What does that mean? For the first time in American history, the national team can select from a talent pool larger than your average swimming pool. The guys competing for spots on the World Cup roster didn’t settle for soccer because they couldn’t hit a baseball or make a jump shot. They chose it as their sport and they received more and better instruction at a younger age than anyone before them.
With that comes real expectations and if my grandpa were still alive, he’d probably offer the following advice:
“Don’t fuck this up.”
It’s that simple. Public opinion has changed on soccer. It’s trendy to like the game. The sophisticated sports fan now spells color with a “u” and says things like, “I love to watch soccer played at its highest level,” which is both a way of fitting in and an excuse for having never watched an MLS game in their lives.
Of course, luck often plays the biggest role in determining the outcome of the World Cup, and team USA appears to have received plenty of it in last week’s draw. Aside from what everyone considers a favorable opening group with England, Slovenia, and Algeria, the team would also be guaranteed not to play the defending champion (Italy) or any of the top three ranked teams in the world (Brazil, Spain, and Holland) until the semifinals if it were to advance to the second stage.
Have all the stars aligned for the US National Team? It might be too early to tell. But the ingredients are all there. The fortunate draw, the fan base that has never been so excited, and most importantly, the most talented group of players the team has ever had.
This has been 16 years in the making and if the Americans are looking for inspiration, they needn’t look far. Recently, a much more prominent national team faced about a ten year stretch of international struggles, much like Team USA in this decade.
But Italy went to Germany and won the whole thing in 2006.
Of course they did. They hosted the Cup in 1990.