New U.S. men's soccer coach Jurgen Klinsmann sat down on Sunday for his "first private interview" with SI's Grant Wahl the other day. The heavens shook. Stigmata were touched. Then Wahl began asking several of the standard questions new American soccer coaches always get asked. The most standard of them came at the end: "At what point in time will it be realistic to think the U.S. could win a World Cup?"
Klinsmann's response was a long and exceedingly diplomatic chortle:
Realistically, we need to really dig deep into the U-20 and U-17 programs. Starting with the academy topic. We need to find a way to give the 14- and 15-year-olds a path throughout the next years where they almost are daily in a competitive, positive playing environment, which is not there yet. Then you can see the talents coming through. The biggest challenge is once they are 18, 19 and getting into the MLS Draft or maybe going overseas, what can we give them on tools to break through?
I'll give you an example: As long as the MLS plays seven months a year and doesn't cover another four months with highly competitive training and games, it will be very, very difficult. Now did the MLS already come a long way? Absolutely, yes. But what are the next steps? The next steps are how can we get as close as possible to an 11-month season with MLS and an 11-month season with all the younger U-20 players? Is it a combination of club and college? A combination of full-time academy programs? All the stuff needs to be discussed. People need to sit down and hopefully get a little bit on the same page on that.
But one thing is certain: The American kids need hundreds and even thousands more hours to play. That is a really crucial thing. If it's through their club team, if it's through themselves, whatever it is. The difference between the top 10 in the world and where we are right now is the technical capabilities and the higher pace. In a high-pace, high-speed environment, to keep calm on the ball, to sharpen your minds so you know what to do with the ball before you get the ball. That's the difference right now. You might have technically gifted players here, but once you set the pace two levels higher, they lose that technical ability because they're getting out of breath or their mental thought process isn't fast enough.
You'll note that he didn't answer the question. So we'll answer it for him: Not while Klinsmann is coach.