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The SBI View: Proposed World Cup reject tournament makes little sense

Everyone seems to have an opinion on U.S. Soccer these days, especially after the failure to qualify for the World Cup.

But one thing most people are in agreement on is the USMNT needs to play the best competition in the next few years to help the new generation acclimate to the international game.

With so many notable nations missing out on Russia, discussion on social media has suggested the USMNT should be involved in a tournament featuring Italy, Chile, the Netherlands and others during the summer.

In theory, the idea sounds great and according to ESPN, there’s been exploratory talks about that exact idea, but is it the best way for the USMNT to build up chemistry and experience next summer?

As fun as the proposed tournament sounds, it may not be beneficial to the Americans to participate in it. After all, there are plenty of reasons why those nations failed to qualify for Russia. They all have flaws just like the USMNT and deserved their fate.

The top driving force behind a tournament like this if it were to happen would be the same that brought the Copa America Centenario to American shores in 2016: money. Bringing Italy, the Netherlands, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Chile and others in for a competition before or after the World Cup would be nothing more than a cash grab with some profits going to U.S. Soccer, an organization that isn’t exactly struggling financially.

Another concern for this proposed tournament would be the logistics, especially for the Americans with players in both Europe and MLS. The USMNT’s European-based players would face a quick turnaround and it would force some stars out of MLS early, just like if the USMNT was in the World Cup.

One would think some MLS clubs would be reluctant to release their players during the regular season for some cash-grab competition. If the USMNT was preparing for the World Cup, it would be a different story.

Another hang-up with this NIT or Europa League of international soccer is La Liga and Serie A don’t finish until May 20 this year, unlike the Premier League and Bundesliga who conclude their seasons the weekend before.

With the World Cup set to begin on June 14, it would be an incredibly quick turnaround to get the necessary players, especially those from Italy, ready for a tournament that doesn’t count for anything.

When you look at all the factors involved, the easiest answer for the USMNT this summer is to play teams already headed to the World Cup in friendlies at the end of May with mostly European-based players and then offer up a game to a team like Italy who missed out on Russia at the start of June when everyone is settling down in Russia for the World Cup.

The idea of staging a tournament sounds great in theory because of all the big names that would be involved, but the more realistic idea is to have a friendly or two in early June right before the World Cup to get games in against level competition after a match or two against a qualified team.

It may not sound like the sexiest idea, but it’s the right one for the USMNT to start developing its young core.



  1. Who wouldn’t want to watch Tuesday’s team against a bunch of up and comers from Italy, Holland, Ireland, Chlie and Ghana?
    The more games our young players can get together the better.

  2. Both options are great – I don’t think we could lose either way. Any team that commits to the time and expense of the tournament would probably field at least a B team with a few A team players mixed in – I’m assuming they’d have the same goal that we do (bringing/building a solid team for the future) so that they wouldn’t totally dismiss it. But if we choose the other route and play some world cup teams that are fielding full strength squads, that would work too. Even weaker teams like Japan or Korea or Iran that are at full strength would provide a solid challenge.

  3. What the hell? We always have trouble scheduling friendlies against higher-profile teams… and it couldn’t hurt to have some of our younger, less-blooded players go up against Italy, Holland, or Chile. Those teams may be rebuilding, but they are made up of players that play at the highest levels. Playing against them is useful regardless of context. I don’t understand why anyone would say that this is a bad idea. We have nothing but meaningless friendlies to play anyway, why not make them a bit more high-profile?

  4. Why can’t we do both? I don’t understand the point of having this tourney before the World Cup, when it’s going to consist of non-World Cup participants. Let’s play several World Cup tune-ups against European opposition, and then have this tourney during the World Cup. With the time difference between Russia and the US, won’t most of the games be televised in the morning in the US? This tourney could be played during the evenings Stateside, and then we get 7-8 games this summer for the kids, instead of just 3-4. That’s a win-win, in my book.

  5. Advertisers who paid FIFA a hundred-million dollars to show their ad in WorldCup games round the world will be pissed if they think fewer people are watching WC games because fans just watched an 8-12 team tournament in NorthAmerica. FIFA will allow the couple friendlies pre-WC which they already allow, and they will allow whatever you want after the WC, but if you put together a big tournament outside of FIFA just before or overlapping with the World Cup, they will blackball your ass and ban you from FIFA sanctioned events. Players will go back to Europe and be banned from their league. USSoc will suddenly be seeing payments from FIFA’s WC advertising withheld. CONCACAF will be reduced from 3.5 WC spots to 2 or 3. FIFA is a MONOPOLY and will act like a monopoly if you put together a tournament without them.

