The US national team is going to the World Cup quarterfinals!
The above statement will prove to be true only if Raymond Domenech's power to see into the future is a whole lot better than his power to manage the French national team. During a recent panel discussion with the Associated Press, the former boss of les Bleus tipped the USMNT to make the quarterfinals in Brazil next summer.
"I've always found them to be well organized at the World Cup," Domenech disagreed when the majority of the panel claimed the USMNT were incapable of quarterfinal advancement next summer. "Their matches are generally tight. I would have liked them to beat the Italians in 2006, that would have helped me out."
Italy defeated Domenech's France on penalties 5-3 in the 2006 World Cup final. From that high point, though, Domenech oversaw France's slow decline, first failing to get out of their group at the 2008 Euros and then fully imploding at the 2010 World Cup. Les Bleus crashed out of the tournament in South Africa with a draw and two losses in group play, plus the dismissal of star striker Nicolas Anelka followed by a full-on revolt by the players.
The United States' last reached the quarterfinals, of course, during the 2002 tournament, when Bruce Arena's side advanced from a group of South Korea, Portugal and Poland before knocking off bitter rivals Mexico 2-0 in the Round of 16.
Only a botched handball call in the quarterfinal round against eventual runners-up Germany prevented the Americans from their first semifinal appearance in any World Cup format since 1930.
Domenech could be absolutely right with his prognostication; he could also be spectacularly wrong at the exact same time.
So much of the USMNT's success at next summer's World Cup — along with every team outside the top eight spots, really — will be dependent upon which balls and pieces of paper come out of the bowls on December 6.
A favorable draw — not so different from that of 2010 — would likely make them favorites to advance as a side with rapidly rising stock. At the same time, a so-called "Group of Death" — of which there will be about four this time around — could see them sent home as early as the group stage.
What say you, readers of MLSsoccer.com? Does Jurgen Klinsmann's side have the means to advance to the quarterfinal round next summer? Perhaps more importantly, can they get out of a Group of Death if that's where they're drawn?