The 2014 World Cup kicks-off from Brazil on Thursday afternoon. While very little attention is paid to the World Cup here in the U.S. until a couple weeks before it starts, the rest of the world has been counting down the years, months, and days since the end of the 2010 World Cup. I do not consider myself a soccer fan. I treat soccer like I do Olympic sports, I get really interested every four years and that is it. But now it is time to get really excited about soccer for the next month. Will this year’s World Cup spark more American interest in soccer than past World Cups? Probably not, and to be honest, it probably never will. We already have football, basketball, baseball, hockey, golf, racing, etc. Soccer will never be in the U.S. what it is across the globe and that is okay. But this year’s World Cup, or Copa Do Mundo is something to get excited about. Here are five reasons why:
1. It is a world-wide March Madness: The World Cup is a lot like March Madness. After the round-robin group play where each team plays the other three teams in their group once, the field is trimmed from 32 to 16 teams and becomes a single-elimination do or die tournament. This means that not always “the best” team ends up winning it all, but that is what you get from March Madness, the best team does not always win, but there is plenty of upsets and excitement along the way.
2. International competition: There is something about international competition in any sport that raises the stakes. There are no fans cheering on teams, but citizens cheering on their country, their flag, and their people. Aside from the Olympics, the World Cup is international competition at its finest.
3. Games are easier to watch: Unlike the last two World Cups, when the tournament was hosted by Germany and South Africa respectively, there will not be a be games played in the wee hours of the morning here in the U.S. Most of the Brazilian cities hosting World Cup games are only one hour ahead of eastern standard time and some locations like Manaus are the same as eastern standard time. This sets up a much better schedule here in the U.S. Weekday games will be played while the employed are at work, but day games on the weekends will make for great viewing. All of the games will be broadcast live in HD on ABC, ESPN, and ESPN2.
4. The World Cup is soccer at its best: While the World Cup does not always crown the best team as its champion, every country fields its best team for the World Cup, this is not the case for Olympic soccer. The World Cup is soccer at its best. The U.S. does not have a great chance of getting out of group play but there are plenty of great teams to watch in the Round of 16 and beyond and with the host country Brazil at the top of the list. Other fun teams to watch include Portugal, Argentina, Uruguay, Italy, Mexico, Spain and Germany.
5. It is in Brazil, the land of soccer: I may be showing a little bias here. I spent two years living in and around Fortaleza on a LDS Mission. During my time there I witnessed every day the passion that every Brazilian has for soccer. When the Brazilian team plays, literally everyone watches. Game days are unofficial national holidays. The culture and beauty of Brazil will be on full display with games being played across the country, including Fortaleza. The atmosphere at every game will be unmatched by any other game played in any sport this year, and that includes SEC football.
So set aside some time over the next month to sit back and watch some World Cup soccer. You will be glad you did.
Posted by Hatch