Why a Successful World Cup Can Change US Soccer Forever

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMay 17, 2014

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The 2014 FIFA World Cup comes at a critical juncture of the game's popularity in the United States, and with a successful campaign in Brazil, the Yanks could take the game to new heights at home.

Although this may sound like the statement we make before every men's or women's World Cup, the sentiment is legitimately true in 2014. 

Once again, popularity in the game, both domestically and internationally, is reaching an all-time high thanks to comprehensive coverage of the English Premier League on the NBC Sports networks and the availability of Major League Soccer contests through streaming and television viewership. 

The United States' entrance into the World Cup will come a month after a landmark rights deal with ESPN and Fox to deliver MLS games into more households on a regular basis than in the past. 

What all this jargon about the television contracts means is that the game is going to be able to reach more people than it ever has, and if the Americans shine in Brazil, the popularity could grow more than people expect it to. 

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Not only will television viewership grow if the Yanks pull off a successful trip to South America, which can be only deemed a success if they get out of the group stage and make a run in the knockout round, but the sport will gain credibility across the globe. 

By bringing in Jurgen Klinsmann as manager in 2011, the United States instantly gained a bit more credibility on the international level thanks to the career the German had as a player and manager. 

GLASGOW,  SCOTLAND - NOVEMBER 15 :  USA manager Jurgen Klinsmann during the International Friendly match between Scotland and USA at Hampden Park on November 15, 2013.  (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)
Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Not only did Klinsmann light a fire under the national team, but he also earned plenty of eye-raising results in the build-up to the World Cup. 

On the continental level, the Yanks were able to earn a result at the dreaded Estadio Azteca in Mexico City against bitter rival Mexico on two occasions. The win in 2012 and draw in 2013 marked a sign of progress in CONCACAF that a few years ago not many people would have seen coming. 

Against sides from other confederations, Klinsmann made sure that his team played a difficult friendly schedule, and it has earned wins in Italy and Bosnia-Herzegovina as well as on home soil against Germany, though the Germans did field their "C" side. 

Those landmark wins helped American fans believe that the team could face adversity on its travels and win against key opponents. More importantly, the Yanks earned some confidence with those results, which will be beneficial in Brazil. 

Having the potential to knock off a side like Portugal or Germany in Brazil is something not many American teams in the past two decades have had, and for a victory against either squad to be a legitimate dream this time around, it shows something about how Klinsmann has molded his program over the last few years. 

Another reason why American success in Brazil will grow the game at home is the recruitment of dual nationals, which has been a trademark of Klinsmann's since he took over. 

Players like Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson, Timmy Chandler, Aron Johannsson and, of course, the much-hyped Julian Green have committed to the United States since the Klinsmann takeover, and because of that, the team's quality has gotten much better. 

Apr 2, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; USA forward Julian Green (9) in the second half against Mexico during a friendly match at University of Phoenix Stadium. The game ended in a 2-2 tie. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

If the United States ends up going far in Brazil, it will show other young prospects with the option to play for the United States or another nation that they can find success on the international stage with the Yanks. 

There are countless dual nationals that can choose either Mexico or Germany over the United States, and by playing a handful of those players in Brazil and recording results with them, it could sway other young stars, like Gedion Zelalem and others, to join up with the Yanks. 

Then, there is the concern of how to attract the casual American sports fan to soccer for the long term, which has been a problem that the sport has yet to fully figure out. 

The only way to bring in more fans to make ticket sales grow for MLS and United States games is to win and go far in Brazil. 

With 20 players on the 30-man preliminary roster having ties to MLS, this World Cup in particular is massive for the amount of support the domestic league will receive when it resumes play during the final week of June. 

If Klinsmann's men thrive in Brazil, attendance figures will rise, interest from the general public will grow and the development system will see an influx of talented youngsters. 

However, all of this hope for the future of the United States soccer program can only be achieved if the Yanks prove to be a dominant force at the biggest competition in the world. 

If not, we could end up having this conversation in another four years as the United States prepares to send its team off to Russia. 

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90. 


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