Is soccer doomed in the US after USMNT fails to reach Russia 2018?

As the last few tickets to the World Cup get punched, multiple powerhouse countries failed to qualify for Russia 2018. Those nations include Italy and the Netherlands. Even locks to make the World Cup like the Ivory Coast and Chile missed out on a trip to Russia. Another one of those teams that will be watching at home in June is the United States.

In November 2016, the United States Men’s National Team lost in Columbus, Ohio to Mexico, 2-1, and on the road in San José, Costa Rica, 4-0 to open up the final hexagonal. Being at the bottom of the table to open up the final qualification stage displeased the United States Soccer Federation, so they took action. USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann was let go after five years and replaced by Los Angeles Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena. This would be Arena’s second stint with the USMNT after coaching them from 1998 until 2006.

Under Arena, the States bounced right back as they defeated Honduras 6-0 in San Jose, California. The top three teams would automatically qualify for Russia 2018 with the fourth-place team playing a home-and-home playoff series to clinch a spot in Russia. The United States was back in the thick of things and were in 3rd place heading into the final matchday.  The United States had over a 90% chance to at least make the playoff game as all they had to do was get a draw against Trinidad and Tobago to clinch a spot in Russia. The only way the United States could miss out was if they lost and if a bunch of other teams lost.

Not everyone was convinced however. Former USMNT player Alexi Lalas went on a rant during a pregame broadcast calling out players from Tim Howard to “Wonder Boy” Christian Pulisic.



October 10, 2017: The worst day in recent USMNT history.

All of the teams had a simultaneous kickoff. Mexico, who had clinched, was in Honduras. Costa Rica, who had clinched was in Panama. The United States was in Trinidad and Tobago, who were already eliminated.

In Honduras, Oribe Peralta gave Mexico a 1-0 lead, which helped the USMNT. Almost at the same time, Omar Gonzalez scored an own goal to give Trinidad and Tobago a 1-0 lead. Although it didn’t help, it wasn’t the end of the world.

Albeth Elis knotted things up against Mexico, which wasn’t ideal for USMNT fans but a goal a few minutes later for Costa Rica by Johan Venegas in Panama helped. Hearts started to race quicker when Alvin Jones scored a second goal for Trinidad and Tobago but were beating at a normal pace when Carlos Vela scored a second goal for Mexico.

At the half, Mexico led 2-1. Costa Rica led 1-0 and Trinidad and Tobago led 2-0. The US was in.

Christian Pulisic scored to make the deficit 2-1 for the US. Gabriel Torres evened things up for Panama against Costa Rica and Guillermo Ochoa scored an own goal to tie things up for Honduras. This was the beginning of the end for the United States.

Romell Quioto scored for Honduras to give them a 3-2 over Mexico. At that moment, if Honduras was able to hold on, they would leapfrog over the US and the US would play in the playoff game.

Then, the unthinkable.

Roman Torres scored in the 88th minute to give Panama a 2-1 lead.

The US scrambled in Trinidad and Tobago to get that last goal to tie and clinch a spot in Russia.

It never came.

Everything that could go wrong for the USMNT went wrong. Honduras beat Mexico to leapfrog over the US and Panama beat Costa Rica to leapfrog over the US.

With 12 points, the United States was left out of the top four and failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986. Bruce Arena soon resigned.

Another rant followed, in which former USMNT forward Taylor Twellman, with a vein bulging out of his neck, said “The discussion after Brazil, Max, was can we beat the Colombias and the Belgiums and the Argentinas of the world. You kidding me? We can’t beat Trinidad, on a field that’s too wet and too heavy? What are we doing? What are we doing?”


Buffalo State men’s soccer forward Anthony Roncone was disappointed in the USMNT.

“It’s just not good enough,” Roncone said. “In other countries, soccer is all the play. Here in the U.S., the best athletes play basketball, football, hockey and only a handful are playing soccer.”

However, the freshman does seem optimistic about the future of U.S. Soccer.

“Look at Christian Pulisic,” Roncone said. “He’s probably the U.S. best player right now and he plays in Germany for his club team. Look at the U-17 team.”

The Under-17 team was able to make a run into the quarterfinals before falling to England in the U-17 World Cup which concluded on October 28.

Buffalo State men’s soccer head coach Mark Howlett and assistant coach Francesco Cardillo seemed optimistic for the future as well.

“When you look at European powers, Holland’s not going to be there. That’s a bigger shock than the U.S. I don’t think football in Holland is going to self-destruct,” said British-born coach Howlett. “There’s enough talent coming through the younger age groups.”

“There were over 11,000 people at the Cal-Poly-Santa Barbara game. 11,000 people at a college soccer game after the U.S. failed to make the World Cup,” reiterated Howlett. “I feel American football has more to worry about than soccer.”

“The United States has the best coverage for the English Premier League, a lot of kids, all they talk about is what they saw on TV that weekend,” said former Buffalo State player Cardillo.

So now, what for the USMNT?

Well, what is there to do? The Americans will be on a couch watching in June. But perhaps, like Twellman said, they can make a ten-year plan like the Germans did.

Germany disappointed in the 2000 Euros and German soccer got together and made a plan. 14 years later, they were crowned champions.

Millions of dollars are being invested into Major League Soccer and United States Soccer Federation. They may not have the same talent as Germany has, but they should be able to bounce right back for Qatar…in 2022.

It could be a long five years. But it’s time to rebuild.



Twitter: @E_Rodriguez_24