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Q&A with Eric Wynalda: U.S. Can't Come Into The Tournament Expecting To Win

Eric Wynalda thinks that the we need to be sure that the U.S. soccer federation is 100% clean, and that the women should expect a tough World Cup.
Image by Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Wynalda played for the United States Men's National Team for ten years and was their all-time leading goal scorer until 2008. He now appears on Fox Sports 1 as a soccer analyst. VICE Sports spoke to him about the recent FIFA scandals and his expectations from the Women's World Cup.

What do you make of all the mess that FIFA has gotten itself into, and the skeletons that are coming out of their closet?


I read the indictment report and some of the wrongdoings that Chuck Blazer was involved in happened in competitions and tournaments that I participated in while I was a part of the U.S. national team for about 10 years.

I think the best way to put it is that FIFA as an organization was not only corrupt but I think they were extremely arrogant and lazy about it, and in the end they just got greedy.

Sepp Blatter sold those two World Cups because he knew he's not going to be on the surface for long so he wanted to take care of himself and his family. That's essentially it.

Lot of people who worked within the organization understood the culture that Mr. Blatter created—everyone felt that they were fully capable or allowed to take money that wasn't theirs because that's the way they'd always done business. The reason why no one ever talked about it was because people knew that if they did, they would no longer be in the business of football anymore.

What do you think could be the real reason behind Blatter finally stepping down despite winning the reelection?

I have sources who I was able to contact and they told me that in this particular scenario, the Coke, Hyundai, Visas, McDonalds of the world were prepared to pull their money.

They were basically saying to FIFA that not only do we longer want to give you $30 to $50 million on an annual basis—and that's about how much money they receive from over 10 sponsors—but we don't want to be associated with the fact that human beings are dying in construction of stadiums in Qatar with our money.


Him saying 'I have to do what's best for football, and what's best for FIFA,' what he's essentially saying is that: 'As long as I'm here, they're not going to give the money anymore, so, certainly that's my version of caring about the game.'

So what can we look ahead to after these arrests and indictments? What's the next step?

The first thing that needs to happen now is that we need to understand who the bad guys are—anyone who was responsible for any kind of racketeering, money laundering, tax evasion cannot be involved in FIFA going forward, regardless of—but 'oh, I was just a part of that because that's how we were doing business or oh, I didn't want to do it'—no, there can't be any excuses.

That's why FIFA needs an overhaul. It needs people who can prove that the game is really doing the things that it says it's doing—changing lives and making progress and doing everything for the betterment for the sport because right now no one believes the message that's coming from FIFA.

The votes for Qatar's bid are under investigation as well. There's an off chance that the U.S. might get to host the World Cup, what do you think of that?

The United States would welcome the World Cup. We are ready. There's nothing to build. In the last three World Cups, what we've seen is that FIFA has gone on this mission to change to world—to build things in Brazil, to build things in Africa, to build things in Qatar—it's such a noble cause done in such a corrupt way. It's best for the sport to select the venues that can best represent the sport.


And what the United States needs to know more than anything else, is that some of these horrible things have happened in our region. It's imperative to know—if we are going to move forward and have any inclusion in FIFA or in CONCACAF—if our delegates and our delegation have done anything that would be considered illegal. Because that would be devastating for us. We need to know that our federation is 100% clean.

Chuck Blazer was seen with a number of members from our delegation. The money went through our banks for a reason. Somebody within our country facilitated these wire transfers, and somebody had a reason to take it through our banks, and through our airports.

Print out your own Women's World Cup bracket here. Bracket courtesy of Eight by Eight magazine.

Let's talk a bit about the Women's World Cup. What do you think of the U.S. team's chances with so many new teams in this tournament?

The United States cannot come into this World Cup expecting to win. They have to come in with an attitude that they believe they can win. They are certainly talented enough but they are having issues with some players. The fitness isn't all the way up there.

The two teams that I feel can really mess this World Cup up are Canada, the home side, and Costa Rica. What their men did in the last World Cup was truly astounding. They played a of football that was appreciated by the whole world. And now the ladies are following suit. I would keep an eye on them. They were the second best team by far in our region in the qualifiers and they have some really talented girls that can make something happen.


So what do you think the United States needs to do?

They have to be a team, they need to use everybody. They have to trust players who are 13, 14, 15, on the roster, not just the 1, 2 and 3s.

Jillian Ellis, our coach, needs to manage players differently. Just because everyone wants to see Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach to start in the first game, that doesn't mean it's the right decision. She needs to balance that, and allow these girls to work their way into the competition, to get fit as they go. Alex is coming in hurt and Abby is older now, she's not the young buck that she used to be. She can certainly change a game but minimizing her minutes is the most important thing. That being said, I still think the U.S. has a very good chance to win.

There's been so much discussion about artificial turf being used for the first time. It's been said it's unfair, it's sexist that the women are not being allowed to play on real grass when it was such a simple demand to follow. What are your thoughts about that?

Canada, and more specifically Montreal, is the number one place for the production of artificial turf. It needs to be kept in mind that Canada had no opposition—no other country wanted the World Cup. It was surprising to me that grass was not an option. Canada was adamant about playing on turf because there was enormous influence from the turf companies who wanted to prove to the world that turf is a better surface and a safer surface to play on than grass. That's the stance that these companies take, and at some point somebody (in FIFA) agreed to it.

We're gonna have to deal with it now but I think because of the influence of the turf companies which have spent so much money to convince people that turf is safe, they wanted to have a World Cup (on turf) and prove it to everybody that this could be a wonderful World Cup without grass.