It seemed unthinkable as late as Tuesday evening. Surely the U.S. would qualify for next summer's World Cup. To be knocked out for the first time since 1986, the U.S. would have to lose to last-place Trinidad & Tobago, and have both Panama and Honduras upset group leaders Mexico and Costa Rica. Well, that unlikely trifecta came to pass, and now Panama will have their first WC entry ever. So will tiny Iceland, the smallest nation ever to play in a WC (pop. 334,252 as of Tuesday), and one of the darlings of last year's Euro Cup. But there's no joy here in Mudville – Uncle Sammy has struck out.
It will be interesting to track the decline in watch parties and media interest next summer, as well as the effect on two generations of national team players. There's no official competition for the USA for the next 20 months, and the next World Cup is five long years off. So Clint Dempsey's international career is effectively over, for one, and lots of other key players will be gone by 2022. Meanwhile a whole crop of promising youngsters, led by Christian Pulisic, whom many are calling the best U.S. player ever, miss out on a whole development cycle, and the biggest stage to showcase their talents... Elsewhere, most all of the heavy hitters came through, with Chile the only Top 10-ranked team that won't be at the party. In all, 23 spots are now filled, with nine still to be decided in November.
The kids are all right, though: The U.S. is off to its best start ever at the 2017 U-17 World Cup, being played in India. They won their first two games, and have already clinched a place in the knockout round. If seedings work out as expected, the U.S. may play at 6:30am, Oct. 18 and 21, with those games and some others shown live on FS2.
Up next: The European Champions League group stage continues next Tue.-Wed., Oct. 17-18, with games both days at 1:45pm on Fox Sports 1 & 2.
The UT Longhorns slipped a couple of notches in both the national rankings and the Big 12 standings, after being held to a 1-1 draw by TCU. They're on the road the next couple of weeks, before the home finale, Oct. 27 against league-leading Oklahoma State... The St. Edward's women dropped out of the national rankings, though they remain undefeated at 7-0-3; the men stay at No. 16 this week, at 9-2-1.