The 2014 World Cup is just around the corner and Lord knows it is the only time Americans give a rip about soccer. With that in mind, I’d like to vent about the hose job the USMNT received at the World Cup draw this past December.
The United States was thrown into Group G… better known as “The Group of Death.” It is appropriately named for two reasons:
1) The National Teams in Group G are pretty much the cream of the crop in their given federations. Germany (ranked second in the world by FIFA) and Portugal (ranked fourth) are two of the top three teams in UEFA (the deepest and most talented federation). The United States (ranked 13th) is home to the best national team in CONCACAF. And Ghana (ranked 37) only recently fell below the top 25 with less than stellar performances against Libya, and Montenegro.
As if being placed in the toughest group weren’t bad enough, the Stars and Bars have the worst travel schedule available in World Cup group play. In the span of three group play games the USMNT will travel roughly 9000 miles to and from Sao Paulo (the home base for the red, white, and blue). First, the US will fly 3000 miles (roundtrip) to Natal to face Ghana in an attempt to avenge their 2010 World Cup loss to the Black Stars. A week later it’s off to Manaus (approximately 3500 miles roundtrip) to play Portugal. Four days later… Germany in Recife (about 2500 miles roundtrip).
Chances are the Yanks will be sent home packing after group play… barring a Rob Green gift like we received in 2010 – if you don’t know what I’m talking about click or paste this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIFdI9iypqk
Which leads me to the second reason the group is appropriately named.
2) Interest in domestic soccer typically peaks following the World Cup. This was especially the case following South Africa in 2010 when the US advanced out of group play and into the knockout rounds. I believe the growth of MLS viewership can be linked directly to the success of the men’s national team. If the US sees an early exit from the greatest sporting event in the world (according to everyone outside of North America), much of the momentum gained over the past four years will be lost.
Face it, if Americans aren’t the best in something they have no interest in it. Which Dream Team did you enjoy watching more 1992 when we dominated everyone or 2012 when we squeaked out wins against Lithuania and Spain? Are you a bigger Summer Olympic fan or do you prefer the Winter Olympics? I’m going to guess Summer… why? In part because the US is always on top of the medal count. When it comes to International play we love dominance… and when it comes to soccer, lets just say we lack a lot of depth.
If the US happens to advance to the knockout rounds this year the MLS will continue to grow and will surpass hockey as the fourth most important team sport in America. If not, it is death to the MLS’s momentum and enthusiasm for the sport in the United States for at least another four years (assuming the US doesn’t withdraw from play- see 2018 host nation… RUSSIA… side note- the 2022 World Cup is in Qatar- who knows if anyone will play that year).
I guess what I’m really saying is the future of soccer is riding on the USMNT’s back. I imagine FIFA would like nothing more than to see growth in the North American market. Unfortunately we got screwed by the soccer Gods… or maybe the stars are aligned for an incredible run in the 2014 World Cup.
Posted by Stohler