Sports: Think the Socceroos have it bad? America's huge World Cup loss

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Think the Socceroos have it bad? America's huge World Cup loss

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You thought Ange Postecoglou and the Socceroos were copping heat for the long route they're taking to (hopefully) qualification for Russia 2018? Try being American.

US soccer should be ashamed of itself.

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'Definition of insanity': Commentator blasts US soccer

You thought Ange Postecoglou and the Socceroos were copping heat for the long route they're taking to qualification for Russia 2018? Try being American.

Iceland, a nation of 335,000 people, will play in the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The United States, population 324 million, will not.

After qualifying for seven consecutive World Cups since 1990, the United States will have to wait until the 2022 event at the earliest to return to the sport's grandest stage.

Needing only a draw against last-placed Trinidad and Tobago to qualify for Russia, the Americans slumped to a 2-1 defeat.

"Iceland is the size of Corpus Christi, Texas. They can figure it out. What are we doing?" Taylor Twellman, former US international player, now an ESPN analyst, asked in an eight-minu te rant that went viral.

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Last month, Fox Sports commentator Alexi Lalas, also a former member of the national team, criticised several US stars by name and issued a harsh challenge to the team: "Are you going to continue to be a bunch of soft, underperforming, tattooed millionaires? You are a soccer generation that has been given everything; you are a soccer generation who 9;s on the verge of squandering everything."

Turns out, his words were prescient.

Sunil Gulati, president of the USSF, slumped in a chair in the front row of a media conference room, lacking expression as Bruce Arena, the Hall of Fame coach summoned to rescue a troubled campaign, tried explaining what had gone so terribly wrong.

"There's no excuses for us not qualifying for the World Cup," Arena said.

Players said this was the worst moment of their professional lives.

"With time - a lot of time - [the team will] be ready to move on in a strong way," captain Michael Bradley said, "but this one isn't going away anytime soon."

There is no sugar-coating this one. US soccer claims to be all grown up now, brags about its league and its development academies, so it deserves the same skewering the world's other teams would get if they got tossed from World Cup contention by a 99th-ranked team that was 0-1- 8 going into the do-or-die match.

Anybody who cares about soccer in America is justifiably crushed, livid and demanding major change after the biggest failure in US soccer history.

But missing out on a World Cup will impact more than just national pride and development of the game for America.

It's going to hit their bottom line, too.

At the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, it collected $10.5 million â€" $1.5 million for participating and $9 million for advancing to the round of 16.

Playing in a World Cup also attracts sponsors, and while the USSF is locked into long-term deals with many of them, the absence of a US team at the most popular sporting event on the planet will make it difficult to attract new partners.

And as sports business expert David Carter pointed out: "These types of contracts typically have contingencies where the amount of money is scaled back. There may be some sort of calibration that will take place so these partners ar e paying something commensurate with what they are truly getting, whether that's on the high end or the low end, but this time that would obviously be on the low end."

In addition, Jurgen Klinsmann, Arena's predecessor, had lost his way with the program, culminating with two defeats to begin the final round of qualifying, and was fired in late November.

With about two years left on Klinsmann's contract, the USSF was obligated to make a $6.2 million payout â€" an extraordinary figure for a nonprofit operation with a thrifty reputation.

Fox Sports will also take a major hit after wresting the World Cup rights from ESPN to carry the next three tournaments at a cost of about half a billion dollars.

Fox Sports President Eric Shanks told Sports Illustrated recently, "for us it's a different tournament if the US isn't in it".

In a statement on Wednesday, Fox Sports said: "The World Cup is the greatest sporting event on Earth that changes the world for one month every four years, and Fox Sports remains steadfast in our commitment of bringing the games to America for the first time in 2018 and will continue to support the US Soccer Federation as they look ahead to the 2022 World Cup".

The good news for America is that this disappointment is not expected to affect a US-led effort to bring the 2026 World Cup to North America for the first time since 1994.

A combined bid by the United States, Mexico and Canada is heavily favoured to beat Morocco for hosting rights when FIFA votes next June.

Critics say US soccer lags the rest of the world because the best American athletes choose basketball and football. It could surely benefit from widening its talent pool, but it doesn't take NBA height or NFL muscle to be a great soccer player.

It takes skill and creativity, and that is more likely to be developed early in pickup games than in the hyper-organised, result-crazed world of youth soccer.

Truth is, there's no quick fix. But one thing is for sure: This country cares enough about soccer to be really angry right now. That's a start.

MCT with Washington Post

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