In many ways, 2014 is a transitional year for the United States men’s national team. For the first time since France 1998, the team will be without American icon Landon Donovan, who made his World Cup debut in 2002 but failed to make the final 23-man roster for Brazil. The team headed to South America, filled with strong central midfielders, is adapting to a a new 4-4-2 diamond formation to better suit the roster. The United States faces the Group of Death, having been drawn in a group with superpowers Germany and Portugal, and World Cup rival Ghana.
The United States advanced to the round of 16 in South Africa, meeting the expectations of a nation, but not exceeding them. With a Herculean task ahead, manager Jurgen Klinsmann made it clear that the United States is still years, and possibly generations, away from serious World Cup success. In an interview with the New York Times’ Sam Borden, Klinsmann said that “is not possible” for the Americans to win the World Cup in 2014.
Klinsmann’s willingness to part with a legend like Donovan sends a clear message, though: This is his team, and he’s focused on the future, not the present. Seven of the United States’ 23 players heading to Brazil are under the age of 25, and only six outfield players are over the age of 30. Klinsmann noted that most pro sports franchises tend to rely upon established stars, many of whom have reached their peak and have no room for growth. With the national team, he’s doing the opposite.
“Kobe Bryant, for example — why does he get a two-year contract extension for $50 million? Because of what he is going to do in the next two years for the Lakers? Of course not. Of course not. He gets it because of what he has done before. It makes no sense. Why do you pay for what has already happened?”
You can read the entire interview at the New York Times.