After chronicling the rise and fall of the 1998 U.S. national team, Roger Bennett -- like Marty McFly in Back to the Future -- jumps into the DeLorean, sets the coordinates for present day, and blasts through space and time to return to 2018. Where he learns the Americans are once again mired in a World Cup fiasco.

Fortunately, the smoking-hot time machine has returned him to a studio at WNYC, where Roger sits down to talk with Freakonomics Radio host Stephen Dubner about the 2018 World Cup, including the U.S. team’s failure to qualify for the tournament.

They also deliver a primer on all the compelling drama that will unfold in Russia over the next month, including Lionel Messi’s quest for vindication with Argentina, Cristiano Ronaldo’s eight-pack, and the Icelandic underdogs who swear they have Viking blood coursing through their veins (but are also being coached by a part-time dentist.)

Plus, Roger learns that Dubner, a soccer fan who hosts the podcast Footy for Two with his son Solomon, fell in love with the sport at his alma mater, Appalachian State University. The Division I upstart Mountaineers, as it turns out, were coached by none other than Hank Steinbrecher, the former U.S. Soccer executive and all-around soccer patriot who plays a key role throughout American Fiasco.

Later, with the announcement of the 2026 World Cup host coming this week, Roger weighs in on whether the joint bid by the U.S., Mexico and Canada has a shot. And, he predicts that -- somehow, some way -- the United States will win the World Cup in 2018.

United States
explicit content


00:00:04support W. NYC studios you have to go are you fearful Hey dad how are you of I'd say noise and see yeah I've never gotten a Mister Dibner I like it I feel like I've just stepped into the great soul of Downton abbey alright Roger Bennett once you
00:00:26say your name first my name is Rajit panicking and what do you do for a living Sir more infos me the same question I sit in front of a television watch a lot of football and show to that television think it will impact events as Evan filling thousands
00:00:41of miles from me and you know what Stephen they think how often do you shower I'm just curious in that it depends I follow a medieval a regimen of washing where around the November I say myself into long in the way which I kept myself that it's open
00:00:57spring where we okay as you can hear I'm with another poke Costa Stephen governor the Freakonomics reject someone has you know quite well despite the fact in this podcast up to see to get his last name wrong many many times due to the governor you say potato I
00:01:20say Patel thank you know him as a man who enjoys talking about stagflation I've come to know him it's a huge soccer fans a passion which occasionally bubbles eva when he takes his forty fifth to poke cost with the sun huge Barcelona fan yes I've always intended for
00:01:38messing now really messy there was a pattern item messy yeah and you know process information out of this is that %HESITATION so far in American fiasco we've been obsessively documenting the U. S. men's national soccer teams bumpy road to the nineteen ninety eight will come but today we're
00:01:57going to talk about the two thousand eighteen will come about to kick off in Russia thought rude state which means a geo political stakes couldn't be higher don you say the US isn't even going to be that this time they failed to qualify in quite spectacular tragic fashion
00:02:17American fiasco indeed but the still plenty of dramatic story lines in the soap operas worth of characters to talk about messy right now they are my favorite the amazingly pub Matias squad from telling the only skin you can hear part of that conversation on the special will cut
00:02:36back to say to free economic trading but we want to let you in on some of the action as well so let's do it this is American fiasco American fiasco is supported by wakes don't call with wakes you can create your own professional website right from your face
00:03:17in five minutes or less now that's winning just go to wakes W. I. X. dot com to create yours today American fiasco is supported by xkit recruiter hirings challenging but this one place you can go to make hiring simple and small that place is it recruiter why growing
00:03:38businesses connect to qualified candidates try it for free exit recruited dot com slash fiasco the smartest way to hire I'm Richard Bennett you listen to the acid jazz our Freakonomics radio hello late night listen as its Roach now describe for me your anticipation for the upcoming World Cup
00:04:11considering that as we now know the US does not qualify but don't miss and I understand there there might be personal dimensions and professional demands because you're still working it yeah personally devastated the USFL and it has a navy so many of the players and they were exactly
00:04:29what drives them I know what it will cut means to a plant in terms of the railing growing into the elite level and and to have them lose the opportunity have that just fool away from them devastating for those devastating for the American football fan base who absolutely
00:04:47dedicated to that team the big take away is we should stop playing two countries at the same time never again should we play Trinidad and Tobago one of the time let's take baby steps having said that you know we can on a national tour during the World Cup
