On Wednesday, the Americans will go to battle in Korea.
But these Americans aren’t like most groups sent from United States to take on the world’s best. These Americans are the underdogs. These Americans are laughed at by the world.
And most likely, you don’t care.
To say that the U. S. soccer team, which will embark on its fourth straight World Cup early Wednesday morning, isn’t very highly respected or supported would be an understatement.
Despite having its most talented and experienced team ever, the Americans aren’t favored by most betting services to win any of its three first-round games. To the rest of the world, that’s just great. While the United States is both an economic, military and athletic powerhouse, soccer is an equalizer. Although countries like Argentina and Italy couldn’t beat America in a war, they sure could on the soccer field.
To many immigrants in this country, the fact that the United States has won just one World Cup game in the past 52 years is great too. In many ethnic communities in America’s cities, game day is when the Mexicans take the field, not the Americans. In many cities, a Mexico-Ecuador match would draw twice as much as a United States-Nigeria match.
To the rest of America, the fact that these games will be played in the middle of the night here in the states is fine as well. The level of professional soccer has grown tremendously in this country over the past 10 years when a bunch of college and semi-pro players qualified for the 1990 World Cup in Italy. However, not only could the majority of Americans care less about soccer, but also the sport has been a source of ridicule. People, without knowing much about the sport, say soccer is too boring, too dull, too slow. Sportswriters reiterate these beliefs by devoting whatever column space newspapers put toward the game to how people shouldn’t bother with the sport.
But despite all this, the Americans will play on. With just about everything against it, the United States team takes this World Cup as an opportunity. Once every four years, the World Cup gives countries a chance to prove themselves unlike any other event in sports. Rarely in sports do countries get a chance to put up their best against another country’s best in major team sports. The World’s best basketball and hockey players play each other in the Olympics, but many of the best players – such as Shaquille O’Neal and Patrick Roy – decide not to participate because the Olympics is not as important as their regular seasons. In soccer, the World Cup is king. No matter what people think of American soccer, our best professionals get to play against former World Player of the Year Luis Figo and Portugal’s best Wednesday morning. Twenty-two men, one ball, 90 minutes. It doesn’t matter that only a handful of Americans play in the World’s best leagues or that the Americans finished last in the World Cup four years ago. The Americans are looking to prove. Looking to prove that the rest of the world should respect American soccer and that people in this country should notice them. And maybe you should.
After all, they’re representing us.