USA Vs. Wales (2022 World Cup Group B Opener)

The USA opens the 2022 World Cup against Wales on November 21. NBC Sports puts the USA at 20, Wales at 25. This American isn’t sure what to think about that. The USA has 340 million people, while Wales has one tenth that; on the strenght of a significantly broader talent pool alone, we should have this in the bag. On the other hand, the USMNT has been an embarrassment these past few years, and maybe the Welsh will kick our asses.

What say you, soccer/football Dopers?

What is this line supposed to mean?

Never mind, I get it: seeds in the Chamionship.

Never underestimate a UK team. My money would be on Wales, although it may be close.

Population size has little to do with it. India and China have the world’s largest populations and absolutely suck at soccer. The United States has very frequently lost to much-smaller-populations in the past (ie Ghana.) Croatia (4 million population) went all the way to the World Cup final last time while the United States didn’t even qualify for the tournament itself.

First, I meant to say one hundredth, not one tenth. And yes, China and India do suck at soccer, but there’s no soccer culture there, either. The USA has a soccer culture. Sure, it’s not the biggest sport here, but it’s no longer an afterthought like rugby or netball, either.

This. Yes, the U.S. likely has a large number of athletically-gifted people, who could be excellent soccer players, simply due to its large population and wealth (which could help in training players).

However, there are a ton of other sports options available to young people in the U.S., many of which are more popular, culturally, here than soccer is. In a lot of the world, soccer is, by far, the most popular sport, and more of a part of the national fabric than it is here.

While participation in youth soccer in the U.S. has been pretty strong for decades, this cite indicates that it’s actually been declining in recent years. My suspicion is that a lot of American kids play soccer when they’re young (i.e., pre-teens), but when they get a little older, if they are interested in continuing to participate in organized sports, many of them are moving to other sports (e.g., basketball, football, hockey, baseball, etc.)

In other words, I suspect that a lot of American kids who have the talent and potential to excel in soccer (and, thus, potentially, play on the USMNT) stop playing competitive soccer at some point well before their teen years.

This is the most talented generation of players the U.S. has had since the Donovan era. Probably better. Berhalter doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence though.

The ceiling of this group is much higher than we’ve ever had, but I think I’d take the 2002 or 2010 squads against this one at that stage of their careers.

This group has a clear #1 in England and 3 roughly equal teams in the US, Wales, and Iran. The most likely way to advances is 2 wins against Wales and Iran. A win and a draw + GD being second most likely. After that you need a result against England, which isn’t impossible, but I wouldn’t want to rely on it.

I’m kinda expecting 1-2 points total and going home after the 3 matches, but looking forward to this none-the-less.

About the macro-point about population: of course it matters. Everything else being equal a country with a greater population will generally field a better team. That’s a big reason why you haven’t had a small country win since… 1950? No, the US doesn’t completely lack a soccer culture like India, but it doesn’t have a soccer culture like Argentina either. Being roughly on par with a small country with a better culture makes perfect sense, depending on how much smaller and how much better a culture.

I don’t know anything about the Iranian squad other than they have a very hot striker and they’ll be one of the oldest teams at the WC.

Wales has two pretty dynamic players in Bale and Aaron Ramsay but both are a little past their sell by dates. They’re liable to field a couple of guys who play in the Championship and they’ve struggled to find quality central defenders, sometimes resorting to playing a single CB between two fullbacks (and Ben Davies of Tottenham is a tough and experienced LFB).

The US could beat both these teams. The US could lose to both these teams.

Bale, as I understand it, has been treating MLS as a retirement and got fat. Not too fat to score the game winning goal in the MLS final, but I’m I’m less scared of him than I would have been a year ago.

Well, the USMNT won’t be going 0-3 for the group stage, so there’s that.

Or the game-tying goal for Wales today.

And in both games he didn’t do a single thing except score. (I guess he committed a couple tactical fouls today too).

As a whole that’s probably true. They still can’t trap very well and most of their passing is barely ahead of that.