GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – It was a major blow to soccer fans when the U.S. men’s team lost the chance to be in the World Cup after losing to Trinidad and Tobago Tuesday night.
The huge loss stinging deep for soccer fans. It's the first time since 1986 the national men's team failed to qualify.
“I think the biggest loss is to the soccer community,” says Louis Robinson, Head Coach for Grand Rapids Football Club. “Like here in West Michigan, the kids that watch the U.S. and get behind them aren’t going to be able to do that next year and that’s a killer.”
Robinson says soccer in America is making great strides at getting better, but the U.S. loss is upsetting for all looking forward to watching them in the World Cup.
To get to the World Cup next time, Coach Robinson says changes need to be made at the college level in the U.S.
“The big thing we struggle with here is the college system, for that elite 1% that can play. At 18-years-old they go and play in college for 3 months out of the year, instead of going and playing with a professional team for 12 months out of the year.” Says Robinson.
And with soccer popular in West Michigan, local businesses say not being in the tournament may affect their profits.
“Let’s say the U.S. has 3 matches and goes out; that’s roughly $3,000 dollars per bar per match,” says Eric Albertson, owner of SpeakEZ Lounge. “So, 30 bars in the West Michigan area that’s $270,000. That’s a conservative estimate. I would guess it’s actually $400 or $500-thousand just in West Michigan for an economic impact.”
“It’s really unfortunate the U.S. didn’t qualify because some of the casuals who usually come in during World Cup, you know that’s the gateway drug to get them into GRFC or the Premiere League,” Albertson says.
The men’s team can score a chance to play in the next World Cup, but that won’t be until 2022.