Let’s talk about that looming Oct. 10 date, the one of such super-duper importance in our part of the soccer world. And then let’s hack away at some conventional wisdom that needs taming – a false narrative has spilled out, and it needs cleaning up.
The match is United States versus Mexico inside Pasadena’s historic Rose Bowl. Preliminary rosters came out Monday, so things are starting to bubble already. We know the match will generate tremendous interest. These are bitter border rivals, and for the good, sweet, clean U.S. soccer supporter, any chance for another bite off the juicy dos a cero apple is mouthwatering stuff.
We also know about the spoils, the Confederations Cup berth at stake. A victory certainly gives U.S. fans something to anticipate in 2017, 12 months before a Russian World Cup.
But it’s that weighty competitive advantage of mere Confeds Cup participation that really stands out, right? Because ticket punchers reap huge rewards just for showing up, right? Ah, the ability dip toes into local waters in 2017, an early round of Russian inspection before stuff gets real at World Cup 2018.
Yes, the edge is massive for teams that can visit and play in a competitive (ahem) tournament a year before the big show, right? Coaches, players and officials gain tremendously from checking out the scene a year early. Presumably, they are carefully identifying the best places to bunk and train, testing the local water for mineral count, taking temperatures of stadium soil and sourcing local farms for grass fed beef.
Coaches tell us all the time that “the game is about players.” But, c’mon! We know better. Identifying the optimum bus route into the stadium a year out … that’s got to be worth at least one goal, right?
Yes, we know the Confederations Cup is critical stuff. We know so because … well … because the teams trying to get there tell us so!
Only, it’s not so. A growing sample of evidence simply doesn’t support the claim.
Again, I would personally love to see the United States go to the Confederations Cup. Simply put, it will make the summer of 2017 a lot more interesting. For any nation, given the choice of going or not going, I’m pretty sure most would stand up and proclaim, “Yeah, we’re in!”