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U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati Addresses the U.S. MNT's Eventful Summer and USA Bid for the 2018 or 2022 FIFA World Cup

U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati

We’ve had a pretty extraordinary 60 days or so, two World Cup qualifiers for the men’s team, a terrific run at the Confederations Cup, a Gold Cup which ended on a disappointing note on Sunday [July 26]. In addition to that we had the FIFA president visit and some very productive meetings with Mr. Blatter, as well as a White House visit yesterday with Mr. [Joseph] Blatter and a meeting with the President about our World Cup bid, about the development of the game and so on. It’s been extraordinary not only given the team’s performances but by what’s been happening on domestic soil. By that I really mean two things, the number of games that have been played over the last 30 days between the Gold Cup, between international friendlies, between the All-star game in MLS tomorrow, some huge attendances, some over 80,000, we’ve really had a chance to showcase some of our stadiums, in the case of Dallas for the first event, and 82,000 people at the Rose Bowl, in Seattle, in Philadelphia, at Gillette Stadium in Baltimore, in Atlanta, really across the country. The big attendances, along with big TV ratings that were almost at World Cup level in some cases, the U.S.-Brazil game reaching 7 million people in two languages, the Mexico game against the U.S. on Sunday with over 5 million on Univision, I don’t have the English-language numbers yet. It’s really been a pretty extraordinary 60 days, and really the last 30 days even more so, finishing with the visit of the FIFA president. We had very productive meetings with Mr. Blatter and Jerome Valcke, his General Secretary, Don Garber, the MLS commissioner, Dan Flynn, our CEO, and then yesterday we went to the White House with Jack Warner, the president of CONCACAF and Jerome Valcke and had about a 30-minute meeting with the President talking about our World Cup bid, talking about the state of the game now, talking about some of the global initiatives that involve economic development, education and soccer and their interconnectedness. So from all those perpectives, it’s been a high and a few lows as well, and I think the things we want to do over the next 18 months as well as over the next decade are starting to come into a little bit better focus.

On whether FIFA president Sepp Blatter gave any indications about the FIFA World Cup being held in Europe in 2018:
“What he mentioned yesterday after the meeting with the President was, two things, that if FIFA were following the policy of rotation, that it would in fact be North America’s turn, and they said that there are some within the Executive Committee that would like that to be the case, they also said that there are other members of the Executive Committee who believe every third World Cup should be in Europe, in which case 2018 would be more likely for Europe. So, he didn’t address it specifically in his comments after, we didn’t discuss it directly, so at this point we are still very much bidding for 2018 and 2022. I think there are a number of people within the Executive Committee, certainly the European members, that think Europe should go first. I don’t think there are any changes coming out of the meetings that we had with him or the things he said, subsequently.”

On the Gold Cup final:
“Two comments, first we’ve had a very good run against Mexico in games played in the U.S. and most of the games in the past decade have been played in the U.S, with the notable exceptions of the World Cup game in South Korea and the qualifiers away, so our record in the home games has been very good. Our record at Azteca has not been good and obviously we won the game in South Korea. So, from that perspective, when we only talk about the record it’s a little bit imbalanced given the number of home games that we’ve played. It was very disappointing, obviously, on Sunday, to lose by that score to a rival is of course disappointing. That was felt by me, by our players, by our coaching staff, by our fans. I think at the same time most people recognize that the only overlap of the players that were available on Sunday from the Confederations Cup squad was Heath Pearce, who didn’t play in South Africa but was playing in the Gold Cup. So, while that result was very, very disappointing and painful, even more so when we have the FIFA president sitting with us who had seen us play at the Confederations Cup, in great measure we get a chance for redemption very quickly. That’s something you don’t normally get, except in a home and away series, and in this case I’m glad it’s not an aggregate score issue. We get an opportunity at redemption August 12 and roughly at this time it will be halftime on August 12 and I think we’ll have a different-look squad. I think the group that played in the Gold Cup for five and a half games did very well. I think a lot of people were surprised that we had that much depth and that players who didn’t have the same level of experience as the players who were at the Confederations Cup were able to do as well as they did. Clearly the first goal rattled them, or unnerved some of our team, and we were really chasing the game after that. There were a bad 30 minutes, they were a very bad 30 minutes but I don’t think that reverses or undoes the real progress that we’ve shown in June and in the first 25 and a half days of July. We get a lot of that back on August 12 with a good result there.”

