Bruce Arena: U.S. qualifying failure provides opportunity to make changes

Former United States coach Bruce Arena says the national team's failure to qualify for the summer's World Cup is "not a crisis, but it's a wake-up call" and urged the national federation to use the setback to improve its leadership.

Arena took over as U.S. coach for the final eight games of World Cup qualifying after Jurgen Klinsmann lost the opening two matches of the final CONCACAF round, but his team fell short of a spot in Russia.

The Americans will not be at the World Cup for the first time since 1986, but Arena said at a discussion at Arizona State University this week that better teams than the U.S. are also missing out this time around.

"This sounds like a broken record, but we're not the first country not to qualify for a World Cup," Arena said, according to the Arizona Republic. "That's all a part of it. It's going to continue down the road. There's going to be days when England doesn't qualify, as Italy didn't this time around, or Chile or Holland.

"Those are countries well ahead of us. That's all a part of it. And it allows you to reflect a little bit. You re-examine what you're doing and you try to make things better. So it's not a crisis, but it's wake-up call."

Arena's opinion differs from Klinsmann, who recently told German newspaper kicker that the failure "set back by several years" the growth of soccer in the U.S.

However, as Arena suggested, U.S. Soccer is using the failure as a point of reflection, as federation president Sunil Gulati opted not to seek re-election, and his replacement Carlos Cordeiro is looking to add a general manager position before hiring Arena's successor.

The appointment of Cordeiro, who was previously Gulati's second-in-command, drew criticism that the federation was not doing enough to go in a different direction that led to the qualifying failure.

And though Arena hailed the work Gulati did in his tenure, he also bemoaned the longevity of both his time in charge and that of MLS commissioner Don Garber, saying "technical" soccer knowledge was now required to help the sport grow, rather than business acumen.

"Our system needs to get better. It doesn't need to be changed radically," Typically, people look at [soccer in the U.S.] as lacking in coaching, lacking in player development. I disagree with that. I think the administration and management of the sport has to improve greatly. ...

"When we make a four-year plan, we can't make mistakes. The cycle from 2014 to 2018, there were not only failures on the field, there were many failures off the field that impacted the ability of the U.S. to be in the 2018 World Cup. Those things are going to have to be corrected.

"The one issue that concerns me is there hasn't been a change in the management of U.S. Soccer or the management of Major League Soccer over the last 20 years. It's the same people running the business. They need to make their business better in order to help grow the sport to where we want it to go. We went through a presidential election that was a social-media event.

"Sunil Gulati was a fantastic president with strengths and weaknesses like anybody else. The new president is a less experienced person. Maybe he has more experience in business. Whether that adds up to anything, I don't know.

"I think in Major League Soccer and U.S. Soccer, they need to have a stronger technical expertise to help grow the sport."

Arena also said that while an American would be a "good choice" for the next manager, candidates from other countries should be considered.

"I am of the belief that an American is a good choice because of the issues we have in our country," he said. "Having said that, I don't think you close any doors. You have an expansive search.

"I think likely they'll look for a coach after the 2018 World Cup and they'll be some candidates to come out of that. By the fall, there needs to be a national team coach in place."