Doesn’t futbol start in September?

By By Tony Pizza and By Tony Pizza

By Tony Pizza

If you don’t recognize names like Gabriel Batistuta, Michael Owen, Christian Vieri, Francesco Totti, Rui Costa and Cafu, then you probably don’t watch world soccer.

If you have never heard of guys like Brian McBride, Clint Mathis, Landon Donovan, Eddie Pope or Claudia Reyna, then you definitely don’t follow U.S. soccer.

If you had no idea that the World Cup started last Friday, then you probably live in the United States, and the names I just listed might as well have been in Japanese. If you fall into the last category, then this article is especially for you, and the Pizza boy intends to deliver some reasons why you cannot miss the World Cup.

The sport is soccer, but the rest of the world calls it futbol, and everyone outside of the United States loves it.

To appreciate the World Cup, you have to appreciate what it takes to get there. One hundred ninety-four countries have the chance to get to the biggest futbol stage in the world. Over the course of a couple years, teams representing their countries play in continental and regional qualifying tournaments for the chance to be one of the 32 teams to get invited every four years to play in the FIFA World Cup.

Soccer isn’t a sport that is going to drop your jaw with back-and-forth scoring because goals don’t come cheap or easy. It can take minutes of probing the defense and a lot of ball reversals before a team even gets into position to score. But when a team mounts an attack and you can see all the pieces fall into place, your heart will start pounding as you watch a striker streaking toward the goal at the top of your TV screen. When that ball curls off the striker’s foot and around the outstretched fingers of the opposing goalie, I guarantee you won’t be able to stop your heart from jumping as that ball snaps the net back and players start using the field like it’s a Slip n’ Slide.

The best reason to watch Team USA, especially in the World Cup, is because no matter how good our team is, we are always the underdog. Before the United States hosted the World Cup in 1994, they had not participated in one for more than four decades. Everyone in the world knows that Americans don’t care about the “world’s sport,” and the United States never really seems to be liked in any other country, anyway.

The U.S. team is constantly booed wherever it travels. In this World Cup, the team’s security has been maximized to prevent anyone from trying to damage the shot our country’s team has of making a name for itself in front of the world. It is about time for our country to show even half the support that even the smallest country gets from its people. The sport might not be the kind of futbol that you are used to watching on Sunday afternoon, but when McBride, Donovan, Mathis and Co. start sticking 55-mph soccer balls in the back of their opponents’ net, you will wonder why you never watched the World Cup before.

Soccer doesn’t have to be the national pastime for our country to appreciate what the sport means to the planet on which we live. The pride and patriotism that exist in every country during the World Cup is rivaled only by a different sporting event that also comes around every four years. World Cup matches mean everything because there is everything to lose. There is no “maybe next year;” there might not even be a “maybe next World Cup,” because an invitation every four years isn’t just a walk in the park.

My hope is that more of you will gather round the TV as if it were the Super Bowl. Call over your folks, your friends, an old girlfriend-whoever-and get some chips and a cold beverage. Then watch as the USA tries to shock the world with a soccer ball.

Mon. 6/12 9:55 a.m. MST

U.S.A. vs. Czech Republic

Sat. 6/17 12:55 p.m. MST

U.S.A. vs. Italy

Thu. 6/22 7:55 a.m. MST

U.S.A. vs. Ghana