I took a while to respond so it’s not too knee-jerky. I’ve heard a lot about missing the World Cup and what it’ll mean. Let’s go down the list:
* I always saw Bruce Arena as a Band-Aid to get the Yanks through the Hex and after 2018 we can do a status report. But now that the wheels have fallen off prematurely, we can just blow it up and just rebuild for 2022 (or 2026 if we decide to boycott Qatar for some reason). Who the coach will be I don’t know, but the fact that we have nothing but friendlies and Gold Cups to build on should probably help you feel better if you don’t spend too much time contemplating on what could have been. I’m not sure how buyouts work, but I have a feeling we’re stuck with Arena for the foreseeable future.
* Yeah, it sucks not seeing Pulisic on the big stage. Everyone saying that he’s the greatest thing since Landon Donovan to the point where he was on 60 Minutes are deflated that he won’t have a coming out party in Russia. He’s still at Dortmund, and if he continues to tear it up in the Bundesliga, he still may get that big money move.
* Taylor Twellman said that everyone in Germany made a big rebuild plan after their failures in Euro 2000 that led to a World Cup win. I can tell you right now that’s not going to happen. The US Soccer landscape is irreparably divided now because of all the lawsuits going on, from pyramid structure to the way that youth development is implemented. And then there are the fans. The only thing that fans seem to agree on is that Sunil Gulati needs to be fired and put in a boat to be set adrift. If US Soccer was to burn to nothing, there will be keyboard fights if not fistfights over how to build from the ashes. The fact that the pro/rel discussion alone has gone from the message boards and subreddits to the courtroom just amplifies just how much division there is. Hell, the NASL case is in my opinion just the NASL trying to take US Soccer and MLS down with them as they go down in a flaming heap.
As for what’ll happen to the popularity…okay, I’ll concede that it sucks not being able to see the Stars and Stripes in Russia next year, and that may affect how much of the World Cup I watch. But it’s not like that we’ll see MLS regress to Version 1.0 and all the cavernous NFL stadiums and gridiron lines, countdown clocks, 35-yard penalty shootouts, and appealing first and foremost to soccer moms and their families that come with 1.0. I’m still trying to absorb the game and the hot takes coming from the Panama goal.
Either way, this dumpster fire of a qualifying campaign is over. Everything that’s on fire should be left to burn if only to see if something, anything, can rise from the ashes.