World Cup. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.