U.S. Men's National Team

Arena believes USMNT can start "talking about winning a World Cup" by 2026

Bruce Arena is the first to admit that there’s work to be done in the present as the U.S. Men’s National Team looks to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. However, given all of the recent headlines, the USMNT head coach is looking ahead a bit to what could be a defining moment in U.S. Soccer.

On Monday, the United States, Mexico and Canada announced that the three have submitted a bid to host the 2026 World Cup. In the wake of that announcement, Arena says he believes the U.S. could be a “big player” by that time while stating his belief that the U.S. could be a contender to win the whole thing.

“In 1994 I think the U.S. was looked at as this emerging frontier in the game and FIFA wanted to bring the U.S. into the world’s game,” Arena said on Thursday, according to Goal USA. “I think in 2026 we’re going to be fully emerged in the game and a big player. I think 2026 will be the time where we’re going to start talking about winning a World Cup, to be honest with you.

“It wasn’t going to be in 1994, it wasn’t going to be in 2010, but 2026 could be our time. I think that’s the difference.”

Arena clarified that his comments were in the context of “if the U.S. winds up hosting the 2026 World Cup.” The USA-Mexico-Canada bid still has to be chosen as host for the 2026 World Cup. At present, the joint bid appears to be the frontrunner.

  • TheFrenchOne

    Could it happen? Sure, if we have the kind of path that was in front of us in 2010 (before we choked against Ghana). With the home field advantage, home crowd, and the right draw, maybe.

    But I don’t think most of us on SBI think it’s realistic. I think for most nations, just getting to the quarters is a pretty great accomplishment. Think about Germany in 2006. People still talk about what a great job JK did in getting his team to overperform and reach the semis.


    • MidWest Ref

      Only 7 countries have ever won a WC. The reality is that getting to the semis – more like South Korea in 2002 than Germany in 06 – would be a tremendous achievement.


      • TheFrenchOne

        Midwest: Agreed. Also, this will be the first time FIFA rolls out this 3-group set up, so who knows how that schedule will benefit some teams and not others. For those teams that notoriously start slow (like Italy), this new schedule may be rough. Maybe fringe nations, like the US, can take advantage of that.


  • beto

    lets start by “talking about wining” the U-20 WC this summer. very talented group just about all in very good club situations. this age group will be the veteran leaders in 2026.


  • Gary Page

    In 2026 Pulisic should be in his prime and CCV should also. Home teams usually over perform, so I’d say reaching the semis would certainly be doable if the US keeps steadily progressing.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Old School

    Not until we have more Christian Pulisic’s than we have Alejandro Bedoya’s on the pitch.


  • r.benjamin

    The 10 year after effects of a North American WC will be when I can maybe entertain these thoughts.

    I do think the 94 WC gave a bump. Kids at the time were Beasely/Donovan age and we saw a bump in the early 2000s. The next bump has been realized as coaching has become vastly more professional and generally much better and more intense than kids received in the late 90s.. A next bump could be spurred by more stars and a WC.


  • yankiboy

    Unashamed, I am one of the biggest flag waving cheerleaders that you’ll ever find–but I find Arena’s comments to be laughable. If Klinsmann had made a statement, a lot of us would have been relentless in going after him for spouting such “pie in the sky” type nonsense.

    I’m encouraged to see that I’m not the only who want Bruce to take a drug test or a CT-Scan to try to eliminate some sort of chemical or medical reasons that he would say something so absurd.


    • MidWest Ref

      . . . or would we be praising JK for having the foresight to see the possibilities. . . why not us? I see no reason for Bruce not to make such a forward thinking statement; he’s not going to be there in 9 years. Maybe he can get the boys geeked up to get us qualified for 2018, and then perform above expectations in the European Plain of the Motherland.


      • Concorde

        why not us? where to begin…
        for one thing, obviously true but often neglected fact, as we improve at soccer the rest of the world does too.

        i personally think we will never win a world cup, and that is ok.


