LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The future is bright for the U.S. soccer team and the young squad is sure to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, former team coaches Bruce Arena and Bob Bradley have said.
The U.S. have struggled in recent years, failing to qualify for the last two Olympics and the 2018 World Cup on Russia.
But as they prepare for a critical year with a friendly against Concacaf confederation rivals Costa Rica on Saturday in Carson, the U.S. are moving in the right direction under head coach Gregg Berhalter, the two coaches told Reuters.
“They are going to qualify for the next World Cup,” Arena, who coached the team at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, said in an interview. “I don’t doubt that at all.
“I 100% think the team will make the World Cup,” Bradley, who was coach from 2006-2011, said in a separate interview.
Concacaf World Cup qualifying starts on Aug. 31.
The coaches believe the team’s prospects have been boosted by the rapid growth of Major League Soccer, where Arena now coaches the New England Revolution and Bradley Los Angeles FC.
“We are developing players in Major League Soccer that will help solidify the pool of players for the program,” said Arena in a sentiment echoed by Bradley.
Bradley added that firing head coach Juergen Klinsmann in November 2016 after the team lost World Cup qualifying matches to Mexico and Costa Rica disrupted the squad’s continuity.
“With each World Cup cycle, the work that goes on from the beginning — identifying the right pool of players, having really good camps, playing the right matches — that work is so important,” he said.
“And in the whole lead up to 2018, it was challenged and compromised because obviously a coaching change was made along the way.
“And then in the end when some things go the wrong way — a series of episodes on the final night,” he said, referring to the heartbreaking 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago in October 2017 that eliminated the team from qualifying.
“It’s a reminder that the work is important. I think that’s happening.”
Arena said the growing popularity of soccer in the U.S. means good things for the national team going forward.
“It’s apparent to the people who follow sports in our country that soccer has grown at a tremendous rate and is supported now in greater numbers than ever before,” he said.
“Our league continues to catch the attention of the world — not only the United States but the world.
“I think there are just positive days ahead for the sport in the United States.”
Editing by Ken Ferris