Bruce Arena: USMNT Needs Top Competition To Reach 2026 Semi-Final
Lofty goals call for lofty changes.
Former USMNT coach Bruce Arena has offered his thoughts again on the state of the U.S. men's national team after their elimination from the World Cup in a 3-1 loss to Holland.
Arena, who embarrassingly missed the World Cup in 2018 while coaching the USMNT, writes in MLS.com that there are two important issues U.S. Soccer needs to address immediately in preparation of a home World Cup in 2026.
During the course of his article, he says the U.S. should be aiming for a semi-final. More on that in a bit.
"You’re expected to probably make the semifinals at the World Cup when you're hosting"
The first issue raised by Arena - playing more competitive matches.
There's already rumblings in U.S. soccer media about Team America not only taking part in, but even possibly hosting the 2024 Copa America.
The United States aren't members of the South American football confederation, CONMEBOL, but because CONMEBOL only has ten members, guest nations have often been invited since 1993. With four participations, the U.S. are the second-most regular invitee behind Mexico, who've appeared 10 times.
Arena may be a proponent of the Copa America idea, writing: "We need to play better teams moving forward. That will be the challenge over the next three years or so, going into North America 2026, to get our team ready for the World Cup."
The current New England Revolution coach also took a shot at CONCACAF's showing at the World Cup, saying: "Look at how CONCACAF teams performed in Qatar. They played 13 games at the World Cup and won just three – it's not even close to being good enough. Now, there’ll be opportunities with tournaments and teams are going to want to come to the U.S. anyways to prepare. It will get better, but I’ll repeat how important it is."
Worth a reminder here that the USMNT qualified 3rd in CONCACAF for the Qatar World Cup behind Mexico and Canada, tying on points with 4th place Costa Rica.
The second issue Arena brings up is the future of head coach Gregg Berhalter.
After almost every major tournament, countries take a look at who's in charge and decide what their future looks like. But Berhalter is unquestionably on the hot seat after a round of 16 exit, which extends Team USA's multi-decade long wait to make it past the quarter finals.
And while dumfounding decisions like starting Jesus Ferreira against Holland will stack against GGG, Arena says it's up to U.S. Soccer to decide if he's the guy who can ultimately take them to a semi-final on home turf.
"You have to see if Gregg Berhalter wants to stay, that's the starting point for everything. Then secondly you have to decide what your plan is at the federation level," Arena said.
"They have to decide if, in these three years or so, do you think Gregg did a good job and do you think he's the right guy to coach when we host the World Cup in 2026? Or do they think the way we're going is at the right pace? That's their decision to make. You’re expected to probably make the semifinals at the World Cup when you're hosting, whether that's realistic or not, so it’s a big decision."
Make sure to tune in to Swift Kicks' latest podcast episode this Tuesday, (Dec 6) at 7:50pm ET for our thoughts on this and the rest of the World Cup.