Originally Posted by Hoosier Red
It worked, and in particular was probably necessary given who was missing, but the US is definitely going to need to produce a level of soccer above "enough to qualify at the top of CONCACAF" to acheive the goals people are starting to buy into. That's said, it's a nice progression, first it was Qualify, then it was Qualify convincingly, then it was qualify at the top of the Federation, now it's simply elevating above that which I think we'll see in the next year.
I generally agree. The next step for the U.S. really is to start winning elimination games at the World Cup. And to do that, their 2013 level of performance needs to be a springboard, not a peak.
My two caveats are that the U.S. is probably a top 10 team right now and that CONCACAF's level of play has risen along with the U.S.
As for the first part, after you get past the top six teams in the world - Spain, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Brazil and Argentina - there's a fairly big drop. France, when it has it's act together is in there. Currently it doesn't have its act together. Portugal's solid. England is chronically overrated. But if the U.S. was in Europe, it would qualify comfortably. In South America there's always a flavor of the day team (currently that's Colombia), but the U.S. is better than them.
Our national team gets downgraded in the media because we don't have a great history in the sport, our top athletes play other sports and our domestic league is still coming together. Yet we have a massive talent pool, we have players thriving in top leagues and outside of laying an egg at the 2006 World Cup, we've been on a pretty steady run since 2001. We've been good for a while.
As for CONCACAF, the fact that Mexico is on the qualifying bubble with two games to play speaks to how far this region has come. T&T boasts a fair amount of talent and it's not even in the final bracket. Jamaica's getting railroaded in the hex, but it would stand a serious chance at qualifying if it were an Asian or African nation. Costa Rica is a legit good team. Honduras is too, and Panama just went to Honduras and got itself a 2-2 draw. If CONCACAF put its top 10 teams into a qualifier like CONMEBOL, it would look a lot like CONMEBOL (two powerhouses, strong middle, generally tough contests on the road). To the credit of the rest of the continent, it has picked up its game to compete against Mexico and us. Also, and this should not be overlooked, Mexico won the Olympics. That was a big deal.