For this month, at least, American football has taken a backseat to actual football—soccer, if you’d prefer. The World Cup is in full swing down in Brazil, with the US Men’s National Team topping Ghana on Monday in a thrilling 2-1 finish.
With the beginning of the NFL season still months away, the World Cup is whetting my appetite for competition. Soccer features some of the best conditioned athletes on the planet, and it’s fun to imagine what they would do in other sports.
Could Italy’s Mario Balotelli fit in on Seattle’s Legion of Boom? How would England’s Wayne Rooney serve as a slot receiver? Brazil’s Hulk could turn into a linebacker, right? Great athletes could excel in many sports if they had started playing them rather than soccer as kids.
Similarly, if soccer was as big in the US as it is elsewhere in the world, you’d see top NFL stars plying their trade on the soccer pitch. There’s nothing stopping an athlete like Larry Fitzgerald or Rob Gronkowski from being excellent soccer stars if they had the same years of training at that sport as they do in the NFL.
In this slideshow, we’re going to take a tongue-in-cheek look at how a soccer squad made up of San Francisco 49ers would shake out. If the 49ers played in MLS rather than the NFL, how would they configure their starting lineup?
We’re only considering offensive and defensive starters for this list. That means Andy Lee and Phil Dawson, though obvious choices because they work with their feet for a living, will not make the lineup. By only considering starters, we’re also avoiding a lineup consisting of five receivers, five running backs and a tight end—this allows a little more variety in the starting lineup, even if it’s not as “ideal” for a soccer team.
Let’s see who coach Jim Harbaugh would send out in his starting XI.