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Why managing the USA national team is more appealing than the England manager's job

I happened to be in London when Fabio Capello resigned from the England national team. This situation has been nothing short of a debacle.

I was in Los Angeles when Jurgen Klinsmann succeeded Bob Bradley as the USA national team manager in July. That situation was nothing short of seamless.

Both programmes are supremely well-funded and are aiming to win major international trophies immediately. Both viewed South Africa 2010 as an utter failure.

However, most top tier managers would say that they would rather succeed Bradley than Capello, because the US team is closer to the goal than England.

It is not just a question of talent, because as any fan knows, talent alone never wins anything. The converse is also true: under-talented teams regularly exceed expectations e.g. Greece at Euro 2004.

Success at the international level requires a unified commitment from any country’s three crucial football administrators: the manager, the football association, and the domestic league.

At this, the US succeeds far more than England.

Caps on imported players

Unlike the Premier League, where fielding starting XIs with no English players is bizarrely common, Major League Soccer holds the development of American talent for the international stage as sacrosanct, with caps on imported players and opportunities for elite U18s to play at the senior level.

When Premier League teams have English talent, they hoard it, making them minimally available for national team duty. Consider the feud between the medical staffs of the FA and Manchester United over Wayne Rooney’s broken metatarsal before Germany 2006.

When was the last time an MLS club manager openly feuded with the national team over the availability of players?

Once in his grasp, Klinsmann’s authority over his charges is absolute, just as Bob Bradley, Bruce Arena, and Bora Milutinovic before him.

The idea that anyone at US Soccer, including Sunil Gulati, telling him who should, or should not, be the captain is preposterous.

When the national association appoints the team captain

Capello, however, learned that apparently the FA appoints the team captain, not the England manager.

It didn’t help matters that Capello found out in the same way that I did - watching Sky Sports while eating a medium-spice chicken pita sandwich from the Earl’s Court Nando’s.

(OK, I confess - I have no idea what or where Capello was eating when he saw the news. Forgive my poetic license.)

A world-class manager gets to that tier by perfecting his own unique tactical style, then convincing his charges to buy into that system.

But he’s only going to be successful if his domestic league provides him with quality, coachable talent, and his football association gives him support and a measure of autonomy.

On these counts, the MLS and US Soccer have done more for the US national team than the Premier League and the Football Association for England.

World class managers see this, and choose their opportunities accordingly.

By Sreesha Vaman


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