Four more painful years

The USA’s failure to qualify for the World Cup is a major disappointment on so many levels - and that's putting it mildly. Bad for the sport, bad for Chelsea and bad for me personally.

It’s really eye-opening that the third largest country on the planet by population, with more than 300 million people, can’t find 11 players capable of securing a spot in the top four nations in North and Central America.

There may be a touch of schadenfreude out there and I’m sure some football fans around the globe will find it funny that the mighty Americans were knocked out by two smaller countries that most people would struggle to pinpoint on the map. But that’s a blinkered and pyrrhic view.

 

Going into this tournament, the States and Mexico had qualified a total of 25 times between them. All the other CONCACAF countries combined had mustered only 14 appearances, and just three of those have managed it more than once. The USA had made every finals since 1990. To put that in perspective, of FIFA’s 211 member countries only six others boast a similar record: Brazil and Argentina from South America, Germany, Italy and Spain from Europe, and South Korea.   
At the last competition in Brazil, America were listed as the 13th best country in the world by FIFA, yet this week they lost to Trinidad & Tobago ranked 99. The Caribbean nation had won only once in their previous nine qualifiers. How USA contrived to miss out on Russia is mind-boggling - Mexico made the 2014 finals despite only winning three games (yes, three!)  in qualifying against Panama, Jamaica, and a play-off victory over New Zealand!

This year’s failure will surely slow the growth of the sport that has been on an unprecedented surge. Chelsea’s pre- and post-season tours there in recent years have been ridiculously successful, drawing record crowds and packing out stadiums in every region of the USA. A wait of four years before the national team will compete against the globe’s elite is the immovable object to that unstoppable force.

It’s a blow to the Blues also, with our central defender Matt Miazga missing out on international tournament experience. The 22-year-old is currently on loan with Vitesse in Holland, and would have been an almost certain inclusion in the States’ squad after impressing in their triumphant Gold Cup run this summer.

And to top it off, I’ve spent the past six months writing a book on the World Cup: commissioned by an American publisher, for an American audience, based around America’s participation at the finals in Russia.

Congratulations to Panama on earning their first tournament appearance. But for those of us who live Stateside and follow football, it’s going to be a long four years.