00:05:03going across the country this great country I will get across America are huge rage we mean meaning minimally Jack U. S. men's national team make some of them may come along rats have some of the younger future stars can it come on stage with us and talk about
00:05:15the future is part of the show is but you know I'm gonna explode the authentic beautiful football coaches city to city Seattle Portland San Francisco LA Saint Louis and and eat up and down the east coast and said I I will say is an Englishman with three times
00:05:34in my life England did not make the World Cup once when I was too young to really be seventy in the one ninety four they didn't make the American will cut seventy eight they didn't make it to Argentina and I will say in Mali emotional memory they only
00:05:47two favorite will cut because I was able to watch the telenovela kind of story lines and spooling in front of my own eyes without any sort of them Eccles have caught the English team this is drastic and if they get a self sabotage the gonna they gonna raise
00:06:03my hopes are going to crush my hopes they gonna go out in the most heart wrenching way to know if any of us could have that lack of stress this year that without any second and I think this is what's fascinating I think Americans are going to realize
00:06:17they just love the World Cup for its own sake I am this is gonna be the World Cup when Americans look at who is that rebelled a messy the heroic Icelandic story the kind of proof bowl roster of the Belgian team we have spoiler alert one of the
00:06:33three when this is ill Spain or Germany one of these three is going to win it got the African challenge got the intricacies of some of the incredibly organized passionate teams coming from Asia South Korea while and I think America loves a circus they love nothing more than
00:06:51excuse to cut work all mass for an entire month and they telling drink warm the your ring possibility for any American you know if you are in a ball at seven o'clock in the morning with a Budweiser society frowns on that right Stephen did not yes you would
00:07:06not be pleased to be would not Japanese few in that same ball without saying Budweiser and on the television Spadina playing Portugal in the opening group game of the World Cup well ID your football fan you a football fan and this is gonna be a big old Cup
00:07:22even without the American participant you're describing %HESITATION which I'd love to think will come to pass is an embrace of the World Cup despite the lack of an American team for American fans and it sounds like to the average that's a sports fan it sounds a lot like
00:07:37the way Americans follow the NC double a basketball tricks right even if I went to a college that doesn't have a team or if my team is no good or if my team loses early to go to college I went to Appalachian state university which had a very
00:07:51fine soccer team I have to tell you top ten nationally division one even though they were individual another sport what sending the mountaineers him on my school had a very strange set of circumstances by which a man named Hank Steinbrenner you know Hank you know how do I
00:08:05know Hank I love Hank Steinbrenner showed no thanks time time time Russia is only the still all of American Fasken hangs them which is one of the single greatest human beings dole hangs time pressure so Hank I can't believe you know him so well and yet didn't know
00:08:22that his most impressive feat on his resume was assembling and coaching a team at a place called Appalachian state university in Boone North Carolina that was ranked number seven nationally and high was a sixteen year old not much of a big soccer fan who was transfixed by this
00:08:42team of %HESITATION %HESITATION Nigerians and Canadians just television a little a little young Stephen do not have a mullet will can really hate guys I got some pace I guessing game my bad guys and that is actually going on there and I didn't really have anything that I
00:08:59did to her a couple of the soccer players your contribution but I think tank is a prince as well hang stowing Russia for those of you do not know I was the general secretary of US soccer essentially the gentleman that was executing every major decision in the nineties
00:09:15he dedicated himself to the growth of the game he oversaw it in his body a hall beats the is so American it makes things like hunting democracy even barbecued ribs seems unamerican had to hang stowing the in as I'm one of the joys of making American fiasco was
00:09:35the time I spend with Hank listening to him talk about decision off the decision with this nineteen ninety eight team which I was fascinated by because squad so fragile ecosystems they really all the Senshi workplace culture is what you need is a collective focus have a team like
00:09:54Iceland from the smallest country traffic qualify for the World Cup three and then thirty five thousand people Corpus Christi Texas I believe is bigger they have hold wide that country to produce phenomenal collective football players invested heavily in training facilities they invested heavily intensely in the league coaching
00:10:15they have been in a ridiculous number of Luke cage is I know the the manager of the national team at least until recently was also a part time dentist he was aiming at home with her since I first could friend of mine he is that right all time
00:10:29dentist on a tiny island that has I think eight hundred thousand puffins for everyone person that has have you ever had him do any work on you you know you have that close a friend at you know the idea of what she can do root canal and I
