In the United States, there’s an ongoing conversation about whether or not the national football (or in their words, soccer) team can compete with the best international sides. The truth is, for some time now, the USA has been a middle-of-the-pack team in international football competition. Most European football fans hardly give the USA a second thought. However, a number of factors and developments in the past year have turned it into a real question: can the Yanks sustain their recent good play and become a consistent, quality international competitor?
Let’s be clear: there’s no need to sign in to Bet Fair and put money on the United States winning a World Cup any time soon. But things are headed in the right direction for the Americans. Here are a few specific indications that the upward trend may continue.
The Winning Streak
What’s big news in the U.S. right now has begun to grab some international attention, and perhaps for good reason. The numbers tell it all: in the past 12 international matches, the Yanks are 10-1-1, including a draw in Mexico City – a notoriously hostile environment for visiting teams. Within that record, Team USA has now won an impressive 9 straight. They may not be defeating the likes of Spain and Germany just yet, but when you get to 9 straight, it’s a positive sign no matter which teams you’re playing.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s Success
Earlier this year, frustration with former German star and current U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann was mounting, to the point that a single scathing article generated a great deal of attention, and even some calls for a new coach. Since then, however, Klinsmann’s handling of the team has been masterful. Even benching Landon Donovan, the face of U.S. soccer, seemed to pay off in June, and it now seems as if Klinsmann has built a national team structure that can compete consistently.
Part of Klinsmann’s success has been in manipulating rosters in a way that has kept the team winning, but also integrated new players. Jozy Altidore, Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey may get the most attention, but meanwhile the likes of Chris Wondolowski and Eddie Johnson are making significant impacts. The U.S. has gone from a scrappy but imperfect team to a tiered system with options and firepower.
It’s long been thought that the top players for the U.S. don’t get enough experience in top international leagues to compete well in team international competition. This is beginning to change, slowly but surely. Jozy Altidore has just become a promising new signee for Sunderland, Michael Bradley has done well with Roma, and Dempsey is leading the way with Tottenham Hotspur. The experience seems to be paying off.