In the next 80 years – 20 World Cups - will the U.S. Men’s team win a World Cup. And if not, what will need to change to make it a possibility?
Joe Bianchino: You’ve got to love the super abstract hypothetical argument. By far the most fun debates to have. Can I realistically project 80 years into the future? Of course not. Can I really argue intelligently about whether megalodon or a colossal squid would win a fight? No. Am I going to do it anyway? Absolutely.
As for the U.S. Men’s World Cup ambitions, the short-term answer is no, and for as long as you can project, the answer would still likely be no. We’re just too far behind the Spain, Brazil, and Germany’s of the world. Their control and accuracy is so exponentially better than ours it’s laughable. As the Mighty Ducks’ Aberman once said of Team Iceland: They’re bigger, stronger, they have more facial hair.
If it were to change, either one of two things would need to happen. One, the U.S. sporting landscape would need to go through a total plutonic reversal – a paradigm shift, if you will – leaving soccer our number one sport. Right now, the nation’s top athletes are playing football and basketball, and as large a talent pool as we’re pulling from, our C-guys just aint closing the gap. The second scenario? Due to some sort of off-board financial situation, the U.S. annexes Spain and makes it the 51st state, combining economies and talents to rule the world in soccer and further our dominance in basketball. Which is more likely? No one can be sure.
Mark Graydon: Well, well, well. Will the US win the World Cup debate?
We all fawn over Spain and their amazing (or annoying) carousel of Arsene Wenger proportions. Pass, pass, pass, pass (sir, can we shoot, please?), and pass again. Their last 4 games in the recent World Cup were won 1-0. (Where’s the NFL when you need it? At least that would read 7-0, which sounds markedly more exciting.) BUT 2010 was Spain’s ONLY World Cup triumph…EVER!! And with such a great collection of players it was very pedestrian. Of all the wonderful teams that Barcelona and Real Madrid have produced, this was the only win. Ever. Period.
So, yes, it is super difficult to win. But Greece managed a major win taking the Euro’s in 2004 – against all the odds playing, and I say this kindly, a reserved style of Soccer. So a surprise can be had.
But with Club Soccer becoming the more lucrative and attractive version of the sport, the World Cup is in danger of becoming an exhibition event, rather than the pinnacle of the sport. Within 20 years, let alone 80, it is possible that the Messi’s and the Ronaldo’s – and the Carlton Cole’s…What? – of the world will become even more detached from their national teams. The Champions League is becoming stronger and stronger, and eventually we could see mega-teams controlling what happens in FIFA.
Look, stranger things have happened. Qatar are hosting a World Cup!
So, basically, I am saying that if the quality of the national sides diminish, or the desire to win lessons, then yes, The USA have a chance of hoisting the World Cup.
With that said, though, if the Soccer world continues to run on a similar axis for the next 80 years, then it’s unlikely. It is not that the US don’t produce quality players, they do – Dempsey, Howard, Bradley, Landy-Cakes – but it is the depth that is so desperately lacking. The gulf between your best couple of players and the others is the problem the US face. Your pool of talent is too small, and the MLS will not solve that. Instead, the US needs to produce an “arguably-the-best-player-alive” talent, and get him into one of the best league’s in the world.
They need a young, uber-talented kid to move to, let’s say, Manchester United, for example. Then make the first team, score a ton of goals, and become the idol of millions of American kids. He’d be someone to stick your flag on, and create legions of young fans in America.
America expect to have the best, and I feel you become disillusioned when its not a Jordan, Woods, Tyson, or Sampras kind of success. Dempsey is great, but I take a lot of convincing to believe he’s a top 100 player, let alone top 10.
Side note: You could give us 180 years, we’ll still be only talking about bloody 1966 in England!
Jeffrey Simpson Day: As a Cubs fan, every year I look at their roster and come up with some convoluted way the current team could make an improbable run and win the World Series. Admittedly, like 95% of the time the most likely winning scenario involves several airline disasters and/or the zombie apocalypse…but there’s always a path. We need an outbreak of bubonic plague at the all-star game (which I think we can all agree would leave the Cubs relatively unscathed)? It’s happened before. We need our leadoff hitter to secretly be a Jedi Knight? Well, I can’t say for sure he’s not. We need the home field for the Cubs AAA team in Iowa to actually become the Field Of Dreams? So you’re telling me there’s a chance.
