The State of (Men’s) American Soccer

This past Tuesday, April 17th was the first leg of the final of the CONCACAF Champions League.

Did you know that? Probably not. With the NHL and NBA playoffs in full swing and baseball underway, I wouldn't expect it to be a ratings giant.

But it should at least be known to be going on. This is our continent's equivalent to the UEFA Champions League, and both FOX Sports and ESPN see fit to broadcast MLS games, so why not the games that might tell us how the MLS stacks up against the giants of Honduras, Costa Rica, and (especially) Mexico?

I don't know. I just know that ESPN, FOX Sports, NBCSN, CBS Sports Network, Bein ... they all passed on snapping up rights for the CONCACAF Champions League.

Western Europe mostly passed, as well, in contrast to the African and Asian Champions League finals.

If you wanted to watch match this in full in the U.S., it was only possible through a couple of TV Apps: Go90, which is Verizon's streaming platform, and Fubo TV, another app-based dealie.

It's a shame, because MLS seems to be improving. While MLS teams almost never beat Mexican teams in the CONCACAF Champions League, now they are doing so fairly frequently. Stars continue to come from Europe to play their twilight-but-not-too-twilight years here. American stars like Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, and Clint Dempsey continue to bolster the league.

Maybe the networks are backing off of soccer because the U.S. failed to qualify for the next World Cup 2018. If you've seen FOX Sports promos for the event, you know the angle they're going for is sort of a "be one with your ancestors" kind of thing, although that might have more pull if Italy and Ireland had qualified.

Of course, the MLS is not the only measure of the health of US men's soccer. The men's national team and the United States Soccer Federation are in a period of transition. They have a new president, Carlos Cordeiro, who was not exactly a revolutionary candidate, what with him already being the vice-president of the USSF. He comes a business rather than athletic background, for better or worse.

Job one for Cordeiro will be to hire a new men's national team coach. Then, he needs to put the U.S. in the best possible position post-2018.

The biggest way he can do that is to ensure the US's bid for the 2026 World Cup (it's actually a joint bid with Canada and Mexico) is successful. This, as far as I'm concerned, is a must.

When the United States hosted the 1994 World Cup, they did so in part by promising FIFA they would develop a domestic league. That league was the MLS. It's 22-years-old now and still expanding almost every year.

Furthermore, the U.S. Men's national team became drastically and permanently better. They qualified for five more World Cups after 1994, making the knockout stages thrice; between 1950 and 1990, they didn't qualify for any World Cups at all.

So we've seen the incredibly positive effect that hosting a World Cup has on United States soccer, and we need a reboot now. Please get it done, Mr. Cordeiro.

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