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U.S. national team sets new record after eight straight wins, but what does it really mean?

Jul 17, 2013, 9:45 AM EDT

United States v Costa Rica - 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup Getty Images

Jurgen Klinsmann’s record-breaking side are on a roll.

But in the grand scheme of things, are people getting too excited about wins against minnows Belize, Cuba and Jamaica?

Some may argue you can only beat what’s put in front of you, and that’s true.

But it seems as if every four years or so, this same debate crops up as to how good the USA really are.

Simply put, we all know and acknowledge that the CONCACAF region is severely lagging behind in quality when you look at the likes of UEFA and CONMEBOL.

There’s no shame in admitting that. But it does provide the U.S. with a huge shock every time they reach the World Cup and come up against the world’s elite.

However Klinsmann’s tactic of playing top European nations in friendlies may bear fruit once the U.S. reach the World Cup in Brazil — come on, you’ve already booked your tickets and time off work next June, haven’t you? — next summer, and the fact that we’re already talking about the USMNT’s presence in that competition is a problem.

(MORE: United States nicks Costa Rica on a late goal)

Hexagonal qualifying is what it is. Every time the U.S. compete in it, they suffer one bad loss or tie and blame it on the conditions and environment in a Caribbean or Central American nation. The rest of qualifying, especially the home games, are a piece of cake.

But this is where the current Gold Cup success comes into play. After three wins from three, the USA are clear favorites to win it.

The pressure and winning mentality placed on the shoulders of players who aren’t guaranteed a spot on the World Cup roster is making everyone get better. Fast. Guys like Chris Wondolowski, Kyle Beckerman and Joe Corona don’t want to watch the World Cup from their armchair. They are desperate to be there.

As Steve Davis pointed out in the things we learned from last night’s win over Costa Rica, time is running out for some national team players who are making desperate attempts to impress Klinsmann.

In turn, Nats regulars like Michael Bradley, Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey are seeing the desire of their teammates to win the Gold Cup this summer and that’s has to be lighting a fire in their belly. Competition for places has never been greater in the U.S. national team. I truly believe that. There’s a solid pool of 35 players who are up to the task of competing for minutes at the World Cup.

That is the real reason why they’ve won eight games in a row. You can point to some shaky displays here and there but they’re getting it done with so many different players and you can’t fault their effort and commitment, as they clamber to make sure they stay in Klinsi’s plans for Brazil 2014.

They’re hungry to succeed and don’t want to be the group of players who lose and are left out of the 23-man squad heading to South America.

Breaking a record is great. Eight straight wins for the first time in U.S. national team history is an amazing achievement.

But I’m extremely confident it’s only the start. And until CONCACAF catches up with the USA, expect plenty more streaks like this.

  1. jucam1 - Jul 17, 2013 at 1:01 PM

    Is it just not feasible to get the US in to CONMEMBOL for contractual reasons or timing, or is it that the US Federation wants to keep making the cup every 4 years so they play the softest qualifying region in The world?…

    The article makes a good point, the US will never compete for the cup until it finds a way to qualify and compete against real competition and these weak teams they have to play are just not helping…. Mexico is the perfect example the US doesn’t want to follow…. Mexico have never even been close to winning a cup even though they’ve qualified for almost every cup, they play crappy competition to get there and are out classed when they play European or South American teams that had to fight some great teams in their region just to get there

    • bakaduin - Jul 17, 2013 at 2:00 PM

      It really depends what way you look at it. It is a chicken and the egg type argument. Are team’s like Mexico faltering in the World Cup because they play poor competition to qualify or are they faltering because they aren’t good enough but the weak competition makes them look good? To me it is the latter. A stellar team is going to be good whether the feast on poor competition or play the best. It may make little differences but not huge ones. It is the quality of the individual players that make the difference and Mexico/US don’t have players to compete with Brazil/Spain/Italy/Germany at the top level.

    • talgrath - Jul 17, 2013 at 4:37 PM

      It is not feasible for the US to be added to to COMMEMBOL for qualifying, if we even wanted that. While FIFA is willing to let regional competitions invite who they like, for the World Cup they stick fairly closely to keeping teams playing against nations in their region. The one exception is Australia, they play in the Asian region rather than in Oceania, which is closer to them geographically.

      • aborsay - Jul 18, 2013 at 6:40 AM

        and Isreal and Turkey both part of the UEFA even despite the majority of the country being in the Middle East (Asia).