00:10:42almost them why do you keep as an internet somebody keep doing part time dentistry which he did until a year ago and he just looked to me like a madman he said the other managers blow off steam by hunting other guys gamble he said I do root canals
00:10:58like I was a moral he's given up now because he is focusing on this will come mazing story twelve years ago he was cooking on the twelve boys think in two weeks as we record here he's gonna walk out with the world watching with his ice on the
00:11:12team against Argentina and Lee in the west it's incredible career echo body slammed have focused on investing heavily in coaching they've built a cell the cadre of players who are not just technically phenomena been in massive soccer holes with had eight hundred five year old with a hundred
00:11:32of the coaches just it was like China mild ping pong kind of fed by just these unbelievable factories of joy of young kids learning to love the game and then they they develop this unbelievable kind of Viking mentality is the other thing these kids these guys when you
00:11:48interview them they they say there is Viking blood that flows through my veins they really but then I thought they were joking as I head that's funny no no I really mean it the ice landing player before they played big teams US them do they think they can
00:12:09win they looking UNICEF course we'll we'll Iceland I say even though like five years ago you get smashed by these teams they said even five years ago we thought we were going to win we just didn't America fiasco supported by wakes don't come with wakes you can create
00:12:31your own professional website exactly the way you want which means you can loan through an online store blog all portfolio we're if you all even while listening to this point cost his how it works due to wakes dot com decide what you need to cite for you style
00:12:47I'd your images and your website is ready in five minutes or less make sure your story doesn't go and told go to wakes W. I. acts don't come to create a professional website today American fiasco was supported by zip recruiter hiring used to be homeless multiple job sites
00:13:08stacks of resumes but today hiring can be easy and you only have to give to a warm place to get it done zip recruits out is it recruits askance thousands of resumes to find people with the right experience and invite them to apply to your job it's so
00:13:24effective that eighty percent of employers who pay stones it recruits get a quality candidate through the site within the first day wow right now listeners can tries it recruits out for free in this exclusive web address is it recruiter dot com slash fiasco bugs it recruits dot com
00:13:43slash fiasco when the legendary rapper prodigy died after being hospitalized for sickle cell anemia last year his friends his fans were shocked in the cemetery NATO modestly day right here that we have right now mean making beats prodigy is dead right now on Mary Harris and Christopher Johnson
00:14:01the realness is a new podcast from W. NYC studios it takes you inside prodigies and asks why he couldn't escape a single recessive genes listen and subscribe to the realness where ever you get your podcasts so you're not cast American fiasco in nineteen ninety eight U. S. men's
00:14:25national team yes which %HESITATION which did very poorly correct you've had the good fortune to turn into it an audio tragedy which is you know said good material but then just a year later months later the nineteen ninety nine women's World Cup yet the US women's team take
00:14:45it from there I mean absolutely save the day save the day such a high level so much enthusiasm and all the things it sounds like you were hoping for an expecting drum yeah so first of all describe the women's team and why they were and continue to be
00:15:02so so so good and why a country that produces such a dominant women's team produces such a middling to crap men's team title nine as everything is in there where the country has title nine so what you had was women athletes to were exposed to better facilities better
00:15:22infrastructure better coaching that anywhere else in the world by a multiple of ten and so in nineteen ninety eight it fell personally having watched it felt like it don't miss you know I I won't say I love America I love football is nothing I love more than the
00:15:36game I love growing in the in the country I love flies a lots of love nineteen ninety four I fell the plate tectonic shifting under the school nineteen ninety eight it was a dog nested felt apple collected and it when you interview the place tonight and I said
00:15:51they felt they had destroyed not only that in Korea's bill save the professional futures for football players in this country then along came the women nineteen ninety nine thanks title knowing they just with superior in every way they would destroy you'll opponents physically so much more gifted they
00:16:08would run harder they would tackle harder they just destroyed will come as title nine allowed the women to develop a healthy competitive advantage the rest of the world is caught up and then some female football that's grown unbelievably in Europe and a wonderful sophisticated and when I grew
00:16:26up it was kind of scary gifted and women did not play sports now the day but in nineteen ninety nine the women failed the man out gave this country joy gave this country a reason to love soccer again and please call two thousand nineteen history will repeat itself
