Why the CONCACAF Nations League benefits the USMNT and the federation

The USMNT are set to play their second CONCACAF Nations League match this week against Canada, after a pretty uncompetitive 7-0 drubbing of Cuba last Friday. The New tournament features all 41 CONCACAF members and serves to replace meaningless friendlies with competitive fixtures.

For the smaller sides, it offers a chance to play teams of a similar ranking with a view to qualify for the Gold Cup. For teams like the US, it’s a chance for silverware and a new opportunity to face off against fabled rivals Mexico in a competitive environment.

The European version has been an unexpected success, and it is hoped CONCACAF’s edition will gain similar traction.

The tournament certainly has its critics: I have been skeptical about the manner in which blowout matches against smaller nations can help the US, and my colleague Leander Schaerlaeckens made good points in a Yahoo Sports column where he argued the competition is a waste of time for the US, and everybody else.

But, I would say the CONCACAF Nations League can be beneficial for the US team and the federation. For starters, I would argue that a pair of competitive games against neighbor Canada is much more useful than, say, a money-spinning friendly defeat against Brazil at a less-than-half-full Metflife Stadium—which is what happened last year.

Canada are ranked higher than Panama and Trinidad & Tobago, both of whom caused the US problems in World Cup qualifying.

And as for Cuba: yes they’re a mismatch, but playing away to small Caribbean nations is an excellent dry run for potentially tricky future World Cup qualifiers.

The US has not won any of its last five friendlies, and with the UEFA Nations League and other federations considering their own editions, there are, and will be, less chances to book friendlies against bigger sides outside of CONCACAF.

Most arguments against the CONCACAF Nations League are quite American-centric: the purpose of CONCACAF is not to help the US excel in the World Cup. There are 40 other nations, who will all get better in a competitive, democratically structured tournament with promotion and relegation.

The minnows now have more chances to shine and opportunities to grow, and over time, the whole region will get better. And that, in turn, benefits the US.

So I say give this tournament a chance, enjoy it, and judge it a little further down the line.

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