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U.S. Missing World Cup Could Have Lasting Impact on Game in America

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DES MOINES, Iowa --The last time the U.S. didn't qualify for the World Cup Reagan was in office.

Matt Homonoff is the former GM of the Des Moines Menace and agrees there's no way to sugar coat last night's match.

“I've seen it be written just this morning that it was the most embarrassing night in this country, in this sport, ever” said Homonoff.

It's a huge setback for a game that has clawed its way to relevance in a football obsessed country.  The amount of exposure the World Cup brings every cycle has brought more and more U.S. fans to the sport.  Now that cycle is broken.

“How many kids that would have taken up the sport are not going to see their home nation play next summer? We won’t know. The cost of this is truly incalculable” said Homonoff.

Less fans and kids getting involved with the sport, along with smaller bar tabs, will be the short-term loss for the U.S.

“But the hope is in the long term that clubs and entities and custodians of the game will begin to prioritize player development over youth soccer registration revenue” said Homonoff.

The way it works in other countries is that professional teams run soccer academies. If they find a young player with talent, they'll pay for their education and living expenses to join their academy in the hope of turning them into a star.  In the U.S. often times the best rec leagues have the highest entrance fees.  Those costs make it harder for players with talent, but little socioeconomic standing.

The general feeling is that if the U.S. men want to compete they have to start running similar academy programs which could have huge impacts on rec soccer leagues all the way to college programs.

Meanwhile, grassroots U.S. soccer fan groups like the American Outlaws are taking it upon themselves to drum up interest. The Outlaws are a national group with home bars in almost every U.S. city where you can go watch games in a stadium atmosphere. Des Moines’ chapter says they want to remain active.

“Possibly still having watch parties for the world cup next year, getting people to still be involved with soccer, getting people to watch the women play” said Chapter Vice President Sean O’Hara.

The loss in Trinidad will be a black mark on U.S. soccer history, but with the country's youth national teams playing well, and a dominant women's national team fans of the sport have a silver lining.

“I think there's hope for the program but I think we have to take a look especially on the men's side” said O’Hara.

In the meantime, Homonoff suggests taking an interest in your local college team or developmental team like Drake University or the Menace. He says being exposed to the sport at any level is critical to its growth.