The United States Should Embrace the World Cup
There is one sport that brings countries from all over the world together: soccer. Though the popularity doesn’t carry the momentum in the United States like football, basketball, or baseball, it is still played and has a presence on the international stage. This month, thirty-two countries will participate in the 20th World Cup held this year in Brazil. Soccer, or futbol, is one of the most universal forms of entertainment.
Just as the Romans gathered to watch gladiators of all levels compete, futbol has the ability to unite almost a majority of the world’s population.
Just as the Romans gathered to watch gladiators of all levels compete, futbol has the ability to unite almost a majority of the world’s population. The World Cup is one of the most widely viewed sporting events. The final match of the 2006 FIFA World Cup had an estimated 715.1 million viewers. There are several reasons Americans should take more of an interest in this international event—if nothing else, the rest of the world cares, so why not us?
The biggest storyline coming out of Team USA’s camp is the omission of superstar and three-time World Cup team member, Landon Donovan. Undoubtedly one of the strongest members of the squad in the past, Donovan didn’t outperform his counterparts during tryouts. According to U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who spoke to reporters after the roster was released, “We coaches felt the guys that we chose, they’re a little step ahead of Landon in certain areas.”
Donovan made it very clear that he disagreed with the U.S. coaches and felt he “deserved to be in Brazil.” Donovan was a huge reason soccer became relevant to American fans. He became an ambassador for the game through his athletic skill, All-American boy background, and unrivaled talent on the field. Fans of the sport, however, are skeptical. Donovan has been known to step up his performance in World Cup situations with aggressive play—not to mention five goals, one of which propelled the U.S. to the knockout stage in 2010. Overall, he is the career leader for the national team with 57 goals and 58 assists. His absence will be felt, but only time will tell if Klinsmann’s decision is justified.
The first stage of the World Cup puts four countries into groups. Only two teams from each group can advance. Group G includes Germany, Portugal, Ghana, and the United States—or as Americans have affectionately named it, the “Group of Death.” Simply put, the U.S. has its work cut out for them. On the plus side, the Americans are being coached by one of the greatest German soccer players to come out of Deutschland.
Donovan was a huge reason soccer became relevant to American fans.
Soccer may not be high scoring, but it is still incredibly competitive. Olympics and perhaps golf aside, when do Americans get an opportunity to represent their country? These teams are fighting to be crowned the best in the world—not the southeast region or American League, the WORLD. Competition is competition and Americans should support the red, white, and blue in the same manner they stand for their alma mater or hometown star.
Finally, if sports isn’t even your thing, watching the World Cup might serve educational. There is so much to learn about other people of the world. The customs, traditions, dress, economy…these subjects may not be detailed, but storylines will come out about the background of a team and the history of their nation. This is an opportunity to look outside the U.S., beyond the North American continent, and explore another side of the globe.
The thrill of the sport, the level of competition, or perhaps knowledge—whatever motivates you to watch the World Cup, it’s all about entertainment. Sometimes the fight wasn’t as interesting as the gladiator competing, but in the end it was an event that brought people together.
The first game of the World Cup will be on Thursday, June 12 between Brazil and Croatia. The United States opens play Monday, June 16 against Ghana.