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Far-Fetched Friday: U.S. Soccer Golden Generation to Emulate Belgium
The success, or rather lack thereof, of the United States Men's National Soccer team, has been a sour point for years, especially when the women's national soccer team dominates their side of things. Well, as we all know, that sourness hit a high note when the team failed to qualify for the 2018 world cup. That was then, and this is now. What we have now is a national team on the cusp of a "golden generation" that could change the script for the next decade.
Welcome back to Far-Fetched Friday, where every Friday we give you a bold prediction that we believe will come to fruition. This Friday we look at the potential of the U.S. Mens Soccer Team.
I reference the Belgium national team because they are an example of a golden generation that actually panned out.
In 2009, the Belgium National Team was ranked 66th in the world. Just six years later, in 2015, they had pushed all the way to first. And today, they have held the number 1 position for two years straight since September of 2018.
They reached the Quarter Finals of the World Cup in 2014 after missing the previous two world cups, then followed that up with a third-place finish at the 2018 World Cup, the best in their history.
Then you look at the country's international records. Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard are their top two scorers of all time, and both are a vital part of this golden generation. Before them, Belgium's record scorer was Bernard Voorhoof, a man who last played for Belgium in 1940.
Take a look at the Belgium record for appearances, and 8 of the top 10 are a part of this golden generation. Before them, the record-holder was Jan Caulemans, who last played a game in 1991.
It is well documented how a change in youth soccer structure in Belgium led to their success and powered a nation of just 11 million to international dominance. And we've written about what needs to change for the U.S. structure.
But for now, the United States is showing promising signs of a new era of National Team success. For the first time in the country's history, it boasts a national pool of players competing for the best team in club soccer.
Even more impressive is the fact that these players are all very young with bright futures. This is my unofficial ranking of the country's best 11 players.
1. Christian Pulisic, 22, Chelsea
2. Weston McKennie, 22, Juventus
3. Giovanni Reyna, 17, Borrusia Dortmund
4. Sergino Dest, 19, Barcelona
5. Tyler Adams, 21, RB Leipzig
6. Brenden Aaronson, 19, RB Salzburg
7. Josh Sargent, 20, Werder Bremen
8. Zack Steffen, 25, Manchester City/Fortuna Dusseldorf(loan)
9. Timothy Weah, 20, Lille
10. Chris Richards, 20, Bayern Munich
11. Taylor Booth, 20, Bayern Munich
Only one of those players in Zack Steffen is older than 22. And Giovanni Reyna, only 17, may already be the country's third-best player.
Coaching will be vital here, and finding the right option can make or break a golden generation, as we highlighted in last week's article. Gregg Berhalter may not be the answer, but at the very least, this talent pool is deep enough to attract the kind of coach that can come in and guide the country to new heights on the men's side of the game.
Three years ago, when Christian Pulisic broke through, one of my concerns was that it was a flash in the pan, just one player the country produced that would be powerless in his attempts to change the status of the National Team. But what followed was the discovery of several American players in the U.S. and abroad with exciting potential.
Turns out Christian Pulisic was not the only, but the first in a golden generation of American soccer. This is the beginning of new heights for the United States Men's National team.
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