Column: Mexico in World Cup without USA is a scathing indictment

By Mac Engel - Fort Worth Star-Telegram

ARLINGTON, Texas (McClatchy) — We are a nation of 323 million people, and among all of those candidates we can’t find 29 players good enough to make a field of 32 teams.

So fill up now on Americans competing against the world’s best in international competition because the next time a sport takes over the world will be this summer and the U.S. won’t be there.

Regardless of what you think of the sport of soccer in the U.S., there is something terribly broken in a system that prints money and does not net a World Cup qualifier, whereas countries such as Mexico and others routinely do.

Maybe this is why Trump wants the wall.

Moms and dads continue to pay for it, and the big loser in this system remains the national team.

Four months have passed since the U.S. men’s national team failed to qualify for the World Cup, and it remains one of the most embarrassing developments for an American sports team this century.

“Fire everybody” fits here.

Know this, despite the humiliation of the U.S. failing to advance to the World Cup, don’t expect much to change.

Nothing will change until mom and dad blow it up.

Without the U.S. in the WC, I’m all about El Tri.

Rather than watching the USMNT prepare to play in the World Cup, Team Mexico is touring the U.S. to tuneup for the WC; it will play Croatia in a “friendly” at JerryWorld on March 27.

BTW: For those of you scoring at home, Croatia, which also made the World Cup, has a population of 4.1 million. Costa Rica has a population of 4.7 million, and it made the World Cup.

Iceland’s population is 334,000, less than half the size of Fort Worth, Texas and it has a World Cup qualifier. A bunch of Vikings can put together a team that qualifies for the biggest tournament in the universe, but mighty America cannot.

On Monday morning, Team Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio held a news conference to preview his team’s upcoming American tour, and I asked him if the U.S. pay-for-play system merits the type of criticism it has earned these past few months.

“With zero arrogance I could probably do a presentation on that, and in fact I have done just that,” he said. “It’s about having top trainers, training every day, and trying to complete those 10,000 hours. It’s a combination of factors.

“In the United States, you have advantages, too. You have very good coaches. You have to have fields and accommodations; that’s no problem in the United States. Recently, we came to play in San Antonio and I recall the temperature was (104) degrees at 7 a.m. And we trained at this university, and it was a perfect field. We don’t have that in South America. You do here.

“If they organize the training, and the trainers, and the ability of the trainers to produce great training sessions, I think the future of the U.S., or for any nation that is willing to do that, the future will be bright.”

He was being kind.

From the staggering number of people to the coaches to every resource conceivable, the U.S. has every necessity to field a competitive soccer team. Maybe not a World Cup winner, but a World Cup qualifier.

But as long as the most important element of the American system remains obscene profits, too many talented players will be left out, and the national team will remain on the fringe.

Since the U.S. decided to get serious about soccer two decades ago, the sport has slowly risen to a respectable level of relevance. The U.S. men’s national team is pretty good.

Pretty good is also pretty profitable.

No one expects the U.S. to win the World Cup, but after more than two decades of improvement, and upper-tier finishes in international tournaments against quality competition, failing to make it to the sport’s biggest stage should not happen.

Failing to make the tournament is not on former head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, or his successor, Bruce Arena. Those two men are symptoms.

Failing to make the World Cup is an indictment on the system.

A system that just elected a new president who surely will maintain the status quo. New U.S. soccer president, Carlos Cordeiro, has an extensive background at Goldman Sachs.

Nothing says American sports more than an executive who was groomed extensively at one of the biggest investment houses in the world.

Only America can make soccer expensive. The single biggest reason soccer is the most popular sport in the world is that costs virtually nothing to play.

Soccer might always be a niche sport that doesn’t attract the best athletes in this nation, but don’t let any coach or organizer convince you that U.S. soccer has not priced out too many talented kids.

But whether it’s the national program, or the growing MLS academies, attracting and developing the best player is not the priority. Attracting the moms and dads who can pay for it is.

Enjoy the Olympics.


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By Mac Engel

Fort Worth Star-Telegram