United States coach Bruce Arena says NFL players' protests during the national anthem are "appropriate," but he doesn't expect any of the players on his men's national team to kneel ahead of next month's World Cup qualifiers.
The U.S. Soccer Federation confirmed on Tuesday that the policy it passed in February requiring players to stand during the national anthem remains in place, as social injustice protests became more widespread in the NFL and other sports this week following critical comments from U.S. President Donald Trump.
And at an event to promote Fox's World Cup coverage on Tuesday night, Arena said he believes the protests seen "are appropriate. I can't question that. I don't want to get into a political debate here."
After U.S. women's team player Megan Rapinoe knelt before a game last year, the USSF passed a bylaw that said: "All persons representing a Federation national team shall stand respectfully during the playing of national anthems at any event in which the Federation is represented."
That protocol could be put to the test in the coming weeks as Arena's team will contest a pair of critical World Cup qualifiers in early October, while the women's side will play a pair of friendlies against South Korea later that month.
But Arena predicted that it wouldn't be an issue as his side prepares to take on Panama and Trinidad and Tobago with their spot at next summer's World Cup at stake.
"If we need to discuss it, we'll discuss it," he said. "But I don't think that's an issue we're going to deal with. We've got enough to deal with on Oct. 6 besides kneeling and stuff."
Asked about U.S. Soccer's bylaw, Arena said there was a difference between international and club soccer.
"The national team is different," he said. "You don't have to play in the national team. You can choose not to play. Those guys [in other sports] are professionals in their club teams. That's their jobs. They have to be there. Our guys don't have to be."
The USSF has been vague as to what the penalty would be for a player who is deemed to have violated the policy. A spokesperson told ESPN FC earlier in the day that it would depend on how the player actually engaged in the protest.
But Arena suggested there would be no instantaneous action from him if a player knelt, saying: "What do you think I should do then? Right then and there. Take him off? Burn a few substitutions. If four guys do it, we're screwed. What do you think I should do?"
As for the games ahead, Arena said he was unlikely to add any untested players to the squad with the U.S. in such a tenuous position in the CONCACAF qualifying table.
"We don't have the luxury of doing that," Arena said. "This is not experimental time. We pretty much have to go with who we have."
Arena specifically commented on defender Matt Miazga, who was just named to the Dutch Eredivisie team of the week for his play for Vitesse Arnhem, as one player who was unlikely to be called in at this stage.
But one player who is set to be recalled is DeAndre Yedlin, who returned to play for Newcastle this week after missing the September qualifiers and start of the Premier League season with an injury.
"It's good to get him back," Arena said of Yedlin. "He's a different kind of defender for us, so I think it'll be great if he stays healthy through the week and he arrives in Orlando."
Arena also said defender Geoff Cameron was likely to be called up, though his availability to play "remains to be seen" as he recovers from a thigh injury.
After losing at home to Costa Rica and drawing away to Honduras this month, the U.S. is in fourth place in the CONCACAF Hex table, good for the intercontinental playoff spot, and is one point behind Panama for the third and final automatic qualifying position.
And Arena remained optimistic of the U.S.'s chances to qualify, saying: "You know we've only lost one game in 2017. The roof hasn't caved in yet. It might after the next game, but not yet."