A better USMNT might depend on CMNT

Since the World Cup a lot of the conversation about USA national soccer has been about the future of the Men’s National Team, and about player development. Summarizing the discussion takes three words: Be like Germany.

Grantland and Noah Davis bring the latest,  possibly the smartest, essay on USMNT’s future. It’s smart because it makes a point that goes beyond the usual “get better players” idea and talks about the ceiling that exists for how high 18-year old American male footballers currently push themselves. Time will solve the problem, says Davis via US youth coach Tab Ramos, that is as long as the development pipeline established between the national program stays in sync with Development Academies and proves successful.

I disagree. Time won’t matter as much as the iterations, the player improvement and turnover in roster cycles at all age levels, most of which revolve around high-stakes international matches and the national camps that precede them. The Germany player development machine benefits from all the longstanding European rivalries against England, France, Holland, Spain, etc. Big matches happen all the time, you expect.

Mexico is an established U.S. rival and Costa Rica seems ready to become another heated adversary. If just one more CONCACAF country could step up to the international top-flight they too join the mix for internation soccer bigtime. For the U.S. and the two Central American regional soccer powers it would mean 50% more high stakes games for our national teams. Those added big games would speed the iteration cycles for assessing the up and coming American soccer talent.

Rivalries increase individual motivation and hustle along with improving team cohesion, according to recent NYU researc (more in the New York magazine blog Science of Us). The ceiling for American youth soccer goes up as rivals up their play and rivalries intensify. As much as soccer pundits want to see improved domestic talent development there is much to gain from development in nearby countries.

Canada, I’m looking at you. It took hardly any time to becomea basketball hotbed and MLS soccer is doing well in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. Time for We The North to inject some pride into the CMNT. USMNT needs the competition.

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