Former U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann isn’t a fan of the Concacaf Nations League.
The competition, which begins for the USMNT this month in matches against Cuba and Canada, is a new tournament which will serve as qualification for the future Concacaf Gold Cups and allow teams to fight for promotion and relegation amongst their groups. Klinsmann, who served as USMNT boss from 2011-16, feels it’s a waste of time in regards to the level of competition compared to other possible friendlies that could prepare teams for international competitions.
“It’s a waste of time, I’m telling you,” Klinsmann said in an interview with ESPN. “It’s a waste of time because you that need [that competition] as a country. I mean talking about Mexico, everyone is hoping for the fifth game in the World Cup. You’re not reaching that fifth game in the World Cup if you play the teams you are playing now in the Nations League in CONCACAF. You are not.”
“Because you need to play Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Holland and England. That is your competition. And when you have an opening for a national team window and you can maybe make one or two friendly games, you need to play Argentina or Germany and not a CONCACAF team.”
The USMNT are the second ranked team in Concacaf, following their Gold Cup Finals loss this summer to Mexico. Gregg Berhalter’s side have four matches in the competition over the next two months and will be chasing current Group A leaders Canada, who defeated Cuba twice in September.
It may not bring the glitz and glamour that other international tournaments do, but it’s a way for National Teams to retain that competitive nature over each international break. Fellow League A favorites Mexico, Costa Rica, and Honduras also begin play in their respective groups this month along with the USMNT. Despite it being the inaugural edition of the tournament, Klinsmann isn’t viewing it as close as opportunities to play the heavyweights of Europe, South America, and other federations in friendlies.
“I think the biggest challenge for the United States, or even Mexico or Costa Rica, for the key countries in this region, is you don’t really have the highest competition outside,” Klinsmann said. “That means when you play just within your own system, you don’t have the big matches against European countries or South American countries in order to grow your program, in order to grow your players.”
“So literally when you are kind of locked into CONCACAF and you don’t play Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Chile every year, or you don’t play Holland, Germany, England, Spain, Italy every year, you have no chance to grow. And that’s what I always said, you have to leave this region here in order to make your program better, to improve your players. And this a big, big handicap for all the players and all the programs, if it’s Mexico, Costa Rica or the United States.”
The USMNT remain favorites to top Group A over the likes of Canada and Cuba, despite the matches taking place during the busy period of domestic seasons. Berhalter’s side host Cuba on Oct. 11th at D.C. United’s Audi Field before traveling to BMO Field for their first date with Canada on Oct. 15th.