Project 2010, according to Wikipedia, is a blueprint that US Soccer created to develop talent strong enough to win the World Cup in 2010. When it was created in 1998, it seemed maybe a little bit reaching, but safe for being a long way off. Well, World Cup 2010 is happening as I write this, and USA’s first round matches are over.
USA won their group, topping powerhouse (though perennial underperformer) England through the tiebreaker of goals scored. This completely goes against recent history (USA are usually outscored or are fortunate to tie, the big wins in World Cup play were 1-0 against Portugal and 2-0 against Mexico, both in 2002. Someone feel free to jog my memory if there were any others.) Psychologically, the US team has already surpassed the performance of 2002, though I remember it well enough that I think that assessment needs to wait until after Saturday.
Most of the players that got earmarked in Project 2010 are not on the current US team; like most talent development projects, a majority of the picks go by the wayside, and though many of the players on the team have passed through MLS (the US league) as they have developed, most are under contract to teams based in Europe. This is simultaneously good and bad- bad that a US league can’t afford to hold onto talent but good that it develops talent adequate for the world’s strongest professional leagues.
Critics will suggest that Europe’s power is waning due to France’s poor performance (no wins, no points) and England’s bad play against USA (though I personally discount England and Spain for having the “chokers” reputation) and while I think that the shift to powerful league and extended UEFA Champion’s League play have led to the European season being way too long (and tiring,) I also think it has created a prima donna complex among players that will not want to play a different role on a strange team simply for their country’s honor. Anelka will not be named to prote– er, nevermind. USA’s talent has gotten better while Europe has eroded a little. South America, however, remains strong and in time we may see evidence that they are much stronger!
If the US must play a side like Argentina or Brazil, the past four years suggest there will be trouble. USA did not do well as invitees in Copa America a couple years ago, and Brazil defeated them to make them runners up for the Confederations Cup, however, I think the past two weeks have shown that the US will have a very good knockout stage this time around, and will continue to surprise people that haven’t quite figured out that the current US team has in fact equalled itself to typical European talent.
I’m not surprised anymore, and won’t be totally surprised unless USA makes semi-finals. According to Project 2010, this is the year that USA contends for the World Cup, and has the available potential to win it, and I believe in Project 2010.
See you next time.