By Eva daRosa
Oct. 10, 2017 is a day that shook the soccer world in the United States. Our men’s team would not be going to the World Cup.
A devastating loss against Trinidad and Tobago prevented them from qualifying for the first time since 1986.
Was I heartbroken? Yes. Was I shocked? No. The United States Soccer Federation has been failing for years. While we managed to qualify for the last World Cup, we were eliminated in the round of 16 and we have failed to qualify for the last two Olympic Games.
Sunil Gulati, president of the United States Soccer Federation (USSF), has been abysmal at best. From not investing in the women’s game to neglecting the potential of youth players, Mr. Gulati has shown that it is time for new leadership at every level.
The biggest barrier to having a successful men’s team is the lack of development at the youth level. We are woefully behind every country when it comes to making sure that the next generation of soccer players are ready to take the reins when the current greats retire. How are we supposed to find the next Clint Dempsey or Jozy Altidore when we are not putting in the time or money to look for them?
Academies connected with teams in Major League Soccer are starting to turn out good players but it is not enough. We need to focus on the youth and make sure that they are getting the opportunities they need to succeed. Without a good youth program, the success that soccer is seeing in the United States will be short-lived.
Another issue that has plagued U.S. soccer for years is the treatment of the women’s team. In short, they have been treated as second class athletes. They are forced to play in conditions nowhere near as good as the men and receive a tiny fraction of the pay. Women’s soccer is on the rise in the eyes of the public. The National Women’s Soccer League has several teams that are consistently selling out games. Plus, the final of the 2015 Women’s World Cup was the most watched soccer match in U.S. history.
For now, the women are the flagship of U.S. soccer to the rest of the world. The men did not qualify for Russia 2018 but the women qualified for France 2019 and any games of consequence played in the next two years will be played by them. They are our team and it is time for the federation to treat them as such.
These changes won’t happen overnight but there is time to fix these issues. The men can breathe for a moment, regroup, and return to the pitch fully ready to qualify for the 2020 Olympics. The women can start preparing to qualify for their World Cup.
This is a dark time but it can also be a time of growth and development. I, for one, still believe that we will win. The elections for president of USSF are fast approaching and I hope the board decides that it is time for a change. With new
leadership, a greater emphasis on youth development, and a new respect for the women’s team the U.S can bounce back and maintain a strong presence in the world of soccer.
This is the opinion of Eva daRosa, CSB first-year