On whether he wishes other players would have been brought back for the Gold Cup final:
“We made a conscious decision; by we in this case I mean Bob [Bradley] discussed it with his staff. You’ve got a couple of players that you might have been able to bring back, in the case of Charlie [Davies], he was starting with a brand new club and in the final the decision was to let him start with that club so he could integrate himself into the team and hopefully be a regular player for that team over the next year. The same in Benny’s [Feilhaber] case, he would have missed preseason. All of the decisions about the players that may have played at the Confederations Cup, there are a number of different cases. Some were never going to be part of the squad, those players that have played regularly in Europe over the last year, featured in the Confederations Cup and if they had gone straight into the Gold Cup, wouldn’t have had any break at all going into preseason, which we didn’t feel was an appropriate or healthy decision for the players, certain players that were changing clubs or where just coming back from injury, or hope to be changing clubs, Jozy [Altidore] is in that category, Freddy Adu possibly in that category. At halftime on Sunday, no one was thinking that. Ten minutes later, after a penalty kick that was controversial, I don’t think anybody was thinking that. Twenty minutes later, maybe some people were thinking that but I don’t regret that decision given the thought that went into that. And we clearly couldn’t have fielded the side that we did in the Confederations Cup because of the necessity for rest time prior to preseason in some cases or, in some cases, MLS players have to get back to their teams.”

On the possibility of CONCACAF changing the scheduling of the Gold Cup:
“The response from spectators and television audiences was pretty extraordinary given the timing of the event; record ratings, record crowds and so on. But there aren’t enough weekends and dates in a year, is the problem. The issue of fixture congestion, international dates, is virtually and impossible one. If you played it every four years, pretty clearly, you would only have the problem once every four years. The scheduling issue in this case was really for one country: the U.S. All other countries had the possibility of sending all of their players. In some cases they did that: the Costa Rican team was very close to their full team, the Honduran team was less close to that, and we have an easy way to compare to the teams that played in the qualifying games in early June, the Mexican team had far more first-team players, let’s say, than the U.S. was able to field and El Salvador had their full team from qualifying. We were the only ones that were in a situation where we had a major tournament and went to the finals of that event. It’s a summer event, it’s a calendar period that is restricted for international competition. We discussed this with Mr. Blatter. European leagues really aren’t supposed to be, under the rules of the game, starting quite so early. Some of them are starting earlier than normal because they want to end earlier than normal every fourth year because of the World Cup. It isn’t frankly, a different problem than the African countries face with the African championship. They play in January or February which leads to player availability problems. It’s no different than Copa America has faced, and not just with us in the last Copa America, but in a number of cases where teams don’t bring all of their players every other tournament and they have now gone to four years. So, there’s not an easy answer but I think in terms of the results that where generated by the event and the interest, it would be pretty hard to stay we should only have it every (four) years. Would it make our life easier from a scheduling perspective? Sure.”

On what his reaction is to Mexico scheduling the qualifier on Aug. 12 for a weekday afternoon:
“The game was always on a weekday. That fell by luck of the draw. That they chose to schedule it at 3 p.m. is not an issue for us. We understand they have the right to schedule it for whenever it fits. We’ll go the day before and we’ll play at 3 p.m. I’m not sure if we were picking the time that we could chose to play at we would chose 3 p.m. in Mexico City, but I’m sure if they could choose a venue to play at they would choose not to play in Columbus for our home game.”

