U.S. Soccer is discussing the possibility of playing summer games against other national teams that failed to qualify for the World Cup, a source confirmed to Yahoo Sports on Tuesday.
Whether those games would take the form of a tournament or simply a structured series of friendlies is unknown. The source stressed that the talks are in the very early stages.
The Washington Post’s Steven Goff was first to report that U.S. Soccer and Soccer United Marketing, MLS’s marketing arm, were looking into the possibility.
The games would presumably be played in the period before the World Cup. Between mid-May and mid-June, many national teams – both those that have qualified for the World Cup and those that haven’t – play multiple friendlies. Even in the absence of an organized competition, the U.S. would likely be among them.
Any tournament in that time period would simply replace those friendlies. It likely wouldn’t be an official, FIFA-governed competition, but it wouldn’t have to be. The U.S. Soccer Federation and SUM could work with the federations of Italy, Chile, the Netherlands, Ghana, and other World Cup absentees to organize the games.
As Italy slumped to World Cup elimination on Monday, many American fans tossed around the idea of a “World Cup NIT.” We even wrote about it, and proposed a hypothetical, unlikely-to-actually-happen 16-team tournament that mirrored college basketball’s second-tier end-of-season event.
Something of that scale likely isn’t feasible, unless it were a four-round, knockout-style tournament. But with an eight-team field? Or even just a four- or five-team round robin? That could potentially work.
The idea isn’t necessarily a home run. Many American fans have balked at it in the wake of speculation, and now reports. Some are furious that U.S. Soccer would even consider it. But it’s a relatively harmless possibility. It wouldn’t be any less useful than friendlies against World Cup-bound foes. A structured competition might even make the friendlies more valuable. It’d make more money, too. And hey, it might actually be fun.
On top of the aforementioned teams, Cameroon, the Ivory Coast, Wales, Paraguay, Ireland and other semi-notable names will not be in Russia next summer. But a tournament involving the U.S., Italy, Chile, the Netherlands and Ghana would be the most marketable.
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Henry Bushnell covers soccer – the U.S. national teams, the Premier League, and much, much more – for FC Yahoo and Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.