State of US Men's Soccer going into the 2022 FIFA World Cup
By: Ben Hegedus
Since the 2010 FIFA World cup, I have been drawn to watch soccer/football’s global stage. The atmosphere of the World Cup on our televisions has always demonstrated a sense of unity among humankind. Countries sending their best players , passionate fans traveling thousands of miles to watch, and communities coming together to support their respected country encapsulates the possibility of an imperfect world coming together around one sport.
The 2022 World Cup will be an event like never before. Qatar will become the first Middle Eastern country to host the World Cup, so the Arab world will be on display for all to see. Usually a summertime celebration, this World Cup will take place in November due to the host nation’s climate being unbearable from May to October. The Qatar government has been able to mitigate these conditions by engineering cooling technologies within the stadiums that benefit not only the players but spectators as well. Lastly, this could be a groundbreaking year for the United States Men's National Team, which has been, respectively, mediocre on a world-class level.
As Americans, we have strayed away from the international norm of adapting soccer, or football, into our repertoire of sports to watch, enjoy, and support. We invented our most popular sports: baseball, basketball, and American football. This leads me to believe that we never truly accepted soccer into our culture because we did not come up with the idea ourselves. The lack of national recognition for the sport has been molded through the public opinion of it being slow-paced, slow build-up, and boring. These sentiments contain a sense of irony. I do not know if you have ever watched a baseball game before, but a single game can last around 3 hours and 10 minutes, and an NFL football game can take around a minute in between each play. On a soccer pitch, the ball is constantly moving from player to player for 90 minutes. I think if Americans gave soccer a chance, they would learn that their opinions about soccer are mere misconceptions.
After not qualifying for the World Cup in 2018, the United States was tasked with an important question that demanded an answer: “Where do we go from here?”. The United States had been reliant on developing talent from Major League Soccer and with the occasional American playing overseas. That mentality for United States soccer has shifted dramatically as there are many out-fielding players currently playing in the top five European Leagues. We still possess homegrown talent from the United States, but the likes of Christian Pulisic at Chelsea, Weston McKennie at Juventus, Sergiño Dest at Barcelona, and Yunus Musah at Valencia spark a new wave of American players competing at a world-class level.
Does the United States have a shot at winning the World Cup? They have the same odds as everyone else in the tournament, but it is still a longshot. The United States is entering the tournament with a team with the youngest average age at 24 years old. The lack of experience is very much a disadvantage for the U.S. team, but the overall goal for this team is to achieve a sense of identity from this World Cup. They have been drawn into a difficult group for the first stage of the tournament with England, Wales, and Iran, but getting out of the group phase should be achievable with our talent. Wales and Iran both have respectable teams that can beat anyone on any given day, but the England game will be the most important. This is by far the deepest team England has presented in years and should be a challenge for the younger, scrappier American side. However, Americans have a history of dismantling that same global superpower starting back in 1776, so the U.S. should be up to the challenge.
We are excited for the 2022 World Cup, even if it faces some controversy because of the host country.This tournament presents a fantastic opportunity for the United States to put itself back on the map in terms of global soccer with a very exciting, young, loose cannon team. So, if you are tired of eating turkey or exhausted from Black Friday shopping, go to a bar with some friends and watch the World Cup, it never disappoints.