March 28, 2011


A Plan to Improve U.S. Soccer: How a Confederation of Americas Would Benefit The Americans; The Problem With Friendlies (GABRIELE MARCOTTI, 3/27/11, WSJ)

On Saturday, 78,936 people filled New Meadowlands Stadium to watch the United States hold Argentina to a 1-1 draw. Short of actually beating one of the world's top teams, it was a good day for U.S. soccer. Bob Bradley's crew soaked up the pressure in the first half but held its own until Esteban Cambiasso put Argentina ahead just before the interval. Then, in the second half, the Americans switched to a 4-4-2 set, found an equalizer through teenage starlet Juan Agudelo and matched its illustrious opponent the rest of the day.

In short: great crowd, pulsating match between two teams that played well and a coming-out party for the U.S.'s 18-year-old potential phenom. What's not to like? Not much. But it would have been better if the game had actually meant something. [...]

[T]he best possible thing for U.S. soccer may be combining CONCACAF and its equivalent in South America (CONMEBOL) into one confederation of the Americas. With its 10 members, CONMEBOL is the smallest confederation, but it's filled with the game's historical and current heavyweights: Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and others. Creating one pan-American confederation would allow the U.S. and Mexico to play more competitive games on a regular basis. Second-tier CONCACAF teams—countries that rarely meet top opposition, even in friendlies—would benefit, too.

South American teams would get something out of this arrangement, as well. They'd play a wider variety of teams and styles, which would be a welcome break from playing each other over and over again. There are also financial benefits, like accessing the television markets in the U.S. and Mexico, which would translate into an increase in rights fees and lucrative sponsorship deals. It's not a coincidence that both Argentina and Brazil, arguably the sport's biggest draws, chose to play friendlies in the United States in the past nine months: It pays to do so.

The same theory applies at the club level. A Copa Libertadores—South America's version of the UEFA Champions League—featuring American clubs would be more lucrative and attractive for these reasons. Mexican teams already play in the competition, evidence that rules are flexible in soccer.

...the U.S. coach sent out his team in an absurdly defensive alignment, playing for a tie, that his own players didn't even understand. As soon as going a goal down forced him to switch to a more attacking set-up the squad came to life.

Posted by at March 28, 2011 1:50 PM

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