It’s far off in the future but it will be here in a developmental instant. Although the World Cup of 2026 is almost a decade away, the present is the only place where we can impact the future. Recognizing that Christian Pulisic and Tyler Adams may be the “veterans” of that team gives the extremely realistic picture that while our future could be bright, it is in our best interest to make it brighter. The loftier heights of the sport world are not reached by the individual but rather by a cultural movement that serves as a base to raise the many. So the US soccer world needs to realize that it’s chess, not kick ball.
The reason is that our soccer culture has gotten extremely effective at creating only pawns. Christian Pulisic is an anomaly as an American player because of his versatility and vision. Generally speaking the youth systems of the country are extremely effective at creating players who can make the next pass and not much else. A slightly dumbed down version of the beautiful game where creativity is superseded by practicality. Although pawns are necessary in the game of chess, they are unable to win the game on their own. The major pieces, like rooks and queens, give the best possibility for victory because they are dynamic and possibly game changing. Opponents must fear them because they are unpredictable. They are in the right spots because they think five moves ahead from where the play is right now. And that’s what we all need to do with the game.
The recognition that right now is not the goal. The goal looms in front of us in the distance but we can’t reach it playing kick ball. We need to be playing chess, developing rooks, queens, bishops and even knights. Seeing a path that leads to eventual checkmate will only come if we are developing enough quality pieces, not pawns for our small game.