Last week, I wrote about all of the positives if the U.S. Men’s National Team misses the World Cup. To be fair, I think that guy had some pretty good points. If you haven't read that piece, please do. Not just because I want you to, but because this article is very much the direct counter.
With that being said, that guy last week was crazy. He was sober and clearly didn’t have his wits about him. Now that I’ve been in the old country sauced up on plenty of pints and Irish Whiskey, I’m going to straighten this out.
Are there things to be gained by not making the World Cup? Maybe. But are the losses more than the gains? You would have to believe so. Maybe it’s all my years as a Cleveland sports fan, but rooting for teams to lose for future growth is insane and this case is no different.
The state of soccer in this country may never be stronger, but that doesn't mean it can afford a setback like missing the World Cup. So let’s prove sober me wrong:
The Executive Level is Going to Change Anyway
To think that we need something drastic like missing the World Cup for us to reevaluate Sunil Gulati and co. is absurd. Regardless of what happens this week in qualifiers, the microscope on the United States Soccer Federation presidency has never been more prevalent. Gulati has essentially run unopposed as he’s brought phenomenal growth to all levels of the sport. But now he faces his toughest task, as Steve Gans represents a viable, and refreshing, option as we move forward.
But lets say that Gulati earns another term, is that so wrong? I could list any number of statistics that says Gulati has been the best USSF president ever, but I’d rather focus on the immediate and that’s the 2026 World Cup. I mentioned in my last article about Gulati working the FIFA Conference room and trust me it’s going to come in handy when the USSF looks to get back what should have been ours in 2018 or 2022. If Gulati, with the request to speed up this decision, succeeds then it shows that he is still the right man for the job.
A Coach Can Only Do So Much and Consistency Means Something
If Bruce Arena can lead this team to a World Cup, get us out of the group, and perhaps get out of the knockout stage then how can one argue that he shouldn't continue? Well, I plan on it, but for the purposes of this debate you would have to say that Bruce would have earned his keep.
The U.S. had its fill of experimentation and what we need now is a consistency we’ve been searching for over the past two years. Bruce is nothing but consistent in player selection and results that keep the U.S. moving in the direction it needs.
Bruce may not be the best man for the job, but he certainly might be the best man for the job right now. Especially if he turns around what was a tumultuous ride of experimenting by Jurgen Klinsmann.
Becoming a World Power Should Be All the Motivation Needed
The urgency argument is tough to argue because everyone can see the complacency in the squad right now. So instead, let me argue that hopefully the U.S. squeaking through to Russia is all we need to light that fire again.
Be it in third or through a playoff, barely getting into the World Cup and most likely facing a tough draw will — dear god please — wake up this group of players who seem to be half asleep at the wheel.
If the USMNT wishes to continue its goal of being a top 10 national team, it has to show that drive day-in and day-out because we don't have the luxury of slacking off. If we slack off, opponents don't respect us and in turn our fans have less respect. Neither is a situation you want as a country on the rise.
World Cup Qualfying is Not the Time for Youth
One of the hardest jobs a national team manager has is how to successfully integrate new blood into the fold. When do you do it? How do you do it? How often do you do it without sacrificing results? These are all very complicated questions as you only get so much time to manage your team.
World Cup qualifying is rarely the time to tinker. You have one goal and you have to go with the guys that you and the team trusts. Nothing is worse then a new key player being inserted to a group that isn't comfortable, only to drop points. This is why you see the same names every match. It’s what is needed in qualifying.
And regardless if it’s the right time now, the youth are always going to take priority after the World Cup and some camps in 2018 aren't going to do all that much four years before Qatar. To think that those extra few camps without the worn-out veterans is going to do much is silly. Whoever the coach is, they are going to know that the youth contingent of everyone under 23 needs to be the priority and will have two years to focus on that before the next cycle.
Culture is Strong, But In No Way Infallible
Anyone who has been watching soccer for the past 20 years can tell you about the growth of the game and how it has never been stronger. A lot of that has to do with the influx of neophyte fans over these years that have picked up the game due to its success. Soccer is still flooded with naysayers that love to spout from the rooftops that “our best athletes don't play soccer,” or some other asinine comment. These “true-blooded” Americans want nothing to do with soccer and would love nothing more than the game to take a hit.
The viral effect of that could mean losing emerging fans that will have to hear about the U.S. not making the World Cup and how soccer is a second-rate sport for four long years. That would mean that not only do we die hard fans lose out on seeing the Yanks compete on the best stage, but the future USMNT and MLS attendances may be impacted as well.
The business side of the game is still very much on shaky ground and a missed World Cup would be disastrous on that front. I believe the recent MLS and USSF record attendances have been a direct result of continued success from both national teams. The last thing it needs is this setback when we couldn't be on a bigger high.
Look, there are positives to the U.S. not making the World Cup. But I would never root for the U.S. to cut off its nose to spite its face. The USMNT needs to be at the World Cup. It needs to continue to prove to the world that it is a nation to pay attention to and not being in Russia would make us a joke to the countries that sit at the top of the game. There’s even potential that all of the positives gained by missing the World Cup wouldn't even be there, especially if we flame out in horrible group play.
At the end of the day, to think the U.S. missing out on Russia is great is madness and an argument that needs to be squashed. In the meantime, I look forward to cheering the Yanks on this week as we look to lock in that World Cup spot and making this debate pointless.
Reflecting on Eight Years with The Mane Land
A look back over my time with The Mane Land (so far).
As of last week, I have been a contributor at The Mane Land for eight years. That’s longer than I’ve ever been at any of my actual jobs in my life. There are literally only a couple of people who have been with the site longer, but I’m still amazed at how long it’s been. This is not to say I’m going anywhere, but rather I wanted to take the opportunity to look back at the past eight years, and look ahead to the future.
Unlike some, I didn’t come to be a supporter of Orlando City until it was announced that the club was joining MLS. At the time, I was contemplating picking a club to follow in MLS, but being in Tallahassee, there were no nearby options at that time. I considered FC Dallas and D.C. United, given the two were geographically closer in proximity to me than any others. Fortunately, it was literally while I was considering my options that the announcement was made regarding Orlando City’s jump to MLS. It was an easy decision.
As I do in many aspects of my life, I immediately started researching my new club, which led me to the content being produced by The Mane Land. There was also an article on the site titled “Join The Mane Land Staff.” I had often over the years internally bemoaned that I rarely used my Bachelor’s degree in English, and the desire to write welled up in me so much that I emailed the staff.
In response, one of our former editors, Andrew Marcinko, contacted me and said “I think your voice would be a great fit on TML.” He asked me to submit a Fan Post (those went away with our presence on SBN), and then another piece for review. Following that, our founder and managing editor, Michael Citro, emailed me to welcome me to the staff. I had no idea at the time how big a part of my life this blog would become.
I started out writing Monday’s Lions Links — often one of the more difficult days to write — and a feature piece. It’s been many years gone by now, but there was a time when the feature piece was “Pride Pub,” an ongoing series that paired craft beer and good food based on Orlando City’s opponent. I can tell you that the research for that was very enjoyable, and I still use some of the recipes I found to this day.
Eventually, I started contributing more match coverage and analytical pieces. Staff came and went, but I never thought to leave since I was enjoying myself. Sometime after that, I was promoted to senior columnist, for which I’m grateful. I can without reservation say that I’m a better writer thanks to my time with the site, and from working with such excellent staff.
In November of 2016, Michael asked if I wanted to give co-hosting The Mane Land PawedCast a try. My first recording was for Episode 71. We just recorded Episode 354, and with the exception of maybe two or three episodes, I have been on every single one of 283 episodes over the last six plus years. Michael and I have spent a lot of time talking on and off the podcast over the years, and I’m proud of what we have produced and to call him my friend.
We recently added an Orlando Pride-specific podcast called Skopurp: An Orlando Pride PawedCast. For years we wanted to give the Pride the time and attention the club deserves. Now, it is a reality, but one that I ask you to listen to and share. I’ll even put out that although Michael and I are the current hosts, we merely consider ourselves stewards and are hoping to get others to come onboard and eventually take it to the next level.
When I started with The Mane Land, the site had just made the move from a free WordPress site to the SBNation network. It was a big deal, and for many years it was a good partnership. Of course that all came to an end not too long ago, and our blog went the independent route thanks to the incredibly generous support of our readers and listeners. In fact, if you want to be one of those supporting our efforts, please go to our Buy Me A Coffee site to become a member. The move has allowed a flexibility we didn’t have before, but I really want others to have the same sense of joy and accomplishment that I have as a member of our staff.
At one point we had nearly twice the staff that we do now, and as you know, many hands make light work. The opposite of that is also true. I genuinely believe that there must be others out there with the same passion for Orlando City as I have — with the same desire to have their voice heard, whether through the written word or on a podcast. I promise you there is an opportunity to contribute here with us. Our internal discussions are informative, engaging, and often funny. Please consider joining us, as I did eight years ago. I haven’t regretted it and I know you won’t either.
I want to thank all of those who contributed to The Mane Land over the years. There are many that I am still in touch with, though they are no longer a part of the staff. Of course, the current staff are a pleasure to work with, and I appreciate their dedication to what we are trying to do.
Finally, I want to thank the readers and listeners over the years. From those who regularly comment on our articles, to those that I’ve personally met at matches or even randomly on the street, you are a big reason that we do all of this. You are a big reason why I’ve been doing this for the better part of a decade. it is always a genuine pleasure hearing your thoughts or simply sharing a moment of joy together — U.S. Open Cup final, anyone?
So, thank you. I look forward to many more years of this journey together.
The Mane Land Announces Membership Program
Maximize your Mane Land experience with our new TML membership program while supporting our independent efforts.
Hello, readers of The Mane Land and listeners of our podcasts. Before you start reading this, please note that the most important part of this post is at the end. So, don’t stop until you get to the bottom.
You may recall that when we left SBNation to become independent, we really weren’t sure the best way to go about that. Many of our readers and listeners generously offered to help us make that transition, but we still weren’t sure the best path forward, so we took a poll.
The poll was pretty much split down the middle between those who preferred a one-time, Kickstarter-style campaign (which we did, and those of you who stepped up to help completely blew us away!) and those who favored a Patreon-style, subscription-based membership with extra perks. In fact, the member subscriptions option got a few more votes in our poll.
The folks who took part in our GoFundMe fundraiser were fantastic and are now immortalized on this very site on the “Our Founders” page. But we had always planned to give folks the option to choose whichever method of support they preferred and we tried to communicate that throughout the process. It took a little longer than expected to get up and running, but our membership subscription program is now in place! (You may notice the fancy new banner ad about it on the home page, echoed below.)
Part of that delay was thinking up something that didn’t encroach on the benefits we gave our Founders. Those folks helped us get started and deserve the exclusivity of the perks they got. The other part of the delay is that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. (However, for you guys, I’m willing to be cloned.)
We have utilized the popular Buy Me a Coffee platform to run this program. You can find the basics here. The Mane Land premium membership program includes three tiers of membership, as well as the option to click on the “Support” tab for those who just want to help us out whenever, without joining the program or adding any recurring “appointment-based” payments to their budgets. We love that feature of Buy Me a Coffee (or “Buy Us a Beer” in our case…you drink what you like).
For those who do choose to become members, we hope we have provided value and we are planning to add benefits along the way, in addition to providing special giveaways, events, etc. (more on that below). We have also provided subscription options — with monthly or annual memberships. The annual cost essentially gives you 12 months for the price of 10.
The current membership benefits depend on which level of support you choose — Homegrown Player, TAM Player, or Designated Player level. Each level includes all benefits from the lower tiers, with additional benefits for each higher level.
Homegrown Player: This is a basic set-it-and-forget-it level of support for The Mane Land, providing a way for our readers and podcast listeners to contribute to the success of TML‘s independence goals. We want to compensate our current volunteers, replace lost income of those who previously received small stipends from being part of the SBNation network, add photographers, attract new writers, and expand our coverage. Additionally, each Homegrown Player Level member will be recognized in a Lion Links column, which is still typically our most widely read post of each day and one of the top daily links columns among soccer sites. Homegrown Player Level members will also be included in any future prize drawings we have or events we host and may be subject to future benefits as they are added.
TAM Player: In addition to Homegrown Player benefits, TAM Players will receive a new weekly e-newsletter in their inbox (unless you opt out…some people hate email). These will be informal missives from myself, other TML writers, or a combination, discussing what’s on our mind regarding Orlando City, the Pride, OCB, or soccer in general. Think of it as an extra post from our site that may cover multiple topics. Additionally, you’ll get a 10% discount from our web shop items that we control (presently, that means everything except our listed MLS Shop items). We will definitely have more benefits coming for this level soon and will look for opportunities to include additional benefits as they become available.
Designated Player: This limited availability level of support includes all perks from the Homegrown and TAM levels, but it goes beyond. Your discount at our webshop (for items we control) will be 15% off. Additionally, we’ll send you Zoom links to watch us “make the doughnuts” whenever we record the podcast. This includes when we interview guests. You’ll see how the sausage is made behind the scenes and everything that we say, some of which will end up on the cutting room floor before the final podcast is sent out. This includes both The Mane Land PawedCast and SkoPurp Soccer: An Orlando Pride PawedCast. And after two months of membership you can commission a bonus episode of either podcast simply by letting us know what topic you want us to cover. Think of this as an extended Ask Us Anything. We’ll do a whole show about your topic and you can even join us to discuss it if you wish.
The DP Level will certainly have additional benefits tacked on as we move forward. It is currently limited to 40 members but could be expanded slightly depending on demand and our Zoom attendance.
Future Benefits / Benefits Under Consideration
While we won’t be able to schedule these due to the random nature of items falling into our hands, there will be periodic prize giveaways in drawings that include all of our members, regardless of level. The catch is that you get one entry per level of support, meaning Homegrown Player Level members will get one entry per prize drawing, TAM Player Level members will get two entries per drawing, and Designated Player Level members get three entries for prize drawings. Some of the kinds of items we have come across in the past include match tickets, trinkets, posters, scarves, and so on.
We are planning to add a message board to our website, well…soon-ish is the word that comes to mind. The plan for the message board is to build our community and further the discussion about the club. As part of this, we’re planning an exclusive, members-only area of that message board that TAM and DP members can access. This will be a place our staff can share informational nuggets we can’t necessarily write stories about for various reasons and interact with our members on a daily basis.
Other things in the works include meet-and-greets/watch parties where you can chat with TML staff members and catch a road match with a bunch of like-minded Orlando City/Pride fans while we all cheer on the team together. There may also be other informal outings with one or more members of the staff, organized fantasy leagues, random Zoom calls for Q&A sessions, and perhaps even some organized group outings for Orlando City / Pride matches, national team games, etc.
The Most Important Part of This Post
Remember at the top of this post, when I said the most important part is at the bottom? Well, that seems like a long time ago, now, so it’s OK if you’ve already forgotten.
The most important part of our membership program is you. We want your feedback so we can make this program something that interests and excites you. We want to know what you like and dislike about this program. We want to know if there are some things we didn’t think of that interest you. If you like what we’re offering, tell us! If you hate what we’re offering, we want to know what you’d prefer instead or in addition. If you want to go drinking with Dave, we can probably arrange that, but it’ll be a unique tier and we’ll have to figure out the cost of that.
No idea is too crazy to suggest, even if it’s too insane for us to actually offer. Let us know what you want from your subscription and we’ll see if that’s something we can do. We’ll make it easy for you by putting the form right here below this post, which is now concluded.
Where do I even start? When we were told in January that SBNation was pulling its support of The Mane Land and other MLS and NHL blogs — and many podcasts — I was devastated. The site had become my new baby in September of 2014 and after eight and a half years, I wasn’t ready to let it go.
I was in a pickle. I couldn’t afford to lose the monthly stipend I had been getting from SBNation to manage the site and provide a steady stream of content. It wasn’t that it was a huge monthly sum, but it mostly covered my car payment. That car was purchased when my salary was higher. The pandemic hit my day job like it did to many, and after a four-month layoff, I got my old job back but not at the same rate. So, imagine taking a pay decrease at work and then, on top of that, losing the amount you spend per month on your car payment. There was simply no way to launch The Mane Land independently, I thought, because I simply couldn’t cover the startup costs. Even with some generous offers from the staff to pitch in, there simply wasn’t a way.
Once we took the news public, there was an outpouring of support on social media. We appreciated both the pledges to help out that we got from the community and the signal boosting that the national media gave blogs like ours. Those national folks rely on local reporting for background.
Encouraged by this outpouring of public support, I met with the TML staff and we threw some ideas around. We polled our Twitter followers to see how our community would prefer to show their support. We got pretty close to a 50/50 split between those who wanted to provide a one-time donation via a Kickstarter or GoFundMe crowdsourcing effort, and those who would prefer some sort of premium subscription add-on service like Patreon or Buy Me a Coffee.
We didn’t get a lot of responses to that poll, but we decided as a group that since the results were so similar, we would offer both and let the public choose one path, the other, or even both. (Stay tuned for news soon-ish on the premium subscription level, but rest assured, everything you’ve been getting for free at TML will remain free!)
I was, admittedly, skeptical that we could raise enough startup money to create a private business, pay for hosting a new site and two podcasts (having long wanted to give the Orlando Pride their own unique show), registering a domain, paying for some design work and consulting, and any unexpected expenses that might come up. However, I thought we’d at least give it a try.
Then the amazing Orlando City, Orlando Pride, and TML community got involved. You guys pushed us past our bare minimum goal in just four and a half hours when our fundraiser went live on March 1. We reset our goal and you met that by midnight. We reset our goal again, to the dream total we discussed on our initial staff Zoom chat and you met that by that first weekend.
Stunned. Humbled. Amazed. Touched. All of these words apply to how that made us feel, but they don’t quite cover it. I think we all felt an enormous responsibility, as well. We felt a mandate to provide you the best site and the best coverage we can.
We got everything we needed to run the site for two years, even if we don’t earn a penny after our launch — and we plan to try, via advertising, a Patreon (or similar) program, an online shop, affiliate links, and anything else we can think of. But we decided to leave the GoFundMe open through the end of March, just in case there were folks who wanted to contribute but needed to wait for payday, or if more people wanted to become founding members of this new site.
Now, here we are. You guys did this. We’re here because of you. And this site isn’t quite what it will become. I’m still learning my way around WordPress, after being away from it for years. There’s more to build, and some of the things you’re seeing on this site now will be improved in the future. We’ll continue to tweak it, add things, and upgrade as we go.
For now, I just want to welcome you to your new online home. On behalf of our entire staff, I thank our founding members, who are now immortalized on this site in our founders section. If you weren’t able to contribute to our transition from SBNation’s network to an autonomous and independent, new version of The Mane Land, you can thank the folks on our founders page, because without them, we wouldn’t be here. And if you still want to help out, we’ve got more things on the way.
Orlando City Enjoyed the Best Summer Stretch in Team History
Lion Links: 9/23/22
Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Three Keys to Victory
Orlando City vs. New York City FC: Intelligence Report
Orlando City vs. New York City FC: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, and More
Orlando City at New York City FC: Five Takeaways
Orlando City7 days ago
Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew: Five Takeaways
Orlando City1 week ago
Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew: Final Score 4-3 as Lions’ Comeback Extends Unbeaten Run to Six
Orlando City6 days ago
Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew: Player Grades and Man of the Match
Orlando City1 week ago
Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew SC: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, and More
Orlando City1 week ago
Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew: Three Keys to Victory
Orlando City4 days ago
Orlando City vs. New York City FC: Intelligence Report
Orlando City4 days ago
Orlando City vs. New York City FC: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, and More
Orlando Pride7 days ago
Orlando Pride vs. North Carolina Courage: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More