Disappointment was the name of the game last Thursday when Sepp Blatter opened the envelope to announce Qatar was the host of the 2022 World Cup. The United States was unsuccessful in securing the second World Cup in our country’s history.
The question now is: How does the decision affect soccer in the United States?
Immediately, the loss to Qatar takes away the 2022 World Cup, shining brightly in the distance and inspiring new players and coaches for the next 12 years. Young players around the ages of 10 would be thinking about featuring for the USMNT when they were 22 years old on their nation’s home soil. While we can argue about the profitability factor, there is no arguing the prestige and the sheer passion hosting the World Cup brings to a country. Passion does not have a price tag.
Losing the bid proved we need to stop worrying about the growth of soccer in the United States and rather focus on maturing the game at all levels. Instead of focusing on the 2022 World Cup event, this should be the time look at some key factors in the game currently.
Start from the ground up and the way it is structured at the lowest levels. Coaches need to be better trained to simply teach the youngest children, while letting them enjoy the game. Not every child will become the next Landon Donovan, but every child who is taught the game correctly and enjoys it is one more child who is likely to become a fan later on.
Higher up the scale, MLS teams are rewarded with their academy systems with MLS lifting the Home-Grown player system. The US Soccer Development Academy has rewarded teams who place player development at the forefront of their club structure. Futsal is beginning to move into the US landscape to provide another form of development at an early stage.
Which feeds into the professional game and
Which rolls into…
Start asking tough questions. Promotion and relegation should happen. Maybe not in two years, maybe not in five, but serious thought needs to be given or else Division 2 and 3 soccer in the United States will continue in the tradition of teams coming and going each year. Same with amateur leagues like the NPSL and PDL.
This will take an enormous amount of work. Revenues will drop for MLS teams who would be sent down and expenses (notable travel) would sky rocket for teams promoted. But, we are working on long term solutions, not short term band-aid solutions. Along with this is the MLS single-entity structure, how college and high-school soccer fit in.
Feelings will get hurt, but we need this honest and open discussion in the soccer community.
Which rolls into…
Start working together. Soccer is such a small family in the United States, but yet everyone builds huge walls around their projects and refuses to collaborate to get at the heart of problems. The more people with the same vision work together, the more the game will mature and come into it’s own.
From World Cup 1994 until now, we have seen the rise of a national soccer league where one did not exist. Fast forward to 2010, were we have soccer specific stadiums, several high-profile stars and a league which continues to grow and push forward despite being told 100 times it would never work while operating a single-entity system. We have more people than ever looking to invest in the game, and sponsorships are at their highest ever.
Twenty-two FIFA delegates decided we will not host the best 32 teams from around the world in 2022. However, they did not decide we cannot take these next 12 years and move into a new era of soccer in the United States with maturity at the forefront, long term solutions as a goal and a focus on change from the ground up.
Ryan Knapp (@ryanknapp) is Manager of NSCAA Digital at the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. Along with the NSCAA, Ryan is active in the United States soccer landscape as owner and founder of FC Buffalo and VP Business Development for Statzpack. You can find out more about Ryan at http://www.ryanjknapp.com/blog.