        Suriname, Guiana, and Guyana in South America with Suriname and Guyana part of CONCACAF for friendly competitions and world cup qualifiers and Guiana part of CONCACAF for none world cup games and considered a province of France and part of the EU can only have players from Guiana playing on the French team.

        Also countries that cause slight confusion in soccer organization is Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan all which are sort of both in Europe and Asia pending on how some looks at it but are part of UEFA. Most of the Russian land is considered Europe however most of the Russian population is on the European side. And also the island of Cyprus which while located close to Lebanon, Syria and Turkey shores is European not Middle Eastern.

        Thus there are more exceptions then just Australia.

  2. jucam1 - Jul 17, 2013 at 2:50 PM

    That is a great point Bakaduin, and frankly that leads to the larger point. The US will never get in the level with Spain, Germany, Holland, Brasil, Argentina, Colombia, etc if they continue generation after generation to play the Cubas of the world on a regular basis. Good teams are Good teams no matter what, as you mention astutely. However those good teams became good back in the day because they focused on creating, nurturing, and testing their young players against the best in their region and then the world and made sure they were in qualifiers and competitions that taught their players what it takes to be the best. The US can’t develop that talent and strategy long term if they have to play Belize every qualifier season and in friendlies…. I know a move to Conmembol would mean not qualifying for about 3-4 cups, but in 20 years or so that generation would be raised as true potential contenders, playing real contenders to qualify and that are fit to play the big boys globally and take their team to a cup…. If the US keeps the path they are in, tell me how are they ever going to be taken seriously and really compete?…. Just hope to see this team become a global power some day

  3. hildezero - Jul 17, 2013 at 2:51 PM

    ESPN sent me here…

  4. godsholytrousers - Jul 17, 2013 at 3:53 PM

    I think the article is leading us in the wrong direction. Bakaduin makes the most important point. It is the quality of the individual players that make the difference. The key to the future development of the National Team is not retarded by playing Cuba if the friendlies are balanced out playing Italy, Germany, France and Belgium. That is what Klinsmann is doing. The real drag on development is not CONCACAF, that is a blessing, we will qualify for every World Cup, we just will. The real drag on development is the MLS, or I should say the continuing development of the MLS. The key to our future development is directly tied to the continued development of a Professional Class of homegrown players. The Developmental Academies directly linked to TRUE Professional teams is where those players learn to be soccer professionals. We have developed a few new faces in MLS that are directly contributing to the success of the National Team. Landon Donovan, Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman, Graham Zusi, Omar Gonzales, Matt Besler, Chris Wondolowski, are current MLS professional stars. The next generation of McBean, Neagle, Sean Johnson, Bill Hamid, Jack McInerny and others is just now reaching the stage of development needed to be productive.

    • charliej11 - Jul 17, 2013 at 4:06 PM

      MLS is dragging the development. Very close to NONE of those guys are where they are if we don’t have MLS.

      I realize you are probably one of the dreamers….if only our league looked like Englands…but the Sounders tried that, it didn’t work, even in Seattle. A strong domestic league causing soccer to be mainstream is the real story. JK is just reaping the glory.

  5. charliej11 - Jul 17, 2013 at 4:01 PM

    Glad guys are using Mexico as an example. They make the final 16 more than only the elite of the elite. US would love to get there and so would England and other second level teams that are not going to win it all.

    I picked a random group in EUFA Group D. For Group of Death.

    Only I found Andorra and Estonia. Guessing no one in the HEX is that weak. Mexico is tougher than all but the Netherlands. So where does that leave Costa Rica and Honduras versus Romania, Turkey and Hungary. I guess they are behind, but less than the American haters believe.

    So in the end, I am saying the US group is easy enough to get through, but a big part of that is because they are a 50/50 shot of getting to the final 16 type of team.

  6. talgrath - Jul 17, 2013 at 4:48 PM

    8 wins in a row is good, no matter who you are playing. Take a look at Germany’s last 8 national games, for example. http://www.soccermanager.com/association.php?action=schedule&assid=2917 Even mighty Germany has lost 2 of their last 8 games; their two losses were to Ireland and Macedonia, not exactly powerhouses of soccer prowess. Even the best football teams get overconfident, cocky or just have a bad day and lose or tie; so 8 wins in a row for the USMNT is damn impressive in my opinion.

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