Monday, November 26, 2007

U.S. Soccer Needs Euro Flavor to its Schedule

Stateside Footy is calling for a friendly between the U.S. and England. Why? He says to put the U.S. in front of quality competition, and also to gain some marketing muscle by making it David Beckham’s 100th cap for England. I think it’s a great idea, but Footy’s off on one point; it shouldn’t be at Wembley. Instead it should be at the Home Depot Center in LA. Or if England insists on giving Beckham his 100th cap in front of the home fans, then fine, but turn it into a home-and-home type of series with the second leg and 101st cap held in LA. Call it the President’s Cup or something ridiculous like that, and have G.W. Bush hand out the trophy in his final grand gesture as Commander in Chief.

Seriously though, the bigger picture here is getting the U.S men’s national team to play better competition leading up to the World Cup. Where is the value in playing Trinidad & Tobago? How does the U.S. benefit by playing Guatemala and El Salavador? Granted, these are CONCACAF teams and are, in some cases, mandatory World Cup qualifying foes, but the U.S. aren’t minnows any longer. You don’t see Italy scheduling warm-up matches with Malta and Moldova.

A look at the U.S. schedule this year indicates some progress in this direction. The U.S. played Denmark, Mexico, Sweden and Brazil this year, along with Gold Cup--which it won--and Copa America--where it miserably wilted.

The U.S. turned in positive results against Denmark (3-1 win) and twice beat Mexico (2-0 in a friendly, and 2-1 in Gold Cup final), but was humbled in the Copa America by Argentina, Paraguay and Colombia; then lost to Sweden and Brazil in friendlies immediately after Copa America. The U.S closed out the year with 1-0 wins over Switzerland and South Africa. Ho-hum.

Let’s get this team in front of hostile crowds on a regular basis. Toss some dollars around and play England in London, France in Paris and Italy in Rome. Take your lumps if need be, but the payoff in South Africa could be immense.

Stateside Footy is right. Play England in a friendly or two. Put yourselves out there as a willing opponent for other European powers leading up to Euro 2008. Act like a world power, and some day, you just might be one.

Soccer by Ives has the CONCACAF World Cup draw.

US Soccer Spot has his analysis too

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