America’s other Football, Nationalism, and the Dilemma of Importing Human Capital

The recent Bangor Daily News article “Slower visa approval could worsen Maine’s doctor shortage” made me think about the dilemma of importing foreign talent to solve a local problem, something very similar to what happened when the U.S. Soccer Federation hired the German footballer Jurgen Klinsmann to steer U.S. soccer (football) in the right direction back in 2011.[1]  Klinsmann was relieved of his duties in November of 2016 after a series of negative results during the qualifying rounds against Costa Rica and Mexico that put in jeopardy the national team’s chances of qualifying to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.  The record of 55-27-16 was not of the highest caliber, considering the high expectations for an incremental improvement of the team’s performance, the consolidation of an American style of playing, and the strengthening of the youth development program.  I, and many other followers I suspect, were expecting Klinsmann to maximize the youth talent at his disposal but at the end he opted to seek solutions elsewhere, searching for German-American talent that had a hard time with language and cultural adaptation in the United States.

The German-American solution did not resolve the problems in the field and did not contribute to the strengthening or consolidation of U.S. soccer (football) and instead reversed the progress achieved by the last two American coaches that were close to figuring out the chemistry and idiosyncrasy of the American player.  Bruce Arena, one of the two previous coaches, has been called back to lead this new era.  With a historic record of 72-30-30 and a desire to capitalize on the youth development program, Arena brings new hopes that we will quality for Russia 2018.

The U.S. will begin the long road to Russia at home against Honduras this Friday March 24 at 10:30 p.m. ET, followed by matches against Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico, and Costa Rica.[2]  A return to a nationalist formula seems to be Arena’s formula, bringing in new blood combined with the experience of Howard, Bradley and company.  It is an exciting time for US soccer (football); there is a fast-growing fan base and a youth development program that has almost doubled since the U.S. 1994 World Cup (from 2.4 million to 3.1 million).[3]

The challenge is tremendous because the fans now expect results.  Major League Soccer (MLS) and the melting pot of immigrants from the world of soccer (football) that call the U.S. their home have created an educated and informed culture that knows that this is the time for the U.S. men’s national team to take the game to a higher level.  Proof of this culture is last year’s MLS attendance at different venues averaging for example 42,636 spectators in Seattle and 31,324 spectators in Orlando, and reaching a total of 7.3 million fans for the whole 2016 season.[4]

The formula of importing talent is now gone, it is time to gather what has been sown.  The same could be said about doctors.  In 2015 18,705 doctors graduated from medical school in the United States, an increase of 16 percent since 2002, while the number of applicants to medical school increased 25 percent reaching an “all-time high of 20,630.”[5]   As in the case of soccer (football) the American melting pot seems to be the solution for new talent, with an increasing enrolment of Latinos (6.9 percent), African-Americans (11.6 percent), Alaska Natives (3.5 percent), and women making up 48 percent of total enrollment.[6]  The recent doctor shortage article by Jen Lynds suggests that Maine has been playing the Klinsmann card, ignoring the fact that the formula might not be in the global but in the local market.  Maine’s hospital decision makers need to figure out how to maximize the youth talent at their disposal, just like Bruce Arena is doing.  The solution to the scarcity of doctors is domestic just like the solution to American soccer (football). 

This is not political nationalism; it is just a suggestion to use local human capital to solve local challenges.  Lets jump on the nationalist fervor of soccer (football) and forget about Trump, politics, and conflict; lets support our national team on our road to Russia 2018 and forget about the turmoil for 90 minutes, just like the rest of the world does every time their team steps on the field.



[1] Jen Lynds, “Slower visa approval could worsen Maine’s doctor shortage,” Bangor Daily News March 18, 2017.  Accessed March 22, 2017.

[2] For full schedule see

[3] U.S. Youth Soccer, “Membership Statistics.” Accessed March 22, 2016.

[4] “2016 MLS Attendance,” Soccer Stadium Digest. Accessed March 23, 2017.

[5] “Total Number of Medical School Graduates,”  Accessed March 23, 2017.,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D; see also “Medical School Applicants, Enrollees Reach New Highs,” Association of American Medical Colleges.  Accessed March 23, 2017.

[6] Ibid.

Stefano Tijerina

About Stefano Tijerina

My name is Stefano Tijerina and this blog’s objective is to connect Maine’s social, environmental, economic, cultural, and political issues to the global system, centering on how the local impacts the global and how the global impacts the local or what is known in Global Studies as the "Glocal" effect. In our present era of globalization it is crucial for the general public to understand how the new dynamics of the international system impact our lives here in Maine and how our local decisions impact the earth. These are my personal views, and they do not express those of the University of Maine System or the University of Maine.