On Jermaine Jones and Edgar Castillo:
“In the case of Jermaine Jones, I believe the paperwork has already been submitted to FIFA for a change of eligibility. I’m not sure in the last couple or three days if the final paperwork has been submitted for Edgar Castillo. We have talked with Edgar and his representatives. I met him very briefly in Boston when he was there with (Tigres), so his views as we have had them expressed directly by the player and his agent are those that have been outlined in the media. He prefers to play for the U.S. There’s really nothing new to add when that’s possible, which I think would be after October 2 rather than August 2. It’s up to Bob Bradley when he would want to bring him in for a look and possible participation with the U.S. team.”

On whether the summer of 2009 is a breakthrough summer for soccer:
“Well, 65,000 people or so watched Chelsea play, but they watched them play against the Seattle Sounders. My My guess, when it’s all said and done, is that the biggest crowd of the summer will be 90,000 that will have watched Barcelona play, but they watched them play against the L.A. Galaxy. My guess is the second or the third biggest crowd this summer will be to watch Real Madrid play, but they’ll watch them play against D.C. United. There were 79,000 that watched Mexico play, and that was against the U.S. National Team. It’s not a question of watching the Harlem Globetrotters play. our teams are getting more respect and clearly we’re not getting those sorts of attendances at MLS games. It is an important question of how we can tap into what is clearly an audience for very high level international games, the same way that the World Cup is. But I think it’s a little bit of chasing stars if we think that most teams around the world would draw those sorts of attendances. If we were to have a tournament next summer with Stuttgart, Aston Villa, Olympique Marseille and, pick another team, I don’t think you’d have those same sorts of attendances. The teams that have come, in one case a couple of the top Mexican teams, two of the glory teams in the world in Real Madrid and Barcelona, three of the top English and Italian teams, really the best teams in the world, the biggest stars and to the extent that we can find a way to capitalize on that and get people more interested in MLS games and our national team is a plus. Do I think that we’ve been at a tipping point this summer? I’m always careful about saying that because we would have had a dozen tipping points in the last 10 years, so I don’t think I’m ready to say that. If I were looking for a single tipping point in all of that, it’s the performance of the team at the Confederations Cup. And I say that because we played in a world final with our Men’s National Team. We’ve had big crowds in the U.S. before for big games, obviously during the Olympic games, obviously during the World Cup, and for international games such as during the Manchester United tour here a couple years ago. We’ve had games at the Rose Bowl that have had huge crowds. That part is impressive. I think it builds on everything else that’s been happening, including the TV audiences, but if there was a single highlight for me it would be the performance of the U.S. team in the last three games of the Confederations Cup and, in particular, the Spain game.”

On how problems with the exchange of TV rights can be avoided in the future:
“We’ve never had an exchange of rights with Mexico. In some cases we’ve been able to work out a commercial deal. Most of the countries in our region we do not do a direct exchange with. Most of the countries’ rights are owned by a third party that buys all of their games over a long period of time. What we’ve been able to do in the past is that in most cases is exchange rights back into the territory for our game at home for reciprocity. In this case, and in several cases in the past, [for example], we haven’t been able to do that with El Salvador in the past because El Salvador and the rights holder has found it much more lucrative to put those games on pay per view in the U.S. In this case, Mexico has sold all of its rights for its home games to Telemundo, and we have no way of influencing that process. It’s not just about World Cup qualifying games, it’s about all of them. In theory, I guess we can say that we’re not going to, at any price, sell the rights back into Mexico for the game in the U.S. but, that’s not the way it works. And frankly, until the American television market has the same sort of ratings and numbers for our games as it might have in Mexico and therefore makes it more commercially valuable, it’s and impossibility. In this case, Telemundo has the rights. Telemundo’s owned by NBC and they decided to use the game in a different way to try to enhance an English language platform, but it’s an impossible situation for us. We don’t control what the Mexican federation does. FIFA doesn’t control that and they’ve decided to go a different way. It won’t be the last it will happen, I’m sure. It’s not the first time it has happened in other countries in the world. It’s a little unique here given the multiple language platforms and in the case of the current broadcaster, they won’t have the same reach as ESPN2 or ESPN or any of our networks.”

