Soccer in the States: My last ditch pitch for you to watch the USMNT

Wow, we’ve made it to the finale. It feels like just yesterday I was previewing the United States Men’s National Team’s chances of winning its first match in World Cup Qualifying. Now, I write this knowing for certain that the U.S. is back in the biggest sporting competition on planet Earth. Feels good, doesn’t it? 

If you’ve read this column in any capacity, you would know that my passion for our nation’s soccer team burns brighter than the SoCal summer sun. That being said, I sometimes forget that not everyone cares as much as I do. 

I’m not completely delusional (Hard to believe, right?). I know there are plenty of people out there who, for reasons which I will never understand, don’t find soccer entertaining enough to tune in. This is personally unacceptable — I want everyone on board for this World Cup. I want everyone to be able to experience the boundless joy that this sport and this team can provide. 

So, whether you care already or not (I know most of you don’t, it’s okay), listen up. For the grand send-off of this column, I’m going to do my best Marshall student impression and try to sell you something. By the end of this piece, you will hopefully be circling the dates the U.S. plays next on your calendars. Here’s three reasons why you need to watch the United States Men’s National Team play soccer, in the upcoming World Cup and beyond. 

This group of players represents us better than ever 

Soccer in the U.S. has long been justly criticized for its classist barriers and a lack of diversity. To play at the highest level, families are often dishing out significant amounts of money for their children to play in developmental academies across the country; the average family will pay $1,472 for their child to play one year of club soccer. 

I’m going to keep it real: There’s still much work to be done in increasing diversity. Nonetheless, the push to make soccer inclusive for all in this country is slowly but surely working, and there’s no better support for that statement than this current USMNT team’s roster. 

Today’s teams are far more diverse than the rosters of past decades. Of the 38 players that were selected to the U.S. roster during this World Cup Qualifying cycle, over half were people of color. 

There’s something so special about the fact that, for more and more Americans, they can look to at least one player on this roster and say, “Hey, this guy looks like me.” It makes it easy to root for them. This team truly represents a key factor in what makes the U.S. so great — its diversity. 

The on-field product is getting better and more dramatic

I know, it’s a bold statement to make, especially with all of the shit-talking I’ve done on the squad throughout the qualifying cycle. 

But I really do mean it. The individual and group quality of this side, on its day, is as high as it has ever been. More and more players are choosing to play their club soccer in European leagues with higher levels of competition. The ceiling for this team is higher than cannabis enthusiasts were yesterday, and the U.S. has a chance to be giant-slayers at the World Cup.

The problem arises when you talk about the team’s floor. It’s uncomfortably low, as the U.S. has a tendency to play down to the level of inferior competition. 

But, let me spin this negative take in a way you may not expect: You’re going to love the drama. And when I say drama, I mean “The Bachelor/Bachelorette” level drama. The frantic and unpredictable nature of this squad makes it a prime source of entertainment. You’ll fall in love with some players and learn to hate some others, like we all do with reality TV stars. 

For all the predictions that experts are making, no one really knows how the team will look come November. The USMNT is a rollercoaster of highs and lows, and we all love theme parks, don’t we?

The situation could not be more perfect 

The U.S. faces England in the World Cup Nov. 25 — the day after Thanksgiving. The motherland versus the revolutionaries. If that doesn’t get you hyped up, what will? 

It’s not a hard sell. Rivals since 1776, the U.S. and England will meet each other in the group stage of the World Cup. This will be the most watched soccer match in the history of American viewership, mark my words. 

The match will be an absolute peak moment of sports shenanigans and nationalistic rivalry. Who doesn’t want to beat the Brits for all of that “taxation without representation” that went down? It’s rare that we get the opportunity to witness a highly consequential matchup with this much historical and global importance. It’s “football” versus “soccer” for all the marbles. You can’t miss it.  

That’ll do it for “Soccer in the States” this school year. This column has been a therapeutic experience for me — consolidating my many feelings, always erratic and fiery, into writing is incredibly rewarding. Thank you for joining me on this journey, and I’ll see you in Qatar. 

Adam Jasper is a sophomore providing updates on the U.S. Men’s National Team and its road to qualifying for the World Cup as well as general soccer news. He is also a sports editor at the Daily Trojan. His column “Soccer in the States,” runs every other Thursday.