Today, US Soccer announced that manager Jürgen Klinsmann agreed to a four-year contract extension today. The deal, which keeps Klinsmann as manager through the 2018 World Cup in Russia, is abigdeal, because the extension signifies two things. First, of course, is that it means Klinsmann's been absolutely killing it since taking the program over two and a half years ago. And second, it means that the USMNT might completely tank next year at the 2014 Brazil World Cup, and that it doesn't matter at all.
We think this is awesome. The United States have suffered some growing pains under the German, but once everyone fell in line, Klinsmann completely changed the culture of the national team. He changed how they play. He changed who they recruit. And by any measure, the American soccer has thrived and grown under his watch. He boasts a record of 27-10-7 with the squad, and FIFA currently ranks the once irrelevant USMNT 14th in the world. (And remember when we thought the Americans had a chance at being a top seed in the 2014 World Cup? Wild.)
Just this year, the USMNT went on a 12-match win streak that included friendly wins against Germany and Bosnia, Gold Cup triumphs against every CONCACAF side that lined up to get beat down, and most importantly, nine points on the trot in the final round of World Cup qualifying. So in addition to an extension, Klinsmann was also given the role of technical director, which will give him more control over youth development as well as the senior side.
What makes this deal notable is that the World Cup is still seven months away. When the United States get there, they're probably going to have a really rough time of it. They were drawn with Ghana, Portugal, and Germany, three teams that each have the ability to beat the Americans. It's an intensely difficult group for the USMNT to navigate, and they're not expected to. They might fuck around and lose all three.
But what the deal illuminates is that to US Soccer president Sunil Gulati, it doesn't matter how the United States fare in the next World Cup. Klinsmann is leading this team, this program, through a renaissance period. The contract extension in good faith shows that though there have been rocky times, and though more will probably lie ahead, the Americans under Klinsmann are moving toward international relevance. What's more, Klinsmann will be trusted to finish the job.
Although there's a fear of a second-cycle slump, as under Bob Bradley and Bruce Arena before Klinsmann, the German's impact goes beyond wins and losses on the pitch. The USMNT is evolving right now, and though they've made huge leaps in quality and sustainability over the past two and a half years, we're still far from a final product. It's wise to give Klinsmann an extension now, then, because nothing the Americans do in Brazil next summer will change either fact.
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