On a possible backlash to ESPN obtaining World Cup rights a few years ago:
“No, I think it’s just a commercial decision made by NBC-Telemundo about how to get additional viewers on one of their English language networks. We’ve had a cooperative relationship and reciprocity with Telemundo during that period, so it wouldn’t have been the first opportunity to use that leverage. So, I don’t think the answer is yes.”

On Tampa Bay’s chances or multiple Florida sites being chosen for World Cup venues:
“Tampa as I understand has already hand delivered their information yesterday. We’ve got 37 cities that are responding and we’ve got an extraordinary wealth of choices. So I think it would be a bit early for me to pre-judge that. There are a number of venues in Florida. Tampa has indicated a very strong interest, as has Jacksonville, as has Miami. And, we’ve got a lot of great new stadiums across the country, one of which Mr. Blatter visited at the (New Meadowlands Stadium) on Sunday prior to the game. And there was another one showcased a week earlier in Dallas. The one at Dallas, obviously, with a roof so you don’t have weather issues. It’s impossible to predict at this time, how we’re going to get down to meet this requirement of no more than 18 recommendations and we might convince them to let us have a couple more. We have so many extraordinary choices but we’ll certainly look very strongly at Tampa.”

On any sense from the Federation that it might appear disrespectful for not sending a full team to Gold Cup when it is hosted in the U.S.:
“The answer is no. No one else has the issue you just raised because we’ve hosted all but one Gold Cup. So we’d always have a higher obligation under that standard than anyone else. We got to the final of the event. We lost one game in the tournament, admittedly by a lopsided result. So, for five and half games it wasn’t disrespectful and for 25 minutes it was. But no, I don’t think it was disrespectful. Would we have preferred, in an ideal situation, to have more players that are going to be on the field on August 12 participating? The answer is yes. Would we have wanted to have Oguchi Onyewu playing instead of playing an exhibition game with Milan, starting with a new team? Ideally, yes. Would that have been fair to him to have no break for an 11 month period and then go back to preseason? The answer is no. The same is true for Carlos Bocanegra, the same is true for Clint Dempsey, the same is true for a dozen other players that I could name. I don’t think it’s a question of respect. We respect the competition. We were defending champions. We’re very disappointed that we didn’t do was well as we would have liked. If the score were different, I don’t think the question would have been asked in the same way. We’ve shown that we have an extraordinary amount of respect for the competition with a team that did very well for five and a half games. It’s an impossible situation to field the same team that we did at the Confederations Cup. That is not really a decision that would have made any sense – for a few players, maybe. We had a coach leave the Confederations Cup early to start training the next group of players because we wouldn’t have been able to do that reaching the final. So to travel from Johannesburg to Seattle with the same group of players in the Gold Cup ending yesterday, and is some of their cases their leagues have already started, is an impossibility for us.”

On players leaving the U.S. with the FIFA rule change, particularly Arturo Alvarez:
“The rule change allows for it. Arturo hadn’t played for the National team at all in a qualifying game so I understand and respect that. The only thing that was different about Arturo than a couple other cases – say Neven Subotic – was that he is already passed the age of 21. So under those rules, he’s allowed to do that. I think we’ve got some concerns with the rule change that was passed in general terms - in either direction. I think we are likely to benefit from it more than the alternative. But the thought to me that a player can play in the Olympics and theoretically play in a World Cup qualifying game for another country a month later is contrary to the integrity of the national team set up. It’s permissible and we will certainly play by the rules. But, my guess is that the rule will get looked at again in the next year or two by the FIFA Congress.”

On the feelings within U.S. Soccer after the loss to Mexico:
“The good news is that we get a chance for redemption very quickly in a situation where it’s not a home and away aggregate. So, I think there would be a lot of disappointment and embarrassment about the final result – not with the players and the performance overall at the event, but for 30 minutes, Mexico really took it to us. And after talking to a couple of players that were in South Africa but not in Giants Stadium last week, they’re looking forward to the possibility of redemption and starting a new streak. We ended a streak, a long streak, of home wins and a home unbeaten streak against regional opponents. We are frankly looking forward to possibly starting a new winning streak in Mexico, where we’ve never won and where very few teams win in Azteca. I think everyone’s excited – disappointed with the result of the past weekend – but very excited about the early chance for redemption.”

