The opening of the quadrennial World Cup soccer tournament is two weeks away.
Many of my American readers probably don’t care all that much, and as such I would like to talk to you about why you should.
Imagine, if you will, a glorious sporting spectacle in which a man can run five miles regardless of weather or fatigue, in which skill can trump any amount of speed or strength, in which a free-kick can be taken with such accuracy as to put any football place-kicker to shame. A game in which players’ endurance is tested to the limit by the lack of timeouts and flags, other than a single half-time break – players whose sheer athleticism is superior to any baseball or football star you care to name.
And better yet, imagine a sport in which America is not actually universally acknowledged as the best team in the world – a sport in which American fans can experience the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, and especially the tension of not knowing which will happen.
Imagine a sport in which watching some of the ladies who turn out to support Brazil is infinitely more pleasant than watching the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders. Imagine a sport which ignites the passion of more people around the world than the New York Yankees or Pittsburgh Steelers ever will. A sporting event which billions of people would turn off the Super Bowl or the Olympics to watch.
There you have soccer, and its flagship event – the World Cup.
Does the U.S. team stand a chance of winning the World Cup this year? A very, very small one, most likely. But I would be willing to bet they make it to the last sixteen, maybe the last eight. If fortune smiles upon them, maybe further. This is a team which has recently beaten the European champions and World Cup favorites – in an exhibition game, admittedly, but nevertheless no small accomplishment.
Similarly, America’s very own DC United just beat AC Milan, an Italian team of phenomenal skill with over a century of stellar achievements to their name.
With enough encouragement and interest, there is no reason the American team couldn’t go from strength to strength and potentially win the World Cup within a decade or two. The one key ingredient they will need, however, is the unwavering support of the fans back home.
Soon I will be posting a few predictions and analyses of the first-round groups. For now, though… let’s get fired up for it.