Tuesday, May 05, 2009 |
Ten years is a long time. Rather, it seems like a long time, but is here and gone before we know it. While a lot of things can happen in ten years, more often than not, it's simply not enough time for any fundamental change to actually occur.
Who knows where American soccer might be in ten years? Will MLS be a major player on the American sports scene? Will the USMNT be a world power in international competitions? Will American players be significant contributors for big clubs abroad?
Unfortunately, I'm fresh out of my prescience pills. While it's clearly impossible to know what American soccer will look like in ten years, we at MFUSA like to pretend. To that end, I have asked three of the most intelligent people I know, representing three different countries, to answer a few questions on where they believe American soccer might be in 2019.
First, let me introduce the respondents to the questionnaire:
Andrew Bucholtz: blogger, Sporting Madness and contributor to the 24th Minute (Canada)
Chris Nee: blogger and podcaster, twofootedtackle (England)
Zach Woosley: panelist, blogger, co-host, Winning Ugly Radio, Ginge Talks the Footy, MFUSA Soccer Show (USA)
Keep in mind the respondent's country of origin as we go through the questionnaire.
In May 2019,
1. The USA will be ranked ____.
Andrew: 8th. That doesn't necessarily mean that they'll be the eighth-best country in the world, but I expect the national team to continue their CONCACAF dominance and combine that with some good World Cup results, especially in 2018 if it winds up being played on American soil. Under the current points system, that should be enough to get them into the top 10.
Chris: 6-8th. I think US soccer is improving but there is a roof on its prospects which will take longer than ten years to overcome. It's generally going in the right direction and I think in time, when the youth system is tweaked and MLS consolidates, the USA will break into the top five.
2. (number) American players will be first team choices for Champions League clubs.
Andrew: Six American players will be first team choices for Champions League clubs. This is a tough one to call, especially given the broad array of clubs that wind up in the Champions League each year. However, even with an improved MLS, there will still be American players going overseas, and several of them could wind up as first-choice players at many of the smaller clubs that crack the Champions League.
Chris: I don't see why it shouldn't be in double figures. Landon won't be the greatest American forever and the next group to break through may be better mentally disposed to going to Europe and succeeding. He's certainly capable. Again, as the quality of MLS improves, players like Montero will succeed in Europe.
Zach: One American player will be a first team choice for a Champions League club.
3. MLS will be equal in quality to (foreign league).
Andrew: MLS will be equal in quality to the German Bundesliga. I'm not sure it will be able to overtake the top-three of Italy, England and Spain, but I could see MLS make its way up to where it's equivalent to the German league, with some legitimate stars (the equivalent of Ribery and Klose are in Germany at the moment) mixed in with a larger group of good, but not exceptional players.
Chris: Eredivisie (Holland)
Zach: MLS will be equal in quality to English League One.
4. (number) current choice national team players for England, Germany, Argentina, or Brazil will be playing in MLS.
Andrew: Eight current choice national team players for England, Germany, Argentina, or Brazil will be playing in MLS. I predict these players will mostly be from Germany and Brazil; Brazilian players would be big draws for MLS, and there's a wide enough cast involved in their national team that some of the MLS types will get a chance at some point; I'm not sure if any of the MLS players will be key fixtures in the German or Brazilian teams, but most of them will earn caps here and there and perhaps some of them will become first-choice selections. As well, the Germans have always been more content than other nations to let their stars play abroad (Klinsmann, Hamann, etc). The English players will mostly stay at home, like today, and the Argentines will mostly wind up in the EPL or in Spain.
Chris: I reckon maybe five. I can see another Beckham situation (without the nonsense) where a lingering England international plays his last year in the US but retains his place in the squad. Germany as a nation needs to improve, but if it doesn't I think maybe a couple of fringe players might try their luck in MLS. Argentina and Brazil - I think younger prospects might stop off in the US on the way to Europe, and there's no reason why success there would not get them selected.
