When qualifying is over in Europe, be it for a World Cup or a European Championship, I'm always left with a bit of dismay.
I wonder if USMNT fans realize how lucky they are that their team is in CONCACAF.
England, with all the talent and resources imaginable available, cannot qualify for a major tournament. But the US is virtually guaranteed of qualifying for each and every World Cup. With the gap between the US, Mexico and the rest of CONCACAF, to me it is unimaginable that the US would ever miss out on qualifying for a World Cup.
England enjoys no such luxury. Like all other European nations, England must contend with a very strong field just to get to a major tournament. In Europe, it happens all the time. England did not qualify for Euro 2008. Ukraine, quarterfinalists in the 2006 World Cup, are out. Ireland, Denmark, Norway, each of whom has had success in recent World Cups and have plenty of talented players, can't get a sniff of this tournament either.
I've touched on this topic before but with the field for Euro 2008 finalized today, I feel for those fans from countries who do not qualify consistently for important tournaments. I guess they're geographically challenged. The US is not in the same position as Norway or Denmark or Ireland or any of those fringe European nations because of where the States lie on the globe.
Now, US coaches and players always talk about how difficult qualifying is and how each and every game is important. Well, the only nation who should even come close to beating the US on American soil is Mexico, and look at how good its gone for El Tri this decade. Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Jamaica, Trinidad, none of those teams should ever pose a challenge to the US. Costa Rica has the talent to play better but they can't ever score against the US here for some reason. Let's see, off the top of my head there was the 3-0 game in Utah in 05, the 1-0 game in KC in 01 and the 1-0 game in Portland in 97. So a 5-0 record in the hexagonal gives the US 15 points. One road win and one road draw mixed in should be sufficient to see the US through. That's not exactly a Herculean task.
Anyway, this isn't meant as a bash of the US. It's to their credit that they've achieved such lofty status in a short amount of time. Just think, in 1986 Canada qualified for the World Cup while the United States did not. When will that ever happen again? As far as I see it, the US and Mexico are shoo-ins for each and every World Cup, unless CONCACAF gets stripped of all but one spot.
So while the seemingly impossible task of winning a World Cup is still out there in all USMNT fans, at least one thing is certain: their team will have a shot of that goal, however realistic or unrealistic it may be, every four years. You can take that at least that part to the bank.