My first memory of the World Cup was in 1994 when the United States hosted the grand event throughout the country. I had been playing soccer since I was five years old but never had the chance to see the actual best players in the game ever in person or even on TV.
Soccer just wasn’t available to USA sports fans and the only way we would see it was in a newspaper or a magazine with week old scores.
The 94 World Cup changed the way that USA sports fans thought of the sport. The MLS ended up starting immediately after in 1996 with ten teams. Even though the league struggled through a couple of seasons, it was able to get solid footing with a salary cap and quality ownership. They expanded to 19 squads over the next 18 years. Some teams were able to flourish like the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders while others failed miserably with the Miami Fusion and Tampa Bay Mutiny.
As the MLS continued to grow, my interest in the game continued to get stronger. I would rush home from my High School in the Northeast to catch a Champions League game on ESPN2. I wouldn’t even know the schedule but be excited when I was able to catch a Juventus or Manchester United match.
So I headed off to college to continue my education and find out wearing a Liverpool jersey into a classroom with an Everton supporter professor was a terrible idea. (I used to wear it on purpose since I knew it bothered him, guess that was my intro to how deep that rivalry was). But the main thing that I learned during college that many people around my age actually loved the sport from the random FIFA tournaments on the Playstation 1 after soccer practice or the intense Intramural Soccer matches between the International students. Seriously, those guys thought they were playing for the real World Cup!
The soccer fandom hit a fever pitch during the 2002 World Cup when the United States stunned Portugal 3-2 in a game that was played at like 5am on the east coast. The team eventually got through to the knock out stages beating Mexico and then bowing out to Germany.
So you would think that the USA would be in a great spot to at least reach the same level in 2006. Of course, they had an epic failure going 0-1-2 with a great tie against Italy but getting outclassed by a strong Czech Republic squad and losing to the soon to be nemesis Ghana.
The United States in 2010 faced a game against Algeria in which they had to win. I was on a business trip stuck in the Omaha, Nebraska airport watching the game with about 60 people from around the country as we waited on our flights as we huddled around one TV screen. Once the United States got their chance in stoppage time, it seemed like everything was going in slow motion as Landon Donovan put the ball into the empty net. The whole airport erupted in jubilation as the US clinched a berth in the next round.
The United States failed to defeat Ghana in the next round but that moment in the airport with my co-worker watching the game with strangers was what the World Cup meant to us on that day.
Now it is 2014, everyone and their dead relatives know that the USA manager Jürgen Klinsmann made the decision to leave Landon Donavan off the squad because he wasn’t one of the 23 best player for Brazil.
The experts think that Klinsmann left Landon “Landycakes” Donavan off because he wants to get some of the younger guys experiance for the 2018 World Cup where the United Staties might have a better chance of winning.
As of right now, Jürgen Klinsmann doesn’t believe the USA can win the World Cup in 2014 as he said to the New York Times
“We cannot win this World Cup, because we are not at that level yet. For us, we have to play the game of our lives seven times to win the tournament.”
This is absolutely the truth as there is no superstar American player right now on the International stage.
Really? Is there even an American in the Top 50 players in the world? Dempsey or Bradley are the only two that you could slightly make an argument for and even than with the weak competition they play in with MLS teams, you don’t get a read on them.
Both of them and the rest of the squad will need to make an impact this summer on the international stage if the United States wants to take the next stage into becoming an International Soccer Power like we are in all other sports.
I know I will be here watching on the TV every single game of the World Cup in High Definition and getting expert analysis on ESPN as this is the time that Soccer breaks through in this country with perfect gametimes for USA fans with 6pm and noon kickoffs.