    • I don’t think anyone is suggesting that this tournament take place at the same time as the WC. It would be in the same timeframe as the typical 3 weeks of camp and friendlies that all world cup qualifiers do.

  6. Forgot one important point: the optics. Good luck marketing a tournament made up of “losers” that couldn’t make it to the big dance. I doubt many of these teams would even bring their best players to this. Waste of time.

    • Include Ireland. Both Ireland and Italy have large fan bases in the US. Chile is only a year removed from winning the South American championship and teams like Holland should also draw well. And if you provide a large payout to the winners of the tournament, you could see a lot of decent teams.

  7. The only reason this needs to happen is because beating Italy’s “D” team in a friendly at home would go a long way towards re-building our shattered self-esteem as a footballing nation.Other than that it’s just sad in a pathetic kind of way.

    • If your self esteem is suffering go find a 2-3 with similar issues and see if you can get
      laid, doubtful, but its worth a shot. Surely mommy will babysit your cat for the night.

    • i agree with rob. a tournament for losers is pathetic and serves no purpose except to rebuild our shattered self-esteem as a footballing nation and as a cash grab. instead, let’s enjoy the world cup and cheer for the better teams who actually did qualify.

    • I fall in this category. Take the USMNT on tour and play as many WC teams as possible. Even if teams don’t throw out their A-Team, whoever is on the field is going to be gunning for a spot to get on to the WC squad, so everyone will be motivated.
      ‘Loser WC’ is not going to be bringing out the best players, nor the best in players.

      • Gotta admit though, I would love to see the faces on Fox execs (who bribed their way into this and the next WC) when ESPN scoops the rights for the NIT and ends up with better ratings in the US.

  8. “The top driving force behind a tournament like this if it were to happen would be the same that brought the Copa America Centenario to American shores in 2016: money. ”

    I know the cool thing these days is to be cynical and only focus on the negative, but this would be first and foremost about getting quality games during a rebuilding period. So what if Italy or Holland send their B-team? Are we really above that at this point. This would generate way more fan attention than the ridiculous ICC games we are subjected to every summer (would they even happen in a World Cup year, anyway). So American fans would win by seeing their team, and some of its budding stars, play against similarly mixed teams from other countries.

    Let’s drop the whole “it’s just a cash grab” attitude, and let’s try to pursue this possibility to its logical end. I’d even go with the suggestion of an Olympic format of it being a U23 + 3 overage. What’s not to like about it?

  9. So just a couple friendlys compared to several games at the international level and speed? It would be beneficial financially and for development as the other countries would send younger/hungry squads as well. The games will probably be very competitive. The complaint about after the long season is void as teams in the World Cup are going through the same problem.

  10. It would be better to play 3 WC teams pre-tournament and treat those games like a Group Stage. Real strategy, only use three subs, etc. Even better, play them all in Europe. US doesn’t need more cushy home friendlies with little meaning. It needs away games where the competition is trying to perfect itself and the players want to earn WC playing time. Maybe add an Italy friendly on an off-WC day in June, but a tournament in lieu of WC preps is not the best idea.

  11. I think it should be a U-23 tournament and you could maybe do it like the Olympics with 3 over age players. All the teams who would be interested in this are in long rebuilds. The current U-23 age group is going to be the most important members of these teams’ rebuilding efforts and most likely key to their 2022 WC qualifying efforts. Plus, it is great experience for playing in the Olympics which is only a few years away. This way it isn’t confused with competing against the WC, and it isn’t a pure money grab. It is a youth development tournament.

  12. I believe this is something that needs to happen. They can make it work. We need to get the players building chemistry and experience. Road to 2022 starts now as sad as it is.

  13. It’d be difficult, certainly.

    Still think it’s worth doing.

    Personally I’d do a 12-team tournament, organize it basically like another Gold Cup. Similar prices, maybe even the doubleheader format to fill stadiums, and like the Gold Cup maybe even add in the option of changing lineups after the Group Stage so teams like Italy could give some key guys a rest and bring them in later. Especially in a developmental tournament like this, that seems fair.

  14. “…with some profits going to U.S. Soccer, an organization that isn’t exactly struggling financially.”

    Can you (or somebody) qualify this statement? How does $125 million in annually revenues compare in the context of the global game? Just curious…..


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