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There is plenty of blame to go around, including to a phantom goal that helped Panama jump the Americans in the standings, but the brunt of it should and will be placed on the players and coaches who underperformed for the better part of a year of CONCACAF qualifying play.
The loss is devastating to the US men’s soccer program, which had not missed a World Cup since 1986. But some executives at Fox Sports are surely just as upset with the result as coach Bruce Arena and his players.
To win a bidding war with ESPN, Fox agreed to pay $400 million for the English-broadcast rights to the World Cup in 2018 and 2022. With the Americans eliminated from 2018 contention, those broadcasts are most likely significantly less valuable than previously imagined.
If the US had made next year’s finals, Fox would’ve gotten the chance to broadcast three group-stage games for the US side, with the possibility of more if the Americans were able to make a run into the knockout round. Instead, Fox will have to dig a bit deeper to find compelling storylines for American fans in the biggest tournament in the world.
While there will still be plenty of interest in Russia 2018, it’s no doubt disappointing to both American soccer fans and Fox that the US will not be a part of the competition. USMNT supporters had hoped that this World Cup would be a swan song for some of the stars who had brought so them much joy, including Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, and Tim Howard. It was also supposed to serve as a coming-out party and passing of the torch for the American wunderkind Christian Pulisic, the 19-year-old who scored the Americans’ lone goal Tuesday night and who is clearly the future of the team’s success if it’s to have any.
But rather than a final goodbye to beloved superstars and a grand welcome to the future of the sport, the American men’s soccer machine will have to collect itself, lick its wounds, and figure out a way to recover.
And for Fox’s initial investment to be worth anywhere near what it had anticipated, the USMNT must find a way to figure itself out ahead of 2022.