Most of what I have to say is in the video above. I was gonna write some more, but none of the words I have left will be as eloquent or incisive as these, from Neil Blackmon:
Covered this team for 8 years. This is the hardest piece I've done. But I think it is good and y'all should read it. https://t.co/WUXhfrZKsb— Neil W. Blackmon (@nwblackmon) October 11, 2017
Please read the whole thing. It covers Sunil Gulati and Bruce Arena, Jurgen Klinsmann and a player pool that failed under two different coaches across 10 nights when it shouldn't have. It's the best, most complete thing I've read in the aftermath of Tuesday night's trainwreck.
There are two other things I do need to say here. First, the "big talk" coming up is going to be about that $100 million the USSF is sitting upon, and how to use it to end pay-to-play academies. If that's what you want – and I think there is a lot of merit in wanting that, but please don't go whole hog into the situation without examining all the angles – then prepare to put your shoulder to the boulder and start pushing. It'll be hard and heavy, and you've gotta commit because...
Might alter top-level academy practices, but "youth soccer" a massive ship that won't turn easily. Institutional resistance hard to overcome— Steve Davis (@SteveDavis90) October 11, 2017
These things take time. Just tweeting isn't going to do it.
Also bear in mind that the majority of the last two US U-20 World Cup teams(*) come from free-to-play MLS academies, or their affiliates. Ten years ago there were six of those, and now there's 20. Soon enough there'll be 28. Where there's a will, it can be done.
(*) More on them below
Second is that, at the end of the video from last night, you can see me pleading for you (yes you, the one reading this) to get involved, specifically as a coach or a referee. As of now in the US there's one A licensed coach per every 6,000 or so players. That's not enough.
Not coincidentally, it costs about $4,000 to get a USSF A license. In Spain, the number is about $800. In Germany, it's about $600.
So while ending pay-to-play is a good and noble long-term goal, I'd like for everyone to think, for a minute, about a short-term win. Lowering the USSF licensing fees would be, and maybe we can all figure out how to put some of that $100 million to use.
A thought on the above...
You could see this World Cup cycle's failure coming if you paid attention to the US youth teams from 2008 through 2014. Brian Sciaretta wrote a seminal piece on it over at American Soccer Now last week, and you should read it. The whole thing. Teams that fail at those levels – the U-20s are more important than either the U-17s or the Olympics – tend to fail at the senior level as well. Teams that succeed at those levels (U-20s especially) tend to go on to full national team success of one measure or another.
The US followed up three pretty bad U-20 cycles (2009, 2011 and 2013) with two stellar ones (2015 and 2017), and it looks like the next group, which includes the current U-17s and a few holdovers like Tyler Adams, can be better still. The good times aren't here yet, but the bad times aren't going to be eternal.
With that in mind, here's your XI for Qatar 2022:
Maybe Monterrey's Jonathan Gonzalez sneaks in there at d-mid in place of Adams, or one of Kellyn Acosta, Cristian Roldan or Marky Delgado pips McKennie. I could see Kelyn Rowe playing a big role, and Sebastian Lletget as well. There are choices, myriad and sundry, at center back. Josh Sargent and Haji Wright are high-upside teenagers who could figure on the frontline. Bill Hamid will be around in goal.
This is the really, really dark part of the night. Dawn's gonna start to be visible on the horizon soon enough.