00:16:41there is a lawsuit in which members of the US women's national team are alleging that they've been paid very unfairly compared to the man especially considering not only their actual accomplishments richer which dwarf the men at least in recent history but in later when things they when things
00:16:59but also their revenues are on a pretty good so do you think it in any way affected the cohesion of the men's either national team or the national program because the whole program has I would say melted down but there's been a big change in administration now so
00:17:17I'm just curious whether that was any kind of explanation for why the not that there were many reasons for the two thousand the engine failure that you're not one of them coaching the mental focus of the man encouraged time who knew exactly what they had today and failed
00:17:35so spectacularly they needed to drool against the worst team on the final day and they went to kneel down early they gotta go back it was two one have plenty of time plenty of time to get a second goal against a very poor team they were resigned to
00:17:50losing watching them that their legs weighed you take turns they seem to be bogged down we did the life sharer afterwards taking that title of Hillary Clinton's but what happened try to understand where if you're depressed you are very depressed origin I was incredibly incredibly aside for the
00:18:09players us I was crushed for the fans who live travel and and dream about this team the success but also a future in America where west suck out which is massive for twelve to twenty seven year old demographic is across the board a Major League school and a
00:18:28true Major League sense I could I felt crushed for them the World Cup is the greatest driver for the growth of the game it's like a huge wave that hits the suckers beech leaves more more friends behind unmissable I felt deeply sad because it will cut still going
00:18:44to be big still gonna be big Stephen but they scenes we saw the loss will cut way Dallas Cowboys stadium was full of US fans cheering on the team in a ditch Graham park she call gave sixty thousand people cheering to watch John Anthony Brooks gore in the
00:19:00last second against the goal and the INS Tim how would saving ever we can all gonna have I us makes the sound to be candid because some of the happiest collective memories in my life which you may say said about my life but they will even from the
00:19:13history moments I shared with my family and and and thousands of fans across the world they are they they all miss vivid moments in my biography we're gonna be deprived this will Cup of having any collective American memories and it's fairly devastating let me ask you this Leo
00:19:31Messi you called him the greatest footballer a life or would you say ever heat he's the car single greatest footballer I have ever seen okay you ever seen it and would that include pele for instance ever seen meaning on tape anything yep going back yet that pal I've
00:19:46got them and then the foot the focal football nowadays is a completely different okay so let's let me ask you this for those again who may end up watching some Argentina not know too much not care too much he is physically a remarkably unassuming human yeah looks like
00:20:04it looks like he's just one that I have your local supercuts yeah and yeah and to and to understand them you have to know about his nemesis run our elbow who's that the opposite everyone it's over now they Portugal captain the two of them it's light liberal and
00:20:18Steph curry in it which is the great the greatest clapping for them have stay completely different attributes different physical styles of play Rendell day is like a bowl full of draconian wall turned into a person I I actually in one tournament I was given I would check into
00:20:35a hotel was given his bedroom after he left it and honestly I was there for four days and I couldn't get the the the Cologne out my clothing for the next three weeks just like did you all of that stuff did I love it if it's not very
00:20:51many it's really not very make the key heavy on the color you know very roads but he is physically beautiful seems to be allergic to wearing shirts after goal scoring like the often think he doesn't enjoy the scoring goals in there and say that just because it had
00:21:06already shut off share the world these nipples an eagle is don't go six packets go in a pack Renaldo it's truly remarkable thing he is he is a sculpture of a man dominant beautiful EMI was and is the wood and Lee in the messy and a good goal
00:21:22scorer but we all messy you're saying is a better player because not only is the often out score when all the but what else does Messi do messy is the video store clerk blockbuster this in a way as the te Tarantino film he doesn't even look up from
00:21:36is that from his village voice he just says second row on the button below he looks like an everyman but when he takes to the field a combination of his vision his ability to accelerate an incredible pace into crevices of space that really no one else sees that
00:21:58space leaving behind only kind of smoking cleats where the fenders ones were just vaporize his opponents his ability to compete angle we need to check them incredible physics admits that he has a beautiful mind in that the way he finishes goals rarely smashing the bulls who it's always
