FIFA World Cup 2010: It's Time to Introduce the United States to Soccer
On Wednesday, the United States Soccer Team can do one of two things. The first thing they can do is lose to Algeria.
A loss will knock the States out of contention for the World Cup even before they can get out of the Group Stage. All the anticipation for the World Cup along with the recent momentum built up by the team heading into the tournament will have been be for naught.
Fake soccer fans will revert back to their natural of state of not-at-all-a soccer fan. The tournament will go on for the next month, but Major League Baseball and NBA Free Agency will dominate the sports world here at home.
Or, the U.S. can beat/tie Algeria and potentially move on. And they will play more soccer. But how much more is the question.
And with the global importance the World Cup carries, "how much" is the key phrase.
It's no secret that soccer is not exactly the hottest thing in the United States. Even so, once every four years, soccer has a shot to be revitalized (or arguably, properly introduced) in the U.S.A.
This could be the year. But it all depends on how this team, which has faces expectations than any other U.S.A. Soccer Team in history, performs.
It would be interesting, however, to see what it would be like if the U.S.A. were to move on. And on. And on...
Level 1- USA Advances to the Round of 16
After beating Algeria 2-0, the United States locks up their five points in the Group Stage, and advances to the sixteen-team Knockout Round. Their opponent? The Germans.
Hearing that the United States has "advanced" and are now involved in "must-win games," a few more people begin to jump on the USA bandwagon.
Pending a must-see baseball game, the game is sure to be on most big-screen TV's in bars and restaurants alike. BBQ's and small parties may be found at sporadic locations throughout the neighborhood.
The level of interest in this game is probably about as high as the nation's interest in a Stanley Cup Finals Game Seven between two "marquee" teams, similar to the Penguins- Red Wings battle from two years ago.
Level 2- USA Advances to the Round of 8
A shocking 2-1 victory over the Germans has advanced the Yanks into the Elite Eight of world soccer. Boldly going where no American soccer squad has gone before, the States now must dance with Argentina...
And arguably, the best player in the world: Lionel Messi.
Your local news probably led off their broadcast with highlights from the U.S. victory.
The interest in the game can now been seen on lawns, flagpoles, and car windows throughout town. Outside businesses, phrases such as "LET'S GO USA!!" and "MESS UP MESSI!!" are written on billboards and placards.
People are now beginning to request off from work on the day of the big game for "personal reasons."
The United States soccer team is now at "George Mason" status. They are one of the biggest Cinderella stories since the original blond bombshell herself.
By this stage, there will surely be more people following international soccer after this game—win or lose.
Level 3- USA Advances to the Round of 4
An upset of epic proportions. Led by their coach—and national treasure—Diego Maradona, the Argentinians are simply too talented, too experienced, and too... just "too soccer."
But the Americans have none of it, and after weathering the Argentinian onslaught for the majority of the game, Clint Dempsey slips through an offside trap to net the game's only goal in the 90th minute, sealing the biggest win in American soccer history.
The Final Four is now set, with the United States facing Portugal in the first of two games.
The front of every major newspaper in America is dedicated to Team USA. Politicians and celebrities alike are now weighing in via tabloids and television.
Even Barack Obama comes out and voices his opinion on the matter. "USA Soccer" is the number one search on both Google and Yahoo. Soccer jerseys are now the hottest fad in the clothing world. Bars are absolutely mobbed on game day by red-white-and-bluers. Vuvuzelas go from hated to adored overnight in the U.S.
NBA free agency is about to get underway, and if not for some guy named LeBron, it would be a complete afterthought. There may be more people watching this game than Game Seven of this year's NBA Finals.
Level 4- USA Advances to the World Cup Final
A game for the ages.
Cristiano Ronaldo, as he does so often, broke the hearts of teenagers—and adults—throughout America early on with a pair of goals in the first twenty minutes to put the Portuguese up 2-0 early.
However, in the 43rd minute, a Ricardo Carvalho red card leads to a PK goal for the USA to make it 2-1 at the half. Playing up a man, the States tie it up 2-2 in the second half off a Jozy Altidore header, and eventually go on to win it in penalty kicks, 3-2.
The United States of America will now play Brazil for the right to call themselves the best soccer team in the world.
Pandemonium strikes. On most network stations, there is a "Countdown to USA-Brazil" ticker on the lower corner of the screen. Until as recently as two weeks earlier the United States was, arguably, not even the best team on their own continent.
For the most part, everyone in America, regardless of race, religion or ethnicity (with, of course, the obvious exception of the Brazilian/Portuguese community) is pulling for the Americans.
Soccer stars are now being seen in commercials for clothes, cars and hygiene products. Zac Efron and Robert Pattinson are replaced by Steve Cherundolo and Carlos Bocanegra on the walls of young women across the country.
Adidas, Puma, Nike and Reebok all see a slight boost in their sales. Team USA jerseys and merchandise are sold out nationwide, as are all tickets for flights into South Africa until after the big game.
Except Air Force One, of course. President Obama announces that he will be attending the World Cup Final, only adding to anticipation of the match.
The game will be watched on a "Superbowl Level," making it one of the most tuned-into broadcasts in national history.
The only thing that will keep the pregame from lasting the traditional ten or so hours it does on Superbowl Sunday is the time of the game itself.
Commercials during halftime will cost even more than Superbowl commercials due to the small window of opportunity to air commercials during a soccer game.
Level 5- The USA Wins the World Cup
July 11th, 2010: The unthinkable has happened.
The Brazilian powerhouse, an overwhelming favorite coming into this game, manage eighteen shots on goal, but fail to convert on any of their opportunities and fall to the Untied States, 1-0, behind a Clint Dempsey goal in the 64th minute.
Tim Howard is, without a doubt, the Man of the Match, making 12 saves on the day. The United States contingent, which makes up about 60 percent of Soccer City in Johannesburg, is in absolute hysteria as the US players accept the FIFA World Cup Trophy.
Bedlam. Pandemonium. Chaos. Pick your adjective. Stadiums, arenas and bars which were used as viewing venues for the big game are partying like it's 1999.
Businesses shut down for the remainder of the day—and some even for the next day—to celebrate the victory.
The United States is overwhelmed by soccer mania. Forget the Beatles. Forget Elvis. Forget Justin Beiber, Tiger Woods or Jack Bauer. Everything and anything is all about the Boys in Blue.
Men and women who couldn't pick a soccer ball out of a lineup of sporting equipment a month earlier now claim to be avid soccer fans and "know everyone on the team like Jim Howard, Oguchi Olajuwon and Cliff Dempsey."
The World Cup Trophy is seen on David Letterman, Regis and Kathy Lee, Sportscenter and many other popular TV shows. A parade is held in Washington D.C. in the team's honor, and more than one million people attend. In only a few weeks, the team will be at the White House.
This World Cup team is now at a "Lake Placid" level. The 1980 USA Hockey Team has some resemblance to the 2010 USA Soccer Team, though in all fairness, the political environment surrounding that hockey team was much more turbulent than this soccer squad.
What this match has done to the future of soccer in the U.S. outweighs any single sporting event's importance in the nation's history. Odds are the rest of the world still will not respect United States' soccer to the level that it should, but it does not matter. This is the greatest upset in sports history. Period.
Oh, and by the way, LeBron signed with the Knicks...