But, no, there’s no way the US men’s national team wins a World Cup in the next 80 years. None. Not a single chance. It’s just not possible, you know, unless…
1.) Football vanishes – The most likely scenario for this to happen is through the current brouhaha surrounding concussions. For all of the uproar, though, no matter how many injuries there are, no matter how many players have severe mental issues after they retire, and no matter how many players get buried before they hit the primes of their lives, nothing will end football so long as there’s a crazy amount of money to be made off it. Where there are sponsors, there will be a game. So, until a repetitively-concussed player commits the ultimate advertising atrocity of trying to shove the Aflac duck down Flo’s throat while the E*TRADE baby looks on in horror…football ain’t going anywhere.
2.) Scientific reports come out proving that playing soccer cures cancer and/or erectile dysfunction – You’d see more soccer fields popping up around the country than…well…let’s move on.
3.) In agreement with our esteemed British colleague: Within the next 35 years an American becomes, hands down, the best soccer player in the world – No question, the US men’s national team has had its moments lately: The US snapping Spain’s 35-game unbeaten streak in the 2009 Confederations Cup, Landon Donovan’s stoppage-time goal against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup, the US finally beating Mexico in Azteca Stadium just last August…all huge moments. And maybe some of those moved the dial for American soccer, but maybe not. We really won’t know for another 15 years or so. What we do know, however, is that Americans love a hero and they love being the best at something. And while it’s highly unlikely the US men’s national team will manage to become the overall best in the world (which is related to the premise of this question), isn’t it at least possible that an American could emerge as the single best soccer player in the post-Messi world (“possible” being a relative term and bearing in mind Lyle Lovett married Julia Roberts in her prime)? If that happened, I have to think a lot more Americans would start playing soccer once Roman Abramovich signed him to a £300,000/week contract (you know, after someone converted that to dollars/year because…well…we’re Americans).
4.) The US perfects cloning technology and manages to sneak at least two Fernando Torres clones onto all of the other team’s rosters – The Chelsea fan in me hated typing that…but it doesn’t make it any less true.
5.) Zombie apocalypse – Don’t act like you’re not a little worried.
Joe Bianchino: I love that Mark shocks the world by emphatically throwing down a yes, but immediately qualifies it by predicting that in the not-so-distant future no one but the U.S. will care about the World Cup. Not sure how to take that.
And while I understand his point that Spain has only won once, it’s not really about Spain’s all-time record, but about the chasm of talent that exists between the top teams and the US – a chasm best visualized, I think, by imagining what would be left if California actually did break off from the Continental US to go hang with Hawaii.
Watching those top teams play is poetic. The touch, the precision, the power. There’s something beautiful in seeing Spain slowly matriculate the ball up the field. Stringing together six, seven, eight perfect passes in a row, and looking like any second now they might break a sweat. The US team couldn’t do that if they were playing the FIFA video game, as Spain. It’s just not their game. Their game is to boom wildly inaccurate balls toward strikers who would struggle to control a perfect one. I just don’t know how the US ever closes down that talent gap – without a total paradigm shift.
I do think, though, that you both make a solid point wondering aloud how things would change if the US boasted the world’s best player. I mean, if Lance Armstrong can make us interested in cycling, why can’t LeBron with a soccer ball at his feet cue up the vuvuzelas? And I mention LeBron for a reason, because that’s the type of paradigm shift we’d need. Athletes like that need to be pulled toward soccer and away from where they are now: basketball and football. I mean, imagine a US men’s team with well-trained LeBrons, Durants and Megatrons running wild.
No seriously though, do it. It’s hilarious. LeBron vs. Messi. Think Messi tries to go nutmeg with his entire body? Does he succeed? Do I sense an entirely new Sound and Fury coming?
