U.S. Soccer Column: Just stay home

U.S. player Lynden Gooch, right and Portugal's Nelson Semedo challenge for the ball during an international friendly soccer match between Portugal and U.S. at the Dr. Magalhaes Pessoa stadium in Leiria, Portugal, Tuesday Nov. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Pedro Rocha)

Various high-profile soccer teams including Italy, the United States and Chile failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

It has been reported that the United States is considering hosting a tournament similar to the NIT in college basketball for all of the bigger teams that did not qualify.

Obviously, the United States Soccer Federation sees this as a possible way to make money, especially after the World Cup failure reportedly cost the federation at least $12.5 million according to Forbes. The USSF would reportedly be partnering with Soccer United Marketing, a major player in marketing and television rights for different soccer games in the United States. Most notably, the company played a role in bringing the Centennial Copa America stateside.

Outside of the financial potential of this tournament, it is important to look at the on-the-field potential. Could the U.S. benefit from games against high-quality competition? Of course, but I do not think the very top teams would be willing to come in the first place.

For example, Italy is too prestigious for a consolation tournament like this. Failing to make the World Cup is one of the worst sporting moments in the nation’s history. Taking part in this tournament would simply remind them of that failure.

Similarly, in soccer, mediocrity is punished, which is why relegation exists in leagues across the world. The most similar thing to this NIT-style tournament would be the Europa League, but nothing of the sort exists in international soccer.

For a nation in a massive reconstruction stage like the Netherlands, I do not think there would be any benefit. A four- or five-game tournament that their best players would likely not even attend would not fix their sinking ship of missing consecutive major tournaments. The Netherlands needs time to try and rebuild what only seven years ago was one of the best teams in the world, and a tournament next summer would delay this process.

There are still many things standing in the way of a consolation tournament happening. This has never been done before and I do not think it will actually occur. Outside of the financial reasons, I understand the United States’ desire to get as many games against top competition before the next World Cup in order to rebuild, but this tournament is not necessary. The U.S. should just enjoy the World Cup from home like the other teams who do not make it do, and then rebuild the same way teams have in the past after missing a major tournament.

Also working against this tournament is the recent announcement by CONCACAF about the League of Nations that will be starting in 2018. According to Major League soccer, “The League of Nations is set to divide those 41 countries into three tiers, with separate leagues based on the countries' respective soccer levels.” UEFA, European soccer's governing body, is also planning something similar. The goal of this tournament would be to strengthen the weaker teams in the region by constantly playing the stronger countries. It would occur when most countries currently have friendly matches during FIFA international dates.

Personally, I do not think a U.S.-hosted tournament is a good idea, but that is a discussion for another day.


Antonio Salazar is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at antonio.salazar@uconn.edu.