It will take a renewed emphasis on youth soccer in this country — the 17-21-year-olds, from development leagues to MLS — and increased workloads in order to prepare an American squad that can truly complete in future World Cups, according to coach Jürgen Klinsmann.
Making the Round of 16 is the best showing for an American team, but that’s not enough for most U.S. fans. Right now the American squads are known for featuring lots of grinders and no legitimate sharpshooting superstars. (Kinda like where U.S. hockey was 25 years ago.) You need grinders, but you also need high-level talent. And for Klinsmann, that means upping the level of competition. He wrote the following on Facebook:
We get benchmarked at the World Cup and there is definitely stuff we have to improve and get better in. It’s many things off the field and many things on the field. Playing at that kind of a tempo, at that kind of a rhythm every four days – this has to become the norm. So our job as coaches is how can we make it clear that in order to get further and further we need to add the work load, we need to add the competition level, we need to make them understand what recovery time means, what their life off the field plays a role in many things you can achieve in your career.
We have to continue to communicate that, to show them and especially start to implement that with our Under-17, Under-18, Under-20, Under-21, which will be the future Olympic team because that’s the next Generation that’s going to break in. The more we get that message to those kids, the more we will benefit a couple of years from now. When you go out in the Round of 16, clearly it gives you the message you have a lot of work still ahead of you.
Increasing the work load is a major concern: Playing three-six matches a month (as USL Pro teams do) or five-six matches a month (as is the case in MLS) isn’t enough. It may mean extending the MLS season to 10 months. It could mean more games in leagues, it could mean more friendlies outside leagues.
The message from Klinsmann is really simple: More soccer, more soccer, more soccer.