Unlike many of the people who have now heard of the incredible Spanish defeat by the hands of the underdog U.S. men's soccer team, I watched the group stages of the Confederations Cup. To be honest, I just like watching soccer. I find it to be one of the most fluid sports and graceful games on the planet. A well played soccer match is like a great work of art.
The Confederations Cup is a tournament comprised of the champions of each continent plus the host country (South Africa) and previous World Cup champions (Italy). The U.S. usually falls into the North American championship by winning the Gold Cup, a tournament usually hosted by America and where the only real competition is Mexico.
In the group stage, the U.S. was forced to play in the tougher of the two groups, comprising of the U.S., Italy, Brazil, and Egypt. After two tough losses, the U.S. needed to win by three and have Italy lose by three to Brazil. Somehow, this all happened and the U.S. earned a trip to the semi-finals against the No. 1 team in the world from Spain.
We all know the story from there. A 2-0 victory sent the American squad to a rematch with the Brazilians. In their previous matchup, Brazil took advantage of a conservative U.S. defense that could have played much more aggressively.
So, we have come to a crossroads in this drama that is the U.S. national soccer team. Many people have claimed that the victory against Spain was the greatest in U.S. Soccer history. I tend to disagree and say that defeating Mexico in 2002 to reach the quarterfinals was the greatest. But if we can somehow pull out a victory against Brazil, than I will change my mind.
Beating Spain is the equivalent to beating the Phillies in baseball. They aren't always at the top, but are currently the best in the world. Beating Brazil would be the same as sweeping the Yankees in four straight. Brazil, like New York, is always near the top and is always a powerhouse in their respective sports.
This U.S. team is comparable to the Chicago Cubs. It has their ups and downs more than anyone else. Although their fans are faithful, a championship is always too far to grasp.
This Confederations Cup final brings up the question of not whether the Cubs could sweep the Yankees, but could hell freeze over. Although I hoped they would, I was unsure that the U.S. could get out of the group stage. Instead, the U.S has a chance to shock the world, and perhaps themselves.
If the U.S. won, their ranking would shoot up from 14th to a much higher rating. The respect from the rest of the world would finally come, and at a perfect time. The world would respect American soccer right before the 2009 Gold Cup and a year before the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
With a win or a loss, much respect will be given to the United States National soccer team for the 2010 World Cup and all International competitions in the future.
Who cares if it's only the Confederations Cup. This is a big step in the legacy of U.S. soccer.