Three years ago, the U.S. men's soccer team had what seemed to be an easy game to win. In the fifth round of World Cup Qualifiers, a simple win or draw would have sufficed. No one expected a 2 to 1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago, a team ranked 99th in the world. This loss eliminated the USA from the 2018 World Cup for the first time in 30 years.
On Oct. 10, 2017, American soccer fans turned off the TV while shaking their heads. The performance of the team was described as the worst loss in USMNT history. It was an outcome no one truly expected.
“I remember that we didn't start well, and it was extremely frustrating,” said sophomore Caleb O’Connell. “When the game ended, I was extremely mad and disappointed.”
Fast forward three years to 2020, and the USMNT has recruited around 43 players who actively play in clubs around Europe. Currently, more Americans play in Europe’s largest clubs than ever before. Over 10 players are registered for the Champions League this year, including Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic, Barcelona’s Sergino Dest, Juventus’ Weston Mckennie and Borussia Dortmund’s Giovanni Reyna (son of Claudio Reyna, USMNT legend).
“My favorite current USMNT player is Giovanni Reyna, who plays at Borussia Dortmund in the German Bundesliga,” said junior Aaron Adams. “He is only 17 years old but shows a lot of promise already.”
Europeans stereotype American players as willing to run, ready to fight and optimistic, but they're not very gifted technically. In the case of players such as Pulisic, this is beginning to change. Upon debuting at Chelsea, Pulisic has contributed 11 goals and 10 assists. He was also nominated for the Premier League’s Young Player of the Year Award during his first season.
“Right now, I am a massive Christian Pulisic fan,” said O’Connell. “I have liked him for a few years and was very excited for him to move to Chelsea. It has been great to see him shine in the Premier League and gain a global following.”
With World Cup qualifiers beginning next year for the U.S., students have high expectations for the new lineup. The primary goal of the U.S. soccer team is to qualify for the World Cup in 2022, but this generation may witness their best success on U.S. soil in 2026. For young players, a chance to play at the World Cup is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Fans now hope they can make it there.
“My hope is that we can qualify and make it through the group stage,” said Adams. “With the current young players, we may be able to take home the victory in 2026.”
For students, the excitement around soccer continues to grow. It was disappointing to not qualify, but fans now have hope for the future. The current American lineup may give the U.S. a real shot at World Cup triumph.
“The current lineup is exciting because it has a much quicker and entertaining style of play,” said O’Connell.
“It gives us hope for the next World Cup because, in previous years, we have played a slow and boring style of soccer. Players' different styles make the game smoother to watch. Talent-wise, I think we will be able to keep up.”