On impressions of Lincoln Financial Field after it hosted the Gold Cup quarterfinal:
“I was at the match in Philadelphia, and it was not the first time I had been to that venue for a soccer match. It was a great crowd and this time there were tickets sold on very short notice with knowledge of the participating teams. The Women’s National Team has played there, we played the [2003] Women’s World Cup there, Manchester United has played there against Barcelona. We did talk about the width issue and it’s solvable, we believe. It’s a terrific stadium, and in a number of stadiums, David Downs or a member of our staff at the USA Bid Committee have been to the venues in the last two weeks either for the international friendlies or for the Gold Cup. I know David has met with the mayor as he met with the mayor of Seattle, Atlanta, Baltimore. We are getting receptivity in Philadelphia and in other markets that is very different from what we had in 196 or 1987. having been part of that effort back then, in many cases we were having to explain what the World Cup was and in this case that is a non issue. We’ve got civic leaders, stadium leaders, team owners and politicians very interested in trying to bring the World Cup to their city. It’s a very different response, people understand what the World Cup is about. Philadelphia obviously is a market we are interested in, it’s a huge market and I think the team there when it starts will be a big hit. We’d like to have the national teams back there very soon and we’ll try to do that.”

On the importance of the northeastern part of the U.S. to hosting a World Cup:
“I think we’ll cover the north east pretty well, but we have made it very clear that we want a national event. By that, I mean that we’ll be playing in all the time zones and that would be our recommendation to FIFA. In the northeast corridor, with Boston, the new stadium in East Rutherford, Philadelphia and Washington, we have four terrific venues. It’s certainly been a strong part of our international games program, we have strong MLS teams in those markets and so on. So, we’ll continue to look at that over time. I’d be surprised if we didn’t have multiple markets in the northeast.”

On aligning the MLS season with the international calendar:
“We talked about that in our meeting with Don Garber and Dan Flynn. Mr. Blatter has stated it publicly on previous occasions and we talked very openly in the meeting we had with him last Saturday. We talked about that issue as well as promotion and relegation possibilities in the future. I think, in principle, that Don and I are in agreement that it would be a good thing, but we have also explained to the FIFA President that the temperatures in Chicago are not like the temperatures in London or Paris in January. They are more like Helsinki or Moscow. The challenges are a little bit different. I think the way we discussed that with the FIFA president was that we are in the ‘first half.’ In the ‘second half’ that might be something we can foresee, a European-type calendar. Not everyone plays on that calendar, Scandinavian countries in particular don’t play on that calendar for weather reasons. As we continue to add teams in MLS, in the future we may have domed stadiums, but in some venues the thought of playing games in December, January and February, where you’ve got frozen fields and certainly some issues with attendance, it’s not American football where the players are clothed differently and fans are filling the stadium regardless. He understands all of those challenges, we agree with him that that would be an ideal set up and I think we also agree that in the future we all see that as possible.”

On how the U.S. players will try to overcome 100,000 Mexican fans at Azteca:
“It’s been sold out for every game we’ve played and we expected it to be sold out long before Sunday’s game. We expect to be the visiting team, we expect a hostile crowd in terms of supporting the Mexican National Team and we expect to get a good result. There is no way to counter that. I would think that the players would try to tune much of that out, like whether they’re playing in Chicago and a lot of fans are cheering for Honduras or whether they’re at Azteca. There are a lot of things to counter when you’re away from home and in that sort of environment. There is an altitude issue, a heat issue and an away attendance issue, all the advantages of playing at home. Generally the same sort of advantages that we have when we’re playing at home, but it’s the same kind of adverse conditions that visiting teams have to face everywhere in the world. Azteca is known particularly for that. Mexico has got a particularly good record in World Cup qualifying at Azteca but we are looking forward to the return date.”