    • Gary Page

      As I recall, Klinsmann set a goal of the semis in 2018 in Russia. I thought that was a bit ambitious and unrealistic. Klinsmann also said we could reach the semis in the Centenario and I thought that was ambitious and unrealistic. Turns out that was right. While the semis in 2018 still seems to be too much to expect, I don’t think that is true for 2026.


  • Patrick

    When were we supposed to win the last one? This is like Al Gore saying we were all going to be dead this year. Just say it again and predict another 10 years in the future….Why not?

    Just stop talking.


    • Gary Page

      The scholar/analyst/pedant within me cannot stop from pointing out that he never said anything like that. And his warnings of dire outcomes were projected to happen in the 2050 to 2100 time frame. If you look at predictions of climate scientists from10 and 20 years ago, conditions are getting worse even faster than predicted.

      Liked by 1 person

  • Mike

    The sport has to be more popular. I know relegation wont work. But it is really needed.also more talent from academies and singing players young. Give them a private school setting and training in academies. Then yes I agree. But I do not see relegation happening soon. I see popularity going up.


    • Old School

      I’m not sure I agree with the term, but I agree with the premise.

      “Popular” would indicate it’s lacking with youth athletes. By every metric in recent memory, soccer is the #1 sport played by youth athletes in this country. Especially consider many parents are shying away from the visually-violent sports that produce head trama (i.e. Football) I see that number only increasing (although, Taylor Twellman would clarify soccer is head trama-inducing, too).

      I think instead of popularity being the issue, the real issue is: structure or lack thereof. We have to find the right balance of cultivating sincere talent and shying away from pay-to-play. Conversely, many big soccer nations will tell you one of the reasons their sport flourishes in producing top young talent is the non-structure of pick-up games being played in neighborhoods. As of right now, more basketball pick-up games can be found in this country by our youth over soccer pick-up games…but I think that may slowly change as the sport now has a set-goal of a professional league to aim for our kids can see and attend.

      Soccer needs to go from 1.0 to 2.0 and a lot of that starts with coaching, and frankly, likely an outside set of eyes to look at our system and help it evolve. Arena deserves a lot of credit, but he represents the old guard. US Soccer needs help redefining the correct next step, but it is getting there. Popularity, I don’t think, is the issue. Having a fluid system for our youth is.

      …we lost too much talent the past few decades to pay-to-play. As I mentioned above, too many Bedoya’s (industrious, runs hard, but lacks any flair). That’s symptomatic of pay-to-play athletes.


  • Lost in Space

    A lot can happen in 9 years…players get injured, players drop off, players don’t pan out, etc…and while our player pool is getting better, so are those of almost every other nation. That being said IF our players continue to develop I think the team we could have could be very competitive.

    Keeper: Horvath (31), Cropper (33), Steffen (31)
    Defense: CCV (29), Fossey (28), Olosunde (28), Barbir (29), EPB (29), Redding (29), Glad (29)
    Midfield: Pulisic (28), Hyndman (30), De La Torre (28), Zelalem (29), Arce (30), McKennie (28), Adams (27), Lederman (26), Akale (30), Carleton (28)
    Forwards: Weah (26), Wright (28), Perez (28), Sargent (26), Yomba (30), Lennon (29), Taitague (27)

    This is a nice group of players to have as our starting point. Nearly every one of them is already in a professional environment and performing well. Many of these players will already have 1 WC under their belts by 2026 and who knows who will crop up between now and then.


  • Adam M.

    2026 means kids in their young teens now would likely form the heart of the 2026 team and younger players now would be the veterans then. In other words, all of the problems we have with player development now would still show up in 2026. The fact remains that a small number of countries regularly churn out top 100 players in the world and it takes a team full of those players and some luck to even have a shot at winning 4 knockout stage games in a World Cup against similarly-loaded teams. It took the US a third World Cup to finally beat Ghana, and we’ve lost close Round of 16 games the last two cycles. I think that’s about right — third time is a charm for improving enough to move up a round. Quarters in 2018. Semis in 2026. Finals in 2034.


    • don Lamb

      Very well said, but one quibble: if a realistic goal for 2026 is the semis, that is not really far off at all from saying that “we have a shot” at winning a World Cup.


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