Five revelations from 2011 

December, 21, 2011

What looked in January to be a fairly mundane 12 months for the U.S. men's national team turned into a revelatory year that will reverberate through the 2014 World Cup and beyond. Enough change happened this past year, and more specifically, the past six months, to fill a book. But for this year-in-review blog post, we'll keep it a bit simpler, and give our five biggest revelations of 2011:

1. Sunil Gulati needed a win

At the end of 2010, FIFA rejected U.S. Soccer's bids for the 2022 World Cup, sending a meticulous, multimillion-dollar American bid document, not to mention countless hours of work, into history's dustbin. On the field, the U.S. men were squashed by Spain in a May friendly scheduled just days ahead of the Gold Cup, embarrassed by Panama in a Gold Cup group match, and overwhelmed by Mexico's attacking firepower in the Gold Cup final at Azteca Stadium in Pasadena. (Yes, we said Azteca.) Meanwhile, the U.S. women created unmatched drama in their march to the World Cup final, but like the men, they couldn't hold a lead when they had to. By the end of July it felt like the Yanks' chief rivals on both sides of the gender divide had caught and passed the U.S. And there wasn't a lot on the horizon indicating anything would change soon.

So Gulati, the U.S. Soccer president, finally attained what he'd been seeking for at least five years: Jurgen Klinsmann's signature on a contract to coach the men's national team. In an instant in late July, he changed the conversation from "How far behind are we?" to "What will Klinsi do to catch up?" and bought his organization time with a vocal segment of the American fan base.

2. Bob Bradley was always day-to-day

Luke Cyphers is a former senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.
Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine. He has covered American and international soccer since 2002.