On the importance of playing time with club teams in deciding the World Cup roster:
“I think it’s always important, but the coach gets to make the final decision. The amount of playing time can vary for any number of reasons, if a player has never broken into a team, because a player is injured and just coming back, it greatly varies. In some cases you’ve got players who are getting a lot of playing time with the national team and not with their club. Obviously in those cases, Bob feels that a player can help us in a particular position. I think as a general rule, you want your players playing regularly. Is it the only criteria? The answer is no. There have been times where Clint Dempsey hadn’t been playing regularly for Fulham but he was a regular on our national team and scoring goals. There are other players playing less who have done well. Others have been playing regularly with their clubs but have not broken in with the national team. It varies, and I don’t think you can look at any two situations in the same way."

On Bradley’s work to get players good spots on their club teams:
“No, I think it’s the other way around. I don’t think Bob’s job is to give players time so that they can get the chance to play at their club teams, I think they have to prove themselves at their club teams to get a chance to play with the national team, but that’s not a hard and fast rule, just a rough outline. So in competitions where he has an opportunity to give additional players an opportunity so it may help them, the answer is yes. But South Africa wasn’t a chance for experimentation with players so they can get more time with their club teams when you’re playing Brazil, Italy, Egypt, Spain. World Cup qualifiers aren’t a time, when we haven’t qualified, for players to get a few extra games so they can hopefully get more time with their club team. I think club teams are seeing what they’re doing day in and day out, seeing where they fit on a particular roster; some of the players have moved between teams. So I think Bob does whatever he can within the framework of what’s good for the team to help players because by doing that, those players are then more valuable to us in the future as they get more opportunities. He knows that. That’s why some players went back after the Confederations Cup, so they could earn their spots with their team, so in that case, frankly, it was by giving them less playing time with the national team that he enhanced their opportunities to play club soccer and therefore get back with the national team.”

On what the Confederations Cup means in terms of South Africa next year:
“On the first part, I don’t think there is any other experience that could have prepared us for being in South Africa next summer as much as the experience of the Confederations Cup did this year. We still have to qualify, absolutely. But when you think of the positives that came out of that experience, first, obviously just being in the country, the players having some idea of the environment, (it is a) huge plus. That’s why we went a couple of years ago to play in Johannesburg in a friendly. But it was just a friendly. So No. 1 – environment, acclimating, all of those things, including playing at altitude. No. 2 – the level of competition was extraordinary. It’s not one that we could replicate in meaningful games, frankly, anywhere outside of the World Cup or the Confederations Cup for our national team. To get a chance to play Brazil, Italy, Spain, Egypt, Brazil twice obviously, is something that we couldn’t arrange. Three – to overcome adversity. Obviously to have two results go against us, one where we played poorly by most people’s judgment, the game against brazil, and then to come back from that with an extraordinary performance and obviously some luck in the other match, not pure luck in my view but an element of luck, and then to have a night to remember against Spain, and then even against Brazil, learning how to protect a lead against the best team in the world. So for all of those reasons, I don’t think there’s any possible experience that could replicate what we just did, and for me it validated the decision we made a couple of years ago when it was impossible to get the same team in both competitions of the Gold Cup and Copa America, and where we made the conscious decision to send the stronger team, if we had to, to one competition, and that was the Gold Cup when we couldn’t get more players released [for Copa America]. The original idea had been to take more European players to Copa America, but we couldn’t do that under FIFA’s rule.

