The U.S. men's soccer team, which failed to qualify for this year's World Cup in Russia, must quickly figure out how to reimagine the American game, said U.S. Soccer CEO Dan Flynn.
"Our challenge is really our product on the field," he told CNBC on Wednesday.
Flynn appeared on "Squawk Alley" hours after soccer's international governing body — FIFA — chose the United States, Canada and Mexico to host the 2026 World Cup over Morocco. The first and only time the World Cup was held in the U.S. was in 1994. The 2022 World Cup will be held in Qatar.
"What we can do in eight years is capitalize on the plans we have in place. Developing a player isn't something you go in and out of. It's a long-term project," said Flynn, explaining the next generation of international soccer stars are just kids now. The World Cup, held every four years, "brings a great deal of aspirational ... [feelings] for the young players," he added.
FIFA, which historically gives the host nation an automatic bid, has yet to decide on the issue for 2026 since the tournament will have three host nations. However, the dual hosts in 2002, Japan and South Korea, both got free passes.
Canada last appeared in the World Cup in 1986. The U.S. and Mexico both played in seven out of the past eight World Cups. Mexico was banned in 1990. The U.S. failed to qualify for the 2018 tournament, which begins Thursday with host Russia playing Saudi Arabia. The group stage really gets going Friday and over the weekend. Mexico faces powerhouse Germany on Sunday.
While the U.S. is expected to host most of the games in 2026, Flynn believes the three-nation footprint was a deciding factor, especially since the World Cup that year will expand from 32 to 48 teams.
The "certainty that our stadiums are already built compared to our opponent ... [also] resonated quite well," said Flynn. There won't be much of an infrastructure build for the tournament, he added.
— Fox has the English-language 2018 World Cup television rights. NBCUniversal's Telemundo has the U.S. Spanish-language TV rights. Comcast owns NBCUniversal and CNBC.