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American soccer needs changes, from players to coaches to its president

Jonathan Tannenwald, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Soccer

2. The coaches aren't good enough. Bruce Arena is the best soccer coach that America has ever produced. Bruce Arena's own decisions played a large role in the U.S. team's failure. Those facts aren't contradictory.

Arena kept the same lineup in Trinidad that beat Panama last Friday. It backfired on him. Players looked worn out. Since soccer only allows three substitutes, Arena had handcuffed himself.

He was always going to leave after the 2018 World Cup. Now he should leave sooner.

Who should replace him? That's a tricky question. Hire a big-name foreigner and you risk the same chemistry issues that exploded in Jurgen Klinsmann's face. Hire from within MLS and you risk not bringing in enough new ideas.

But there are far bigger problems to solve than just hiring one coach. There need to be better coaches -- and more coaches -- at every level of the game, from MLS to lower leagues to colleges and youth clubs.

It would help if the U.S. Soccer Federation would use more of the big-time sponsorship revenue it banks every year to make coaching courses more accessible. Licensing programs cost thousands of dollars to access.

3. A lot of other people aren't good enough. U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati has done many good things in his 11 years in the job. He increased funding for the powerhouse U.S. women's team (though more can still be done), and helped launch the National Women's Soccer League. As a member of FIFA's Executive Council, he has championed reform of global soccer's eternally corrupt governing body. Now he is leading the effort to bring the 2026 World Cup to the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

But right now, things are going sour. Next year, Gulati will be up for reelection as U.S. Soccer president. Multiple reform-minded candidates have lined to challenge him.

The American Outlaws supporters club, whose members travel all over the world to cheer for the national team at games, said in a statement Wednesday that "in no uncertain terms, the President of the United States Soccer Federation, Sunil Gulati, must go." Multiple national media outlets have also called for his dismissal.

Even one of U.S. Soccer's current board members, Clinton Foundation president Donna Shalala, took to Twitter to call for "a revolution" and "a long term plan that is smart."

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