I don’t even know where to start. I’m so perplexed (and pissed off) by the decision of US Soccer to schedule two friendlies against FIFA ranked number 63 Haiti as replacement for the two friendlies scheduled against number 9 Australia, that I can’t see straight.
So a little background. The Australian women’s national team, the Matildas, decided to go on strike, or more correctly refused to work without a contract from their federation, effectively canceling their trip to the USA for friendlies on September 17th and 20th.. It’s a complicated process and The Women’s Game can explain it far better than I can, so read and listen here.
This left US Soccer with 60 thousand tickets sold and nothing for fans to watch, in the stadium or on FOX Sports 1 & ESPN. What’s a federation to do? Well if you’re USSF you start by trying to replace the missing teams with hopefully something comparable..or so you’d think. If it sounds simple, it’s not if you limit your search to other competitive national teams. Most other competitive teams are in Europe. Most European national teams have their players already involved in club play and that means all sorts of cups and tournament qualifying. Not a good time to ask them to assemble a team and hop across the pond for a game or two. So, what’s left? Not much in the way of competitive teams. The emphasis is on competitive since every single pundit on the planet who opines about the USWNT seems to agree that the team needs more competition before Olympic qualifying not just to keep sharp, but to look at new players. Although I doubt any new players will be called up for these two friendlies (I wouldn’t mind being wrong about that) I think the players need to stay sharp and the fans deserve something better than the drubbing handed to a game Costa Rican team in the first two Victory Tour games.
And that friends is how we ended up looking forward to USWNT V HAIWNT. Well, maybe you’re looking forward to it, but I certainly am not. And here’s why –
- The Haitian women’s national team is almost literally a third tier WoSo team, having played primarily in the WPSL. If you don’t know about the WPSL..Google it. They want very badly to be like the second tier of women’s soccer, the USL W-League. They aren’t anywhere near it, in standards or level of play. The HAIWNT did not qualify for world cup play. They won one game in qualifying, against Guatemala. Their mostly teenage team is anything but a competitive team for the USWNT.
- The Haitian women’s national team being chosen as an opponent is being touted as good for development of women’s soccer. If it’s in comparison to the USWNT playing no one, then I guess there’s a case. I’ve read that it’s a great opportunity for them to play against very good competition so they’ll get better. So far that has not borne out as recently as last October during world cup qualifying. Also mentioned is the money that will go to the team..to the team? Is anyone confident the team or players will see any of that money? This is the Caribbean Football Union of FIFA scandal fame. Does anyone think any money received as a result of USWNT V HAIWNT will be used for development? I’ve got some lovely swamp land for sale..hit me up. Not to mention that a strapped CFU probably won’t be footing much, if any, of the bill for these two friendlies. So USSF will probably pay most of the costs involved with assembling the team and their travel and accommodations.
- Do-gooder WoSo fans and pundits are all over spending USSF money to prop up a crooked CFU while at the same time lamenting over the seeming inability of US Soccer to increase funding to NWSL. Smacks of hypocritical to me. Very hard to eat your cake and have it, too. Or am I the one in a fairy tale? WoSo is often, and rightly so, told that it isn’t a charity and shouldn’t be treated as such, so why is it OK this one time? Is it because it’s Haiti, would we be OK if we paid Germany to come play us? If anyone says yes, they’re lying or sarcastic.
- I have no idea if this is the case or information to support this, but if the TV contracts require a national team opponent, regardless of skill level, US Soccer has gotten what it deserves..another boring blowout to ruin ratings.
- One last argument I’ve been given is that a game not against another NT team wouldn’t count as a friendly and as such caps and goals scored and other stats wouldn’t count. Is that really the most important thing to players and fans? I say it’s not.
- There is another alternative.. a good one. It’s right here on American soil, game-ready, tested, competitive and the cornerstone of development for women’s soccer in the USA. I believe they call it NWSL. This is not a far-fetched or loony proposal. It’s very sound and probably more easily doable than Haiti at the last minute.
Hear me out..well at least read what I have to say.
NWSL semi-final playoffs are being held on September 13th, this Sunday. That is 4 days from the 17th and 7 days from the 20th, the two friendly dates. If each of the eliminated teams played on one of the two friendly dates just think of the exposure for NWSL and all the good karma for US Soccer. I’m not saying there wouldn’t be logistical and contractual problems to overcome, but hey, NWSL and US Soccer live in the same house, right? Haven’t you ever worked out a living arrangement with a roommate? It could definitely be done.
There is so much upside to this match-up that I honestly cannot fathom why US Soccer or NWSL didn’t go after this as a first option. FOX is already on board with NWSL for semi’s and the final so for them to hype USWNT v NWSL is no stretch at all, it would help them sell the NWSL games they are already airing. ESPN could steal a little thunder from FOX, but they could always go the USWNT development route and not emphasize NWSL as much. The USWNT players could play with their club teams to help keep that extra step up in competition, further solidifying their ties to NWSL. The USWNT could call up players to replace them on the NT roster. Win – win- win- win- win. NWSL players would get an extra payday courtesy of US Soccer (because they would get to keep ALL the money) and please tell me any NWSL player not on the national team who wouldn’t jump at the chance to play in front of 30 thousand plus fans on national television and show off what they can do to US and international scouts. Have I gotten your interest yet? How about the fact that these very same domestic teams also have a few international players to showcase? Or that this is the cheapest national exposure to investors and sponsors US Soccer could ever expect to get for the NWSL. I’m sure there are other advantages I haven’t even thought of yet, but do you see why I’m so high on this idea and why I’m so very pissed US Soccer & NWSL can’t, or don’t want to, make it happen? I don’t have all the answers to the questions this idea is sure to raise, but USSF pays people to figure things out, surely they are smarter than I am and could pull this off. And if they aren’t and couldn’t maybe my next job application should be to US Soccer.
Please give me your feedback, pro or con on this idea. Tell me why/how it could/should happen..or not. This is a conversation that should be happening at a higher level, but I’m willing to start it here..let’s hear what you’ve got!
*As always, bring your passion, leave your disrespect at home.