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The USA is out of soccer's World Cup. Now what?

October 13, 2017

Christopher Elzey

For the United States, elimination from the 2018 World Cup men’s soccer tournament in Russia, should be a catalyst for change at the United States Soccer Federation in the same way USA Basketball pivoted after disappointing finishes in several international competitions, a George Mason University professor said.

Executives at U.S. Soccer “should take a hard look in the mirror, and examine the process by which the national team is selected and trained,” said Christopher Elzey, a professor of sports history and director of the university’s minor in sport and American culture.

That is what happened at USA Basketball after an embarrassing sixth-place finish at the 2002 world championship and a bronze-medal finish at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

“In the wake of those defeats, USA Basketball not only reconfigured how the national squad was selected but also changed the culture of what participating in the Olympics meant,” he said. “Something similar might be in the offing for U.S. Soccer.”

For George Mason women’s soccer coach, Todd Bramble, the failure to qualify for the World Cup is also a developmental issue.

“My reaction, specifically, is this is really detrimental to the development for the young superstar of U.S. Soccer, Christian Pulisic,” Bramble said. Pulisic’s parents, Mark and Kelley, are former Mason soccer players.

“To miss out on the sport’s marquee event on the world’s stage and all of the important training and games leading up to the event — and then the event itself, would have enhanced his future development,” Bramble said.

Besides the disappointment of not having the United States represented in the tournament, there is the question of what team U.S. fans should now support.

“There’s probably a lot of Americans out there now consulting Ancestry.com to doublecheck what their heritage is,” joked Bramble. “But we have some international players on our soccer team at Mason, so I’ll specifically be cheering for Iceland, England and Germany to support our student-athletes’ home countries.”

Todd Bramble can be reached at tbramble@gmu.edu or 703-993-3295.

Christopher Elzey can be reached at celzey@gmu.edu or 703-993-1250.

For more information, contact Buzz McClain at 703-727-0230 or bmcclai2@gmu.edu.

About George Mason

George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls 36,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility.