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U.S. Soccer Is Damned If It Does

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - JULY 1: United States Head Coach Gregg Berhalter walks across the field at the end of the CONMEBOL Copa America group C match between the United States and Uruguay at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on July 1, 2024 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Bill Barrett/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - JULY 1: during the CONMEBOL Copa America group C match between the United States and Uruguay at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on July 1, 2024 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Bill Barrett/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)
Bill Barrett/ISI Photos/USSF

Now that the performative rage over the U.S. men's national team's epic failure in the Copa America has died down, let us consider the comedic possibilities going forward.

One, that the suits and boots who run (as in sleep through meetings) the U.S. Soccer Federation decide to fire coach Gregg Berhalter on the Fourth of July, preferably during the Hot Dog Eating Championship.

Two, that they keep Berhalter through the 2026 World Cup just to watch soccer-watching America explode. If you're going for laughs, there's no such thing as too big.

Berhalter has become the ideal figurehead for both the federation and the players after their preposterous work in the tournament: playing at home, easy draw, golden generation, hype, marketing, blah blah blah, and voila! they're still the Faroe Islands when the chips hit the felt. The demand for Berhalter to be sacked is rivaled only by the few people who think he should quit first, then be sacked.

But doing what everyone wants because you want them to stop dumping garbage on their front lawns is not where the fun is. It is the easiest and cheapest thing in the soccer world to fire a coach; happens all the time and for the flimsiest of provocations. It takes creative genius, though, to play the joke out until it stops getting laughs, and in terms of hilarity, this jape still has meat on the bone.

Since the U.S. took the pipe, anyone with an interest has listed any number of reasons why the U.S. is not yet owning world soccer, a level of American hubris that fits right in with our other delusions. We have billionaires buying club teams, but you can't buy a national team (yet) and the rest of the world still has decades on us in everything that matters, like training and development. But that's too facile an explanation, and not very funny. 

In the last 36 hours, the federation has been found guilty, the players have been found guilty, and Berhalter has been found galactically guilty. But if all those things are right, then everyone has to go, and then who would we complain to, or about? Complaining is the American way of life; take away complaining and you don't have entertainment. We would live in a world in which Christian Pulisic wouldn't tell the referee to go celebrate with the victorious Uruguayans afterward and then be mock-hurt when the referee doesn't shake his hand. That, children, is what soccer is all about.

So unless we want a world in which the only thing to complain about is Alexi Lalas, the suits have to either fire Berhalter in the most symbolically humiliating way possible and then pay him the $3.2 million they still owe him, thus enraging people because they're being too cruel, or redo his deal upward to give him a golden parachute to go with the prize package he got two years ago after the World Cup, thus creating fury that they weren't being cruel enough.

That, friends, is comedy. Having two choices—firing the store manager on America's day off or keeping the store manager for two more years—and knowing that they are both going to end up being wrong is pure gold. You have timing, you have repetition, and you have dandy material: the "comprehensive review" that U.S. Soccer promised and which is already done if they kept their notes from 2022. They can't go wrong.

Which is to say, they can't help but go wrong. It's what they do.

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