The Sinking Of U-23: The USMNT Fails to Qualify for the Olympics
When it comes to US Soccer, nothing sells quite like a falling sky. The latest cause for alarm on USSF Twitter came to us in the form of the United States Youth National Team failing to qualify for the 2̶0̶2̶0̶ 2021 Olympics set to be played this summer in Tokyo (because who can imagine a better idea than bringing people together from around the globe, many from places where there hasn’t been a single vaccination shot given, so they can all get drunk on vending machine beer and fuck one another for 4 weeks straight). This brought the usual cast of characters out of the woodwork to issue their stinging rebukes of the US Soccer Federation and to offer their Very Important Statements of “this sort of thing should never happen in AMERICA” – seemingly oblivious to the fact that this sort of thing happens all the goddamn time in America. The fact that this all went down in the shadow of the #ActualYanks winning a game on European Soil against a European Opponent in their friendly against Northern Island made the idiocy all the more enjoyable.
To everyone: Calm. The Fuck. Down.
First of all, let’s level set on exactly what the fuck happened last weekend: The United States Youth B/C squad failed to qualify for the Olympic U-24 tournament. This isn’t just on a different planet than missing the World Cup in 2018, this is in a different universe altogether. “But Chief,” I hear you saying, “How can we ever hope to be good at soccer if our young players can’t qualify for a tournament like this?” Well, we absolutely would have qualified for this tournament and our “young players” would have absolutely dog walked most of the competition if they would have actually played. You know who would have qualified for this roster under normal circumstances? A few names you might recognize like Pulisic, Dest, Reyna, Steffen, and Sargent. Plus a few you might just now be getting familiar with like Musah and Dike. None of those players appeared in this qualification because – shocker – they’re really fucking good and their European club teams are under absolutely no obligation to release them to go play in Olympic qualifications.
Because – and I cannot stress this enough: no one gives a shit about Olympic soccer. You add those names to the mix and Honduras’ chance of winning this match (to quote US Poet Laurate Scott “Big Poppa Pump” Steiner) drastic go down. These guys are playing for places like Chelsea, Barcelona, Dortmund and Man City. Their teams aren’t gonna let them go off for a month to do Olympic qualifications and then wait another 2 weeks for them to quarantine on their way back in to Europe.
And even setting aside the herculean task that would’ve been getting all of these players free to come play in qualifications, you still have the other problem of: these guys all have more important shit to do for the United States this summer than go to the Japanese Athlete Fuckfest 2021. The USMNT is going to be playing for the Gold Cup this summer right around the same time as the Olympics. What would you rather Christian Pulisic be doing with his time – schooling 19-year-olds in Tokyo to win a gold medal, or scoring against the actual El Tri side and winning the Gold Cup for the United States? What do you think is more valuable for his growth and development? This question matters because they start playing for fucking keeps this fall when the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers start up. Me? I want the best possible side playing for the Gold Cup, and I want the best possible side together and training all summer to make the goddamn World Cup.
If you want to find a proper target to blame (outside of the manager for the USYNT, who is a functioning idiot), the blame resides in the same place as it did when soccer-muppet Taylor Twellman asked his famous question following the 2018 WCQ debacle: US Soccer’s “Missing Generation.” You ever notice that we went from Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and the Ghost of DeMarcus Beasely (who I’d honestly believed played in the denim kits along with Alexi Lalas if someone showed me a decent photoshop) to a 19-year-old Pulisic with absolutely nothing in between? There was a whole generation of the USMNT that just stunk on fucking ice – names like Wood, Nagbe, McCarty, Arriola, etc. who formed the backbone of the awful 2017 qualification campaign.
You go back to that fateful night against Trinidad & Tobago and there are guys in the lineup who should have been the backbone of the current USMNT who have been (rightly) thrown to the fucking curb (or back to MLS, same difference really) in favor of people who can actually play. Because of this missing generation, the average age of the current USMNT is “understands Tik Tok” with nary a 30-something in sight. The future is now, so when it comes to unimportant shit like the Olympics, the backups to the backups for the future are forced to carry water. Sometimes that works. Other times? You lose to Honduras 2-1.
The bottom line in all this here is that this “failure” is just the latest in a long line of otherwise insignificant shit that the US Soccer Media™ has to complain about because, god dammit, those fucking pages aren’t gonna click themselves. I’d wish for them to be better, but then I remember the assholes who failed this country for decades on the pitch are now making up the pundit class. And, of course, the best story is any one that can let them point the finger elsewhere.