There is plenty of blame to go around, including to a phantom goal that helped Panama jump the Americans in the standings, but the brunt of it should and will be placed on the players and coaches that underperformed for the better part of a year of CONCACAF qualifying play.
The loss is devastating to the United States and the entirety of its men’s soccer program, which had not missed a World Cup since 1986. But chances are there are some executives at Fox who are just as upset with the result as Bruce Arena and his players.
In order to win a bidding war with ESPN, Fox agreed to pay $US400 million for the English-broadcast rights to the World Cup in 2018 and 2022. With the Americans eliminated from 2018 contention, chances are those broadcasts are significantly less valuable than previously imagined.
In year’s past, Fox would have gotten the chance to broadcast three group stage games for the U.S. side, as well as the possibility of an extra game or two or more should the Americans make a run into the knockout round. Instead, Fox will have to dig a bit deeper to find compelling storylines for American fans to root for in the biggest tournament in the world.
While there will still be plenty of interest in Russia 2018, it’s no doubt disappointing to both American soccer fans and Fox that the United States will not be a part of the competition. USMNT supporters had hoped that this World Cup would be a swan song for some of the stars that had brought so them much joy, including Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, and Tim Howard. It was also supposed to serve as a coming out party and passing of the torch for American wunderkind Christian Pulisic, who is clearly the future of the team’s success if they’re to have any.
But rather than a final goodbye to beloved superstars and a grand welcome to the future of the sport, the American men’s soccer machine will have to collect itself, lick its wounds, and figure out a way to recover from this devastating loss.
And if Fox’s initial investment is to be worth anywhere near what it had intially anticipated, it better hope that the USMNT finds away to figure itself out ahead of 2022.
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