Tim Howard looking at the ball in his net.
Guatemala vs USA 2:0.
World Cup Qualifiers 2016
Why Can't the USNMT Win the World Cup?
Part2 - The Disconnect
Despite the growth of men's and women's professional soccer in the United States in the last 20-30 years, the largest share in terms of participation, is boys and girls youth soccer with 3.9 million American youths (2.3 million boys and 1.6 million girls) registered with U.S. Soccer. Still, in 2012, soccer was the #4 most played team sport by high school boys, and the #3 most played team sport by high school girls.
The real disconnect however, begins at college level where soccer loses to football, basketball, swimming and other sports. The main reasons for that are the league structure and media exposure which continue to the professional level. The overall league structure in the United States is significantly different from that used in almost all the rest of the world, but similar to that used by other American team sports leagues, in that there is no system of promotion and relegation between lower and higher leagues, but rather a minor league system, and that hurts the level and improvement of soccer. In addition, teams playing in American soccer leagues are not private clubs founded independently of the league that join a league in order to ensure regular fixtures, but are instead usually franchises of the league itself. Finally, the soccer leagues in the United States also incorporate features common to other American sports leagues, most notably the determination of champions by playoffs between the top teams after the conclusion of a league season. However, excluding teams from the middle and the bottom of the table for the final portion of the competition eliminates the possibility for surprises which makes for great entertainment. If the soccer in the United States should improve and eventually reach the level of the leading leagues like the Premier League in England, La Liga in Spain and the Bundesliga in Germany it should closely emulate those leagues.
When it comes to media coverage and money in the sport the U.S. is still light years behind Europe. Despite television coverage and viewership of club and international soccer being at an all-time high with mainstream sports networks and several networks devoted mostly or completely to the sport, the size of the annual TV market in the U.S. for annual club soccer competitions is under $200 million, while for the Premier League it is over $2 billion. Player salary and total earnings between those playing in Europe and here in the U.S. is over 5 times more in favor of European players. With these stats it is no wonder that the talent will focus there which diminishes the quality of the leagues here.
In conclusion it is my belief that just like other countries are trying to understand and learn what makes our basketball players, our gymnasts, our swimmers, etc. so good we can do the same when it comes to soccer. Things seem to be working well in the Premier League, in the Bundesliga, in La Liga, so all we have to do is bring their competition structure, their ideas here, and when we reach their level eventually and we will, then we can begin to lead, then we can become world champs. It is only a matter of time for the U.S. to conquer the World Championship and we can shorten that time if learn faster from the current leaders.
The 4 Fs
We have heard about the 5 Ws (who, what, where, when, why). Now, behold the simplest of all concepts - the 4 Fs describing what I call successful contemporary soccer.
The 4 Fs is a simple theoretically concept and it stands for Fluid Front, Formed Fallback. In practice, however, only a handful of teams in the world have done it and not all the time.
But what does this Fluid Front, Formed Fallback mean anyway? Well in line with the understanding that there is no bad defense but only better opposing offense the fluid front is supposed to present unexpected changes in the "landscape" of attacking players who eventually destabilize the defense and create holes in it to be exploited. This as noted before is easier said than done. Such type of play cannot be orchestrated or practiced. Accomplishing this requires quality players working on instinct with great mutual understanding. Players with confidence above coach or club. A good example from the current soccer world is FC Barcelona where the likes of Messi, Suarez and Neymar are so fluid at the top that it becomes almost impossible for any defense to keep up marking them.
Another example, for those who remember, was the Bulgarian National Team at the 1994 World Cup with unfortunately for them a single feat that took them all the way to the semifinals. Their fluid and unpredictable attack conquered defenses of giants like Argentina and Germany.
So what is the Formed Fallback? Well, while fluidity and unpredictability is what makes the offense successful, the defense needs structure. The team needs to fallback in a formation closing spaces and at the same time exerting pressure anywhere the ball is. This means the formation must adjust constantly and fast or else it will become what many would call "bad defense". Here a good example of a successful formed fallback without a doubt is the German National Team at the most recent World Cup. Very quick and organized defensively, it proved critical in their win of the tournament.
Agree or disagree, point out the weaknesses if you see any.