U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team: A Case Study in Business Innovation Part 2 (6/12/14)

This is the second part of a two part series on how the US Men’s soccer team has engaged in brand innovation. In part one we talked about product exploration and refinement. In this part we will focus on testing, validation and launch.

3. Testing: As Klinsmann took over the team he instilled a new approach. He began toying with different tactics and defined new roles for players on the team. For example he has employed a diamond formation in the midfield. His adjustments continue to be met with great criticism; as is the case with all change.  But Klinsmann has struck to his guns throughout all the hoopla. While outsiders insist on focusing on the smaller picture, Klinsmann focuses on the larger one. When asked about his tactics he has stated,

“I think there are pro and cons, like with every system,” Klinsmann said to reporters on when asked how his players have adapted to the recent change. “But it doesn’t really matter what shape we have or what system we have, it matters how we kind of connect with one another on the field.”[1]

No move by Klinsmann has received more criticism than his decision to leave Landon Donovan, the USMNT’s hero, off of the 23 man squad. He was criticized and lampooned by critics. Klinsmann chose youth and a few unknowns to replace America’s hero. This of course was not a popular decision. Klinsmann dared to go against the great American tradition of paying players for what they have already done rather than for what they are currently doing. This decision is similar to when a brand or product takes a risk and goes all in. Of course there will be naysayers, but ultimately this move conveyed a 100% commitment by US Soccer to take the next step forward.

4. Validation: After Klinsmann’s controversial decision to leave Landon Donovan off the World Cup team all eyes looked to see how the USMNT would perform in its final World Cup tune up against Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Nigeria. The USMNT was impressive, winning each game 2-0, 2-1, and 2-1 respectively. While the play was not perfect for the Americans, especially in the backfield, overall the tune ups were a success. The wins provided Klinsmann a short reprieve from the constant scrutiny caused by his Landon Donovan decision. The games also presented a glimpse into the future style of US Men’s Soccer. The hope now is that this new team, rebuilt, reformed, and refined may be better able to compete in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and for many years after that.

5. Launch: The launch of the new US MNT will conclude with its first game against Ghana on Sunday June 16th. How this new product will fair is still very much up in the air. However, it will be very interesting to watch the USMNT through the lens of product innovation. Here’s hoping the team responds well to the changes that Klinsmann and US Soccer have made. Over these last several years they have built a stronger and higher performing team; a new team Americans can be proud to cheer for.

[1] http://www.mlssoccer.com/worldcup/2014/news/article/2014/06/06/world-cup-usmnts-jurgen-klinsmann-says-talk-tactical-systems-not-speed-anymo