Mailbag: USMNT's current best XI; World Cups 2018, 2022, 2026; more of your questions
- Answering your questions on the next three World Cups, the U.S. men's national team's attack and the best soccer stadiums around the globe.
IN A MIDDLE SEAT ON A 5-HOUR UNITED FLIGHT — Don’t ask me how I got here. But rest assured that my first thought was to pass the time doing a new soccer Mailbag. So let’s dive in!
If you had to be re-accommodated, who don't you want on the United security team: Roy Keane, Gennaro Gattuso, Stuart Pearce, Graeme Souness? (@purplethedog)
I think you know what you’re getting from Gattuso, Pearce and Souness. But Keane? You never know what you’re getting with that guy. The unpredictability would make Keano a truly terrifying security guy boarding an airplane. I’m staying away from Aer Lingus just thinking about it.
Biggest disappointment from Bayern Munich against Real Madrid? Shameful performance. (@pepisacat)
I think “shameful” is a bit harsh. Bayern was missing Robert Lewandowski and lost 2-1 at home to the defending champion. It’s hard to get on Arturo Vidal too much for missing the penalty after he had already scored. Javi Martínez being sent off was obviously a huge blow, but it’s not like Bayern were total donkeys out there. In fact, I thought Manuel Neuer had a remarkable game. Madrid should definitely be favored in the return leg, but I wouldn’t write off the German club at all.
Is there any truth to rumors that Mexico-USA in June will be played somewhere other than Azteca? (@B_Doing_Work)
No truth to that. Mexico has officially announced the game will take place at the Azteca in Mexico City. There had been some rumblings that the number of Mexican players now based in Europe might cause a re-think of staging home games at altitude, but that is not the case.
If Altidore, Wood, and Dempsey are all healthy, who do you get the impression will sit? (@tjfaloui)
If they’re all healthy, I’d expect Altidore and Wood would start. But it’s a rare occasion when all three of those guys are healthy.
Best starting 11 for USMNT....Go! (@egmfc)
4-1-3-2: Tim Howard; DeAndre Yedlin, Geoff Cameron, John Brooks, Jorge Villafaña; Michael Bradley; Darlington Nagbe, Christian Pulisic, Fabian Johnson; Jozy Altidore, Bobby Wood.
Will Dom Dwyer be on the USMNT for the next WCQ? If so, how do you see him fitting into the squad? Especially after squabble with Tim Howard. (@DougSullyLynch)
I think it’s more likely that we could see Dwyer with the U.S. during Gold Cup. I don’t think Bruce Arena wants to bring him into the camp for the first time for World Cup qualifiers with so much pressure involved. But the Gold Cup is a different story. If that were to go well, then perhaps he’d be a possibility for qualifiers. It’s hard to know how much club vs. club tension impacts the national team. Keep in mind, Jozy Altidore snapped recently at Alejandro Bedoya on Twitter, but that kind of stuff happens all the time inside a team, and I don’t think it was a big deal.
Do you anticipate anybody else bidding for the 2026 World Cup? If so, who? (@JoeyJadlowski)
Due to the FIFA rule prohibiting the Europe and Asia (which includes Australia) confederations from bidding for World Cup ’26 after hosting 2018 and ’22, South America and Africa are the only realistic competitors for the North American bid. South America seems focused on having Argentina and Uruguay do a shared bid for the 2030 World Cup (the centennial celebration of Uruguay’s first World Cup in 1930), so Africa might be the only competitor, and it’s hard to think a 48-team World Cup hosted by Morocco would work. That’s why the North American bid is pushing FIFA to fast-track its decision to June 2018 (two years ahead of schedule) to go ahead and pick the U.S.-Mexico-Canada one without entertaining competing bids from elsewhere.
Will fields with natural grass get a preference if the USA is hosting the World Cup? Would they play on grass over turf in Dallas, NY or LA? (@ArtDirectorBYU)
What cities could you expect to be part of a probable 2026 North American World Cup? (@neto96)
The most obvious U.S. cities to expect hosting World Cup ’26 games would be in the areas of New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Houston, Dallas, Philadelphia, the Bay Area and probably Miami. Conspicuously, New York, Seattle and Dallas don’t have natural grass fields in their big stadiums, but I would expect they would lay down A-plus grass surfaces with significant lead time like the ones we saw during Copa América Centenario. I think the dogfight is going to be between the cities in the next level of potential host venues like Chicago, Atlanta, Orlando, Boston, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Denver, Phoenix, Nashville, Detroit, Charlotte, Jacksonville and Tampa.
Can Russia really host a quality World Cup in 2018? I am not optimistic. Are you? (dionlisle)
It depends what you mean by “quality.” Do I think the accommodations and travel will be as good as those in the United States? No, I don’t. But Russia pulled off the Sochi Olympics without the wheels falling off, and I expect the World Cup will be a similar situation.
Is Qatar 2022 going to happen? (@InternetLawCent)
Almost certainly yes. The stadiums are being built as we speak. The only outside chance of Qatar losing ’22 is if the Swiss governmental investigation into the bid were to uncover any legitimate smoking guns, and there’s such little momentum in that investigation that I don’t see it happening.
Who will win NWSL championship? (@WhitneyDeWall)
Portland Thorns. Stacked team.
If you could ask Garth Lagerwey one question what would it be? (@realPaulWhiteha)
How did a guy once famous for completing the 100-beer weekend at Duke and being the backup writer for my SI.com column somehow become the Theo Epstein of MLS? Think about that for a second. Unbelievable.
When did you know you'd be a football reporter? Did you ever think you'd have the career you do? (@LindseyGMurphy)
As a Sports Illustrated subscriber since the age of 10, I told my friends in high school that I wanted to write for SI someday. But I wouldn’t have imagined back then I would be covering soccer full-time. College basketball was my main beat from 1996 to 2009 and I would do soccer on the side. But I enjoyed it so much that I told my bosses I would love to do soccer full-time, and that finally happened in 2009. It’s been a blast from Day 1.
Favorite stadium in each league? EPL, MLS, Ligue 1, La Liga, Bundesliga etc (@beatsc)
I’m only including stadiums I’ve been to:
Premier League: Old Trafford, Manchester United. A classic.
MLS: Children’s Mercy Park, Kansas City. The best 20,000-seat stadium in the world.
Ligue 1: Stade Velodrome, Marseille. By far the best soccer city in France.
La Liga: Estadio Bernabéu, Real Madrid. Easy to soak up the history.
Bundesliga: Signal Iduna Park, Borussia Dortmund. Can’t beat the Yellow Wall.
Serie A: San Siro, AC and Inter Milan. History and atmosphere.
Argentina: La Bombonera, Boca Juniors. The definition of a glorious old Latin American stadium.
Brazil: Maracanã. Might be the most famous soccer stadium in the world.
Mexico: Estadio Azteca. You can feel the ghosts of Maradona and Pelé.
Thoughts on Zlatan? Think he is staying at United or will become the face of MLS next year? (@ManUtd_INDY)
My fear right now is that Ibrahimovic and his agent, Mino Raiola, might be using the offer from the LA Galaxy simply as leverage to get a two-year deal with Manchester United. I’d love to be wrong on that, and maybe I will be. But that would be my prediction of what happens in the end.
Favorite international soccer crest, design-wise? (@serenosaur)
Big fan of Ajax.