On any frustration that soccer due to the challenges soccer in the U.S. still faces despite the recent successes:
“I think what I said earlier is I want to be careful about labeling anything this summer as a tipping point because we’ve had so many that we might be able to label as tipping points, and I guess if you have two tipping points, you end up in the same place. So I want to be careful with that. Sure, it is frustrating when people ask you “When is soccer going to make it?” given what’s gone on in the last 30 days. Attendances at some exhibition games in the last 30 days in the United States have been far bigger than any baseball game, any basketball game, any hockey game; I won’t say NASCAR or any American football game, certainly bigger than some American football games in the NFL. So that’s pretty extraordinary. Having seven million people tune in to watch us play in the Confederations Cup, several million people tuned in to watch us on a weekday afternoon play against Spain. 79,000 people in Giants Stadium and five million people watched that game in Spanish language on Univision. Having attendances of 70-80,000, brand new stadiums, having “water-cooler talk” that I referred to from the Confederations Cup. The sport has made it in the United States in some way. We’re trying to further that, we’re trying to get additional interest in our domestic league, which I think is getting there. A lot of people talking about what two teammates of the L.A. galaxy have said to each other, worldwide. Maybe not everybody likes what they said about each other or to each other, but that’s generated a lot of interest. So, in many ways we’ve made it, but it’s still the first half to me, as we talked about with the FIFA President. We’re not constant water-cooler talk, we’re not filling up our games in MLS stadiums, the U.S. National Team doesn’t have the same following as the Argentine or English National Teams, we don’t have the same coverage on the front page of newspapers as the U.S.-Mexico game would have had in Mexico City. So I fully appreciate we have a long way to go in our domestic league, in our refereeing areas, in all of our areas. But I don’t think there are many countries around the world, frankly, that over the last 20 years have had the same progress. And if we can have that over the next 20, then I think we’ll be where we want to be, which is among the world’s elite in terms of interest, spectator sport, professional leagues; obviously the one area where we’ve been at the very top is in the women’s side of the program with the women’s league, defending Olympic gold medalists, and so on. So there are a lot of positives, it is frustrating when people say “Oh, we didn’t know that soccer was getting popular here.” I don’t need to talk about the youth numbers, that we have millions of kids playing, and the changing demographics of the United States and the Hispanic community, those are all plusses and I’m certainly feeling very positive and bullish about it, but we’re not there yet.”

On if he expects Jermaine Jones to be available for the August 12th match:
“No, no, no. A couple of things on that. One, it’s going to take longer. There’s been some back and forth on the date he could be eligible, and I think it’ll be early October if everything is processed in time. Separate from that, Jermaine has been injured, and I’m not sure where he stands on his recovery. But certainly for the regulatory reason, he wouldn’t be eligible in August.”

On whether it would be more beneficial for young players to get minutes in MLS than sit at European clubs:
“Bob and I have discussed this a lot, the commissioner and I have discussed this a lot, as well as with some of the MLS coaches and some of the players. I think it’s case by case. When it’s a young player, who plays a number of years here, and goes and has to kind of ‘pay his dues’ in a good situation in Europe to break in, clearly in that situation, you wouldn’t say it makes sense to come right back. So I’d use Clint Dempsey in that case. Played three years in MLS, went to Fulham, played a little at the beginning, in and out, and this past year has really broken in as a regular first team player, scoring goals, and so on. In Jozy’s case, where he played regularly in MLS and didn’t play much this past year, I think you wouldn’t, this early, say Jozy should be coming back. First and foremost, it’s Jozy’s decision. That might be different from a player who’s been in Europe a few years and hasn’t broken in regularly or isn’t getting playing time; they may choose to make a different decision. We’ve had players do just that. So, Corey Gibbs, who started in Europe, came back, and then went on to a few different places, Brian McBride in a different point of his career. I think it’s a unique situation and very much case by case. Coming back to the first question, if a player is playing regularly in Europe or not, when he comes into training camp, Bob evaluates him. I think the best way to say it is, the likelihood that they’re going to be putting themselves in a position to get on the field for the national team is enhanced if they’re playing regularly. The same way any of us, if we’re training regularly, would be better for a marathon. But that doesn’t mean that somebody who’s a terrific runner, even if they haven’t been training, isn’t going to be ahead of somebody who is playing regularly, or training regularly in my analogy. And you’ve seen some of that, where players who aren’t playing regularly, do get into the national team.”