Exclusive interview with Tony Meola on his career, the USMNT and MLS.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 26: Team Mexico celebrates after defeating Jamaica in the CONCACAF Gold Cup Final at Lincoln Financial Field on July 26, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Mexico won, 3-1. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 26: Team Mexico celebrates after defeating Jamaica in the CONCACAF Gold Cup Final at Lincoln Financial Field on July 26, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Mexico won, 3-1. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

Former USMNT captain and MLS star Tony Meola, joined MLS Multiplex for an interview.

In the early days of the MLS, Tony Meola was one of the league’s first stars. He was a true pioneer at the goalkeeper position, who helped pave the way for players like Tim Howard, Kasey Keller and Brad Guzan.

In 2000, Meola helped lead the Kansas City Wizards to its first MLS championship. He also won the League MVP, Goalkeeper of the Year award, and MLS Cup MVP that year.

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Meola also earned a 100 caps for the United States. He made his international debut in 1988 and then made his final appearance against Jamaica in 2006.

He also played for the national team in the 1990 World Cup and captained the squad in the 1994 World Cup hosted by the United States.


The former Kansas City Wizards star gave MLS Multiplex a few minutes of his time to talk about his career, the 2017 Gold Cup and the current state of the USMNT.


Juan Herrera, MLS Multiplex: So just to start off, can you tell me a little about your work with Allstate around the Gold Cup?

Tony Meola: Yeah, no doubt. Allstate is the official protector of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. We did a little tour today with the Gold Cup trophy and tomorrow, prior to the game, I’ll be out at the Allstate protection zone, near Nissan Stadium from 12:30 to close to kickoff. I get an opportunity to meet and greet some fans here and get a feel of what this soccer community is here in Nashville.

JH: And now just to touch on the USMNT, what kind of performance are you expecting from them in this cup?

TM: Bruce wants to put some younger players out there with some energy. They can run at teams and attack teams and I think that’s the idea behind this roster. It gives some older players an opportunity to get a rest. We may see some of those guys in the second part of the tournament.

But there’s no doubt that Bruce has a few guys that he has his eyes on here. A Kellyn Acosta type of player, obviously Dom Dwyer. Then he wants to see what Jordan Morris can do. With Brad Guzan, he has an idea. Will we see Hamid or Sean Johnson in-goal? Maybe Jesse Gonzales for the second part now that his papers have cleared and he’s made that switch.

Bruce has some decisions to make. I think he’s done a really good job of mixing it up with these players. I keep saying that what he’s done is make players believe that they’re part of the process and that they’re part of the group. He’s got a really nice mix of some experience and guys with maybe not so much experience that have done a really good job at the club level and now they get an opportunity to play here.

JH: So, on the topic of goalkeepers, how do you think the U.S. has been able to constantly churn out these top quality goalkeepers?

TM: Yeah, that’s a good question. We’ve been blessed at the position for a lot of years. Part of the blessing is also a curse where most of the times there’s been blocks of guys for a while. Guys like Kasey, myself and Brad, who ate up a lot of the games and other guys didn’t get opportunities. Now it’s Tim and Brad (Guzan).

Everyone wants to know who the next guy is. Is it Hamid and Johnson? Are they ready? We’ve also talked about Jesse Gonzales and a guy who isn’t here, but still has been with the team, Ethan Horvath, who I think has a huge upside. You know, who is it? We don’t really know, but Bruce has been pretty clear on giving guys opportunities. I’d be surprised if we don’t see a goalkeeper get an opportunity here in this tournament or some time in these friendlies coming up.


JH: What was it like captaining the U.S. during your time with the team?

TM: That’s always the pinnacle. For a player to look back now and have been the captain of the team and to have been the captain of the team when the World Cup was in your host country. There’s obviously very few guys who can say that. So it was a huge honor, but boy I felt like I was the guy.

Back then, if you think about the team, half the team was in Europe and half the team was here in the United States. Bora probably felt I was the guy closest to both groups and could really relate to both groups. So when the European guys came back I could integrate them in and really help blend both groups. Looking back on it, I thought it then and I think it now, it was a huge honor for sure.

JH: What do you think was one of your favorite moments from your time as captain?

TM: Just walking out in the 94 World Cup. Marching out in Detroit and knowing it was fine here. There were two years of build up. We didn’t have qualifying so there was this anticipation for a long time. We played a lot of games. Obviously beating Colombia and then making it to the second round was special, but there was just an honor of being in it.


JH: Just to change topics here, you were part of the MLS in its early days, how do you think the league has changed since your time in it? How has it changed internally and externally?

TM: Well from an organizational stand point, it’s just growing and growing and growing. We see it in the stadiums, the infrastructure and the way the organizations are set up. It has completely changed now. From the on-field part of it, the American players continue to grow. We keep sprinkling in very good foreign players. The talent pool is extremely deep. A heck of a lot deeper now from an American standpoint, than it ever was.

JH: Do you like the direction the MLS is heading?

TM: Yeah, no doubt. We’re seeing what’s happening in cities like Atlanta with expansion. We’re going to get a glimpse of it in LAFC, I’m sure, at some point. We saw what happened when Seattle and Portland came to the league. If we could add cities like that and atmospheres like that, it changes the feel of the league. Everyone uses the term “a very European feel” because that’s the model. I don’t know if it’s European or South American, but whatever the feel is, it makes it a heck of a lot more exciting.

JH: What are some of your favorite memories from your MLS career?

TM: For sure, the first game for the Metro Stars at home even though we lost. It had been a dream in my mind, growing up a Cosmos fan, to watch them and then be on the field I always wanted to play at. That was a huge thrill for me. And then just being part of growing the league. Someone had to be the first group of guys right? It just happened to be the group of guys I was with. I look at it now and think that being a small part of it was pretty cool.

The 2026 WC Bid

JH: What are your thoughts on America’s joint bid with Mexico and Canada for the 2026 World Cup?

TM: Yeah I was a little bit surprised. If they think that’s the best way to win the bid, then that’s obviously the way they’re going to go. It looks like a majority of games are going to be in the U.S., but I’m sure Mexico and Canada are going to get their share of games. It’s obviously a new concept. We saw it in 2002 with Korea and Japan. I think we’ll see more of it down the road. It’s kind of a look at what the future of World Cup bidding is going to look like for sure.

JH: Do you think the U.S. is ready to host another World Cup?

TM: Yeah, no doubt. We’ve been ready since 1995. We have all the stadiums for putting on the events. We’re ready. Hopefully the soccer world will agree and we’ll get another world cup.

JH: Just to wrap up everything, how do you think support for soccer in the U.S. has changed since the last time we’ve hosted a World Cup?

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TM: Well it continues to grow. As long as we continue to grow and go in an upward direction, I think we’re good. We’re seeing it now, where it used to be only in major cities like L.A., New York or Chicago, it’s all over the country now. It’s spreading like crazy. We’re going get a taste of it this weekend in Nashville and we’re going to get a taste of it in other cities like Tampa next week and all around the country. I think it’s going to continue help growing the sport.