The United States will begin their World Cup campaign in less than a week when the Yanks take on Ghana in what will already be their most important match of the group stage. Jurgen Klinsmann's men are ready to fight to escape the group stage, but they will have to put in three great performances to do so.
The USMNT is not reliant on a handful of players. Every single player is important for the United States, and it will take a full team effort to advance to the next round of action.
But while Klinsmann's team will be looking to prove the doubters wrong, there is one man who will lead the charge with the hope of a nation on his back—Clint Dempsey.
"Captain America," as he is called, was given the armband when Landon Donovan left for a sabbatical in 2013 and will continue to lead this U.S. side in Brazil. He may or may not be the most important player for the Yanks, but he is clearly the one who everyone will be looking to for the next few weeks.
Stars such as Michael Bradley, DaMarcus Beasley and Tim Howard will all play vital roles, but Dempsey is the one who cannot afford to slip up in Brazil.
Facing a very tough group without the likes of Landon Donovan is not going to be easy, but you can expect Dempsey to have a huge World Cup for America, and here is why.
He has the experience
A great many of the U.S. players on this roster have never played in a World Cup, but this will be Dempsey's third. He first appeared back in 2006, scoring America's only goal of the World Cup against Ghana, and he scored again in 2010. He has been here before, and that is a big deal.
Playing in a World Cup is unlike anything else. Experience is more valuable than ever, and Dempsey has plenty of it. The American attacker knows what it takes to be successful on this stage and will do what it takes to succeed.
At the same time, Dempsey is aware of just how tough competition will be.
He knows that every match will be extremely difficult but is ready for the fight. While many are already counting America out, Dempsey fully believes that they can get out of the group, as he told Bleacher Report's Adam Lefkoe earlier this week.
When it comes down to it, Dempsey will be able to have a big tournament because he already knows what it is going to take. He is prepared for the challenge, and his U.S. teammates will be able to glean a lot from his leadership.
He needs to prove the doubters wrong
On a more personal note, there has been a big question mark hanging over Dempsey since he signed for the Seattle Sounders back in August of last year.
Many saw the switch as a bad move for his career. It seemed as though he was going to a much weaker league for more money, and he would have been more prepared to play in a World Cup had he stayed in England.
Unexpectedly, Dempsey struggled at first in his return to the MLS. Things were not going the way fans thought they would, and the worry began to grow.
A few months later and Dempsey was back in England on loan at former club Fulham. Things did not get better. The 31-year-old only featured five times and never put in a convincing performance.
Things have gotten a lot better for Dempsey since the end of his loan deal, but many still question if he can play at the level he once did. For the American attacker, this World Cup is the perfect opportunity to silence all of his critics.
Despite being in the MLS, the U.S. captain is just as talented as ever and will show that on the world's biggest stage.
The system is perfect for him
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann has tinkered with the formation and lineup quite a bit lately, but something has remained the same throughout—the importance of playing through Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey.
The current system being used, regardless of formation, is built to get Bradley as many touches as possible while opening up space for Dempsey to work his magic. With such a designated system, Dempsey will have plenty of freedom to play his game.
Over the past few months, Dempsey has played very far forward. Whether playing as a striker or a winger, the 31-year-old is the focus of the U.S. attack and will now have the chance to take shots or drift in and out of the center like he often likes to do.
Klinsmann has built this team brilliantly. He recognizes just how important it is for Bradley and Dempsey to have the ball, and the system will see both of them put in big showings in Brazil.
He has to have a huge World Cup
Everything else aside, Dempsey is going to have a great World Cup because he has to. America cannot afford to see Dempsey falter, and the captain isn't giving anyone reason to believe that he will.
Getting out of the group stage is the biggest goal for America at this point, and Dempsey must realize that he will have to be at his best to achieve that. At 31 years old, this is likely his last World Cup, meaning it's his final chance to help the U.S. prove their critics wrong.
When Dempsey eventually does retire from international football, he will go down as one of the greatest to ever wear the U.S. shirt. That being said, this World Cup will have a lot to say about his legacy.
Donovan is gone, the squad is filled with many new faces from four years ago and now it's Dempsey's turn to lead the nation. He will have a huge World Cup because America needs for him to have a good showing.
Whether they get out of the group or not, Dempsey is going to lead this team, and he is going to live up to the name "Captain America."
Will Clint Dempsey have a big World Cup? How important will his role be in Brazil? Leave your thoughts and comments below!
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