The 18-24 month campaign to qualify for the FIFA World Cup finals reveals to the world what a national soccer team is made of.
Major international tournaments like the World Cup can show where a team stands (in relation to its competition) at a given moment in time, but we learn the fundamental lessons about a team from the long road to qualification.
The United States Men’s National Soccer Team qualified for the 2014 World Cup on Tuesday, courtesy of a 2-0 victory against Mexico and Honduras’ draw against Panama. Reaching the World Cup is no longer a notable achievement for the U.S., as 2014 will be the Americans’ seventh-straight appearance in the showcase event. At this point in its history as a soccer nation, it would take a calamity of unspeakable proportions for the U.S. to fail qualify.
While qualifying doesn’t, in itself, represent a major change in U.S. soccer’s place in the world, the manner in which it qualified is a telling sign of progress. Under head coach Jurgen Klins...