Hey podcast listeners: Are you ready for some football? WNYC Studios and Roger Bennett of soccer website Men in Blazers sure hope so, as they are about to release their new podcast, American Fiasco, a 12-episode series chronicling the U.S. men’s soccer team and their legendarily disastrous bid to win the 1998 World Cup. In short: It’s a show about how not to win the World Cup.
The team was riding high after their performance at the 1994 World Cup, which was played on home turf. When the next World Cup rolled around, the U.S. Men’s National Team was confident that they would once again shine on the international stage and, with a little luck, maybe even win it all. “I’m going to spoil the ending for you right now,” says Bennett. “The U.S. did not win the World Cup in 1998.” In fact, the U.S. team’s performance was the soccer equivalent of the sad trombone sound.
The story of why they didn’t win is a cautionary tale of hubris and the particularly devastating nature of self-inflicted wounds. It’s a fascinating listen for U.S. soccer fans wondering why the U.S. Men’s National Team is not playing in the 2018 World Cup. And it should be mandatory listening for fans of any sport where egos, talent, and cash money battle it out in the stadium and the locker room. It is also one of the most absorbing stories you’ll hear whether you like soccer (er . . . football) or not.
“This is an incredibly American story,” says Bennett. “This is a story about American dreams, and how collective efforts to make them come real can be completely undone by success, self-interest, and one terrible human decision after another. It just happens to be played out by athletes with mullets clad in polyester and cleats.”
The show’s release is timed to the 2018 World Cup, which just so happens to be the 20th anniversary of the 1998 tournament, and Bennett thinks the people most closely involved are ready to tell their side of the story.
“The key actors never really explained how it all went down, and I have always been fascinated to learn how it happened, how a team who unfurled some of the most impressive collective all-for-one teamplay in 1994 could self-sabotage, undermine, and destroy each other within just four years,” he says. “I wanted to examine the series of human decisions that led to it, and 20 years is enough time to try and uncover the emotional core.”
American Fiasco will release its first six episodes on Monday, June 4, with the remaining six episodes coming out Monday, June 11. Start listening now, because soon enough the U.S. men’s team will be back at it again. “It is only 1,637 days until World Cup 2022 kicks off,” says Bennett. “[It’s] the next one the U.S. can play in, and I am already dreaming of what the U.S. can do in it.” And if they want it, he’s got a playbook for not losing, too.