Dustin George-Miller is a musician, father, husband and Goshen College staffer. A life-long soccer fan, he grew up playing footy in the Elkhart YMCA youth leagues, but didn't let a lack of things like "talent" or "ability" impact his love for the beautiful game.
In his spare time he writes about the successes and failures (mostly failures) of his beloved Tottenham Hotspur Football Club at Cartilage Free Captain [http://cartilagefreecaptain.sbnation.com], part of the SB Nation family of sports blogs.
The world’s most popular sporting event will begin in a matter of days. No, it’s not the Super Bowl. The World Cup is coming to Brazil, and the eyes of the world will be upon the national soccer teams participating. As far as global sports go, this is the biggest sporting event on the planet, and it’s worthwhile paying attention.
What is the World Cup?
The World Cup is an international soccer tournament held every four years by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), soccer’s world-wide governing body. It features 32 of the best soccer teams, representing their countries, who make the tournament by virtue of a years-long qualification process. Here’s a general idea of how the scoring system works:
The teams are divided into eight groups of four teams, who play each other in a round-robin style. A win is worth three points; a tie is worth one point; and a loss is worth zero points.
The top two teams from each group advance and move on to a 16-team knock-out tournament. The overall winner gets a big trophy, bragging rights for four years, and adds its name to an elite group of countries that have won this competition.
Think of it as the Olympics of world soccer. Only it’s bigger than the Olympics. Much, much bigger.
Soccer is boring. Why should I care?
Because soccer is the hipster sport in the U.S. You are a hipster, right? No? Even if you’ve shaved off that ironic mustache and outgrown your skinny jeans, it’s worthwhile paying attention to this event, if only for the spectacle.
Although historically an afterthought in the minds of American sports fans, soccer is overwhelmingly the most popular sport in the world, It far eclipses team sports like basketball, baseball, American football and even cricket. Since 2010, soccer’s popularity in the United States has only increased — it is now the fourth most popular team sport in America behind American football, basketball, and baseball, second in popularity among Americans age 12-24 (2011 poll).
Even if you didn’t grow up playing soccer as a child, odds are your kids or your neighborhood kids do. The World Cup is the crown jewel of international soccer competitions, and with the increased exposure to soccer in the media through televised English Premier League and Major League Soccer matches, even casual American sports fans are starting to pay attention. Soccer is poised to explode in the States (as it has been since the 1970s), and the World Cup could help lead the way.
Yes, there are ties. Sometimes even scoreless ties. But the action never stops in soccer — there are no time-outs, no commercial breaks. Just two 45-minute halves of non-stop play. And because goals come less often (usually) than touchdowns in American football, it makes the explosion of emotion all that more cathartic, especially at this high level. Watch a game. Try it out. You’ll see.
Is the USA playing?
You bet! Not only did the USA qualify for its 10th World Cup (and their sixth consecutive tournament), but they’re bringing arguably their best ever team to Brazil. Unfortunately, they were drawn into an extremely difficult group (the so-called “Group of Death”), which will make progression to the knock-out phase difficult. More will be written about the U.S. Men’s National Team in the upcoming group previews, and I’ll be following the USA squad and their matches closely. Yes, there probably will be Landon Donovan discussion. Stay tuned.
When is it on and on what channels?
Matches begin on Thursday, June 12 and continue almost daily until the championship game on Sunday, July 13. In the early stages of the tournament, there will be two to three matches a day. Matches will be televised on the ABC/ESPN family of networks and live-streamed online on WatchESPN/ESPN3, depending on your cable TV package.
A full schedule of the tournament can be found here. There’s never been a better opportunity to watch the World Cup in the United States, and you’ll be able to watch every football match.
Hold it, is it called football or soccer?
You caught me! It’s both. The word “soccer” is a shortened form of “Association Football,” which is how the game was referred to in England during its formative years. Most Americans call it “soccer,” but most of the rest of the world calls it “football.” I will use them both interchangeably and don’t really get why people get all up in arms about it.
And just who are you, exactly?
I’m a soccer blogger who writes in his spare time about my chosen team, London’s Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. I also follow my “local” team, Chicago Fire. But more than that, I’m just a huge local fan. I grew up playing footy as a young child in the Elkhart YMCA youth leagues, but abandoned my playing career in high school due to other interests (and a distinct lack of talent).
I’ve always been a “soccer guy,” and I look forward to the World Cup as much as anyone. Okay, more than most people.
... OK, a lot more than most people.
So what’s next?
In the coming days I’ll be posting previews about each of the eight preliminary groups, including short vignettes of all 32 teams, what exciting players to watch for, and even my (humble) predictions on who will emerge from each group. Once the tournament begins in earnest, expect periodic update posts on key matches, reflections on World Cup stories, discussions on tactics, and other World Cup news.
I hope to make this a resource not only for soccer fanatics, but for the casual fan who may be paying attention their first World Cup. Even if you don’t know Colombia from Croatia, there’s lots to enjoy about this tournament. Use the comments to talk about the matches, teams, and players. Argue with me! Tell me why I’m right, ... or wrong.
The matches start June 12 with hosts Brazil taking on Croatia in Sao Paulo at 4 p.m. DVR it like me if you’re at work, or knock off early to watch (I won’t tell, promise). In the meantime, watch this to get just a taste of the