Why Not U.S.?

Why Not U.S.?
Posted on February 03, 2014 by Tim

Every four years, soccer-crazed fans in soccer-crazed nations lean in close to television and computer screens to find out which group they’ve drawn for the World Cup. So it was in December when an estimated 200 million people tuned in to learn their Group Stage opponents and their first-round game destinations. For perpetual underachievers, the angst will last the full six months until June’s opening kickoff. For the quadrennial uber-teams, it’s a time for bravata. Still others have trouble deciding how they feel. U.S. soccer fans are among this latter group.

According to the International Association of Football Associations, the 2010 FIFA World Cup drew more than 26 billion viewers. With the tournament consisting of 64 football matches (just about everyone else calls it football), that figure averages out to every person on the planet watching just under four games each. Compare that to the biggest sporting event in the United States: A liberal estimate suggests that one billion football fans—that is, gridiron football—watched last year’s Super Bowl, 113 million of them stateside.

For next year’s Cup, host nation Brazil is favored to win the Big Prize. The Brazilians—five-time champs also known as the Selecao (nearly every team has an unofficial nickname)—will face down perennial powerhouses from Europe (Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands) and South America (Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia). After these big boys, pretty much nobody else has a chance.

What? No “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”? Well, unlike most international sporting events, you rarely hear that signature chant at a soccer match. Out in those big waters the U.S. is still a minnow learning to swim with sharks. Despite having what many consider the best-ever American squad to take to the pitch, European-based sportsbook, Betfair, says the USMNT’s chances of winning the whole shebang are 299 to 1. In all likelihood, those odds are generous.

To add to their troubles, the Americans now find themselves in this year’s dreaded Group of Death: the four-team pairing among the tournament’s eight groups considered the hardest to advance from. In fact, U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann described his team’s World Cup draw as the “worst of the worst” after it was pooled with Germany (#2 in the World), Portugal (#5) and Ghana, the side (that is, team) that knocked the U.S. men out of the last two consecutive World Cups.

But if there’s one thing the American sporting public enjoys more than being top dog, it’s being the underdog. At least that’s how Hollywood would draw it up.