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The Beautiful Game Ain't So Pretty This Summer

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Just to catch you up on the latest goings-on at FIFA, the world body in charge of soccer: after the latest set of shenanigans, things played out pretty much according to plan for Sepp Blatter. He was re-elected as FIFA president -- unopposed -- and talked a lot of hot air about transparency and cleaning up the group.

Fast-forward to today, when one of the figures at the center of the current scandal, Trinidad's Jack Warner -- FIFA vice-president and general punk -- resigned his vice-presidency and his role at the head of CONCACAF (the regional body that oversees the national organizations in North and Central America and the Caribbean). Warner says he's been "hung out to dry" and that what's happening to him is hypocrisy, because the culture of "gifts" (aka bribes) has a long history in FIFA.

That might be the first honest thing to ever come out of the man's mouth.

But FIFA's own statement on the resignation bears reading, in particular, the last paragraph:

As a consequence of Mr Warner’s self-determined resignation, all Ethics Committee procedures against him have been closed and the presumption of innocence is maintained.

That's convenient for everybody involved, isn't it? Without being overly conspiratorial, it's not too hard to imagine this scenario: Jack knows he's busted, and can keep up the charade of innocence and risk his political career back home in Trinidad (where he's a cabinet minister); or he can step down and let sleeping dogs lie, a path of action that also takes care of things for Blatter and his pals. As I said, it's convenient.

If you're a soccer fan in the US, though, you've got the welcome distraction of competitive football going on in the form of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the regional championship. You've gotten to see the US completely dominate some hapless Canadians (2-0), narrowly lose to the powerhouses of Panama (2-1), and steamroll mighty Guadeloupe (1-0). In case you can't tell, I'm being sarcastic. The US has backed into the semi-finals, but it's had to work hard to get there. Its 2-0 defeat of Jamaica on Sunday was the best game the team had played in the entire tournament, but that's sort of like saying I drank a pint of antifreeze and it didn't hurt as badly as turpentine. (Which, if you watched any of the group stage games, you probably considered.)

This US team is pretty awful, despite the appearance that they've turned some sort of corner. Just to be clear: this corner involves beating Jamaica, a result that wasn't in the bag until a US midfielder managed to get a Jamaican player sent off in the 75th minute. It's typical stuff under the head coach Bob Bradley: dig yourself into a hole, then require theatrics at the end to get through. Bradley's tactical inflexibility is one thing, but he doesn't seem to have any idea how to motivate this group of players. And though they may not be world-beaters, they should be capable of beating the likes of Panama and Guadeloupe comfortably.

But Bradley's done enough to save himself. The US should beat Panama on Wednesday, setting up a likely final with Mexico. Given the way El Tri has been playing, we're going to get burned like your lower intestinal tract after a date with El Dragon. But it won't matter, since there's not much shame in losing to Mexico when you go by the traditional loser's mindset that comes with the US national team. Until both Bradley and the head of the US Soccer Federation, who keeps employing him are gone, don't expect much to change. Sort of like FIFA.

One other thing worth pointing out about the Gold Cup: bets placed on three of the matches -- which all ended in blowouts -- are raising some eyebrows.

I'll check back in after the Gold Cup final on Saturday with an Rx for US Soccer that involves a lot of what's been mentioned above.