00:22:19with just enough effort just enough power only when it needs and the great pressure delivering over and over and over again what's fascinating about him he left Argentina when he was yeah around Baumit search for health treatment right yet I mean that that is a tiny kid is
00:22:36still a tiny blade but both Selena were willing to give him the steroid treatment at the needed only the best investment ever in sports history Argentinian Jesse he is never delivered victory in the last three big tunes he's played he's got his team to the foil but you
00:22:53know it's like liberal it's like watching the brown is like an unbelievable player and the rest of the costs they under perform around them and they just wait for him to do magic and he's gotten to the final final loss will count the following the loss to cope
00:23:05as they both though all three of them offended both in the feet and with him in teh is it's like this is what it sounds like when doves cry you but you really understand that limit when you watch little messy crying at the end of the game and
00:23:18the pressure that he's plays under in Argentina Jersey is remarkable is one of the storyline that this will cut so this World Cup in Russia which will be a geopolitical tellin waver in its own the next one in cutter in the winter %HESITATION hot with shame yoga is
00:23:39related to all kinds are gonna change things but here's what I really wanna know yet and that way you can the twenty twenty six World Cup will be played in a way I think we sing America gonna get it will cut it in a really bad knees it's
00:23:53not gonna be Morocco isn't well them the on June the thirteenth the day before I woke up again kicks off in a elaborate ceremony they will reveal in Russia who is gonna get the two thousand twenty six World Cup one slight problem the person presiding over the ceremony
00:24:11of the announcement his flight to make peace in you don't think the US will get it I imagine queue table looking the envelope and if it does say the US makes in Canada he will smile at the cameras and just say and the winner is well Chechnya and
00:24:27Crimea the the only street days America's a complicated reality for a lot of nations to vote for so Roger %HESITATION if Russia were to win the World Cup what would you say are the odds that someone intervened with a briefcase of cash a loaded weapon it's at art
00:24:49center Russia a possibly going to be the worst host since Seth macfarlane at the Oscars in two thousand thirty there a terrible football team they are a terrible football team I mean just they wouldn't of qualified I assume if they weren't hosting milk even clay so they go
00:25:05gifted a as America in nineteen ninety four incredible pressure you have to get at the group stages has to show that you actually do belong Russia all a hapless pathetic soaked the Manson as a guy born in England I knew half the specifics of cutting I think America
00:25:22a mole life to win the two thousand eighteen wheel Cup then Russia and I will say and I said this before Stephen if Russia could influence the two thousand sixteen US election I still believe that we have the brain power we have that they get only it's a
00:25:38Burgundy listening to this you love stagflation conversations on Freakonomics I still believe that America has the creative brain power to work out how even though we know in it we can still win the two thousand the team will come from Russia amen amen thanks to you Stephen dub
00:25:57not for having the old you know listening to Freakonomics radio gal named him Freakonomics dot com who just subscribe where if you listen to punk costs but this just in who's a statistic in this conversation I need to correct a slightly exaggerated the number of puffins are residents
00:26:17on hi Matt how my christens island I said there are eight hundred thousand for every human being the American Fieschi team went to Iceland and counted them by hand and it's more like a thousand puffins to every human being but Kimmel once a person's go more than three
00:26:33coffins who's counting American fiasco is a production of WNYC studios our team includes John Mayer Emily both teams Polish human Derek John Starley kind Keegan's Emma Ernie entered at Eliza Lambert Jamison your Daniel he met Matt pointed Jonathan Williamson Brad Feldman be Aldrich Jeremy bloom icing Jones and
00:27:08Sarah sandbox Joe Florida's our technical director and his brown composed our original music our theme music is by the big red machine the collaboration between Aaron Dessner of the national and Justin Vernon of Bali there special thanks to Matt fresh again and Allison Hockenberry at Freakonomics radio for
00:27:30more about this story including a time line and more go to fiasco podcast dot com America fiasco supported by weeks don't come with wakes you can create your own professional website exactly the way you want which means you can loan through an online store blog all portfolio we're
00:28:00if you all even while listening to this point cost his how it works due to wakes dot com decide what you need to cite for you style I'd your images and your website is ready in five minutes or less make sure your story doesn't go and told go
00:28:16to wakes W. I. acts don't come to create a professional website today

Transcribed by algorithms. Report Errata
Disclaimer: The podcast and artwork embedded on this page are from WNYC Studios, which is the property of its owner and not affiliated with or endorsed by Listen Notes, Inc.


Thank you for helping to keep the podcast database up to date.