And Jeff, I’m so sorry man. We’re discussing a hypothetical about whether or not a team could win a championship in the next eighty years, and even though we’re each kind of saying no, it’s still not enough to out-sad the Cubs. I don’t know how you do it man. That’s brutal.
Jeffrey Simpson Day: How do I keep rooting for the Cubs and not descend into a bottomless depressive spiral? Well…I root for Chelsea and I drink. A lot.
I think there are two huge differences between the chances of the Cubs winning a World Series and the chances of the US men winning a World Cup: (a) Frequency of tournament, and (b) Tournament structure. Obviously, the frequency of tournament makes it a lot more likely the Cubs will win a WorldSeries in the next 80 years, seeing as they’ll have four times as many chances to do it. That’s not to say having 80 chances makes it likely the Cubs will win a title, just that it makes it relatively more likely. Kinda like me asking 80 women out rather than 20 would raise the odds of one saying yes, but going from a 0.5% chance to a 0.8% chance isn’t all that meaningful. I mean, no matter how many women I ask…it’s still me asking.
As for the tournament structure difference, though, I think that comes down on the side of the US men’s team winning a World Cup. Tournaments decided by series really tend to favor the better team. So, in baseball, basketball, and hockey, it’s unlikely a true Cinderella team will make a run and win it all. They might take a couple games from the Goliath (man, I love mixing metaphors), but taking the entire series is really hard. Especially with Goliath usually having home-field/court/ice advantage. (Admittedly, you seem to see more Cinderella runs in hockey. This might have something to do with home-ice advantage not being as big in hockey as home-field/court in other sports, or the fact that a hot goalie in hockey seems to be able to carry a team through an entire championship.)
But in single-game elimination tournaments…you just never know. The NCAA tournament…the NFL playoffs…the World Cup knock-out stages. This year’s NFL playoffs are a perfect example. Would anyone outside the greater Baltimore metropolitan area honestly claim the Ravens were the best team in the NFL this year? I doubt it. They might not even make the top five (Pats, Broncos, 49ers, Falcons, Adrian Peterson…who I don’t think is actually human, but I do believe should be considered his own team). But the Ravens were certainly the team who had the best playoffs. Like the Giants weren’t the best team in 2007 (sorry Joseph), but they were champions. The most recent soccer example, of course, being Chelsea winning the Champions League in 2012. These tournaments/playoffs are designed to crown champions, not the best teams.
And we know the US men can make it into the knock-out stages of the World Cup, they’re certainly good enough for that. So, I guess I’ll change my position from a solid “No way the US men win unless something supernatural happens” to a relatively softer “It’s massively unlikely, but other things would shock me more.” Remember people, Nick Cage won a Best Actor Oscar, so just about everything’s on the table.
Mark Graydon: Let’s do a final “Stat-Attack” to show how likely the US are of winning the World Cup.
80 years to win the World Cup = 20 World Cups.
There have only been 19 World Cups in history.
Only eight teams have won it: Brazil (5), Italy (4), Germany (actually only West Germany have won – 3;), Uruguay (2), Argentina (2), France (1), Spain (1) and saving the best till… England (1).
More interestingly: The following ‘surprising’ teams have finished in the top 3: Hungary, Sweden, Czech, Austria, Chile, Poland, Croatia, Turkey and of course The US of A – Ok, the U.S.’s top 3 was in 1930 and only 13 teams played, but still!
So we all know that USA, can and HAVE made the Qtr Finals. In 2002 they lost to Germany 1-0, with a blatant penalty appeal turned down, that could have made the game 1-1 – And the Germans are a push over at Penalty Shoot-outs. Urgh
Their Semi-Final opponents that year would’ve been South Korea (certainly beatable, although they were at home), then an easy final against…Oh, ok, it was Brazil and it would’ve probably been a record blow out in the final.
Ok, so no chance then. We’ve just gone through the history of the World Cup, and even with ONLY 13 teams they only managed 3rd. Their best case scenario was 2002, when they would have had to beat Germany on penalties (practically impossible), beat a home nation, then beat the best World Cup country ever!!!! THIS IS THE BEST CASE SCENARIO.
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing – Shakespeare
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