5. The MLS record for an outgoing transfer will be ____ dollars.
Andrew: The MLS record for an outgoing transfer will be 15 million dollars. This will likely be for a young rising star in the mould of Maurice Edu or Jozy Altidore, and it will likely be from one of the big EPL clubs.
Zach: The MLS record for an outgoing transfer will be Alitdore's $10 million fee.
6. The MLS record for an incoming transfer will be ____dollars.
Andrew: The MLS record for an incoming transfer will be 12 million dollars. Probably for a Brazilian star in one of the bigger media markets, such as L.A. or New York. (Note; this presumes an actual transfer, not just signing designated players without current contracts, so Beckham isn't counted here).
Chris: $10 million (Chris originally begged off this question, but I managed to get a guess out of him)
Zach: The MLS record for an incoming transfer will be $500,000 dollars.
7. The USA will have reached the knockout stage in ____ of the last 3 World Cups ('10, '14, '18).
Andrew: The USA will have reached the knockout stage in all three of the last 3 World Cups ('10, '14, '18). It depends a lot on the group draws, as always, but they should come into each cup in a strong position from CONCACAF qualifying and should make it through the group stage each time.
Chris: Three, depending on group draws.
Zach: The USA will have reached the knockout stage in 1 of the last 3 World Cups ('10, '14, '18).
8. The USA's best finish in the last 3 World Cups will have been ____.
Andrew: The USA's best finish in the last 3 World Cups will have been a loss in the quarterfinals. There's a good chance they could get to the quarterfinal stage twice. I don't think they'll be quite strong enough to get to the semifinals by 2018, but you never know, and home-field advantage could help a lot if it materializes.
Chris: Semi-final, in 2018. Mark my words.
Zach: The USA's best finish in the last 3 World Cups will have been first round of knockout stage. USA Soccer isn't built to succeed in the World Cup, it's built to succeed in the Gold Cup and against Mexico.
9. There will be (number) American managers (total) in England's top three divisions.
Andrew: There will be five American managers (total) in England's top three divisions. All of these will be in the Championship or League One; I can't see an EPL side being ready to hire an American by that point. That's not that the American managers wouldn't be qualified; I just think English sides at all levels will still be reluctant to go with Americans by this point.
Chris: I don't see this as a major area of progress, but maybe one or two. Coaching in MLS will become more attractive and lucrative before England gives US coaches a try.
Zach: There will be zero American managers in England's top three divisions. There are no up and coming American managers. Period.
10. Professional soccer will have surpassed (another sport/no major sport) in popularity.
Andrew: Professional soccer will have surpassed the NHL in popularity in the United States. Baseball, football and the NBA are safe, but the NHL is rapidly losing status as a national sport and becoming more based around local enclaves of fans. Meanwhile, the amount of soccer fans in the U.S. is growing all the time. Many of them follow overseas soccer mostly at the moment, but that interest will likely transfer to MLS as the league continues to grow and improve.
Chris: NHL (Chris begged off this one originally as well, not being intimately familiar with North American sports).
Zach: Professional soccer will have surpassed hockey in popularity.
I think these results say a lot about how the prospects of American soccer are viewed from different vantage points; Zach, an American, was clearly the least optimistic. Both Andrew and Chris were reasonably positive, while the Englishman is clearly the highest on American chances in the World Cup.
Both Zach and Andrew are intimately more familiar with MLS, so it might be proper to put more stock in their MLS-related answers; though being informed means nothing when it comes forecasting the un-forecast-able.
Just a note: I planned on answering these myself, be ultimately decided against it, mostly because this post is entirely too long already.
What are your answers? Which respondent do you agree with most, and which one do
you think has it all wrong?
*UPDATE* Welcome SBI readers. Hopefully you'll add us to your daily circuit, or subscribe to the RSS feed. Ginge also appreciate all of the love you have given him; if you want to berate him futher, you may also do so at Ginge Talks the Footy, his own Euro Snobby blog (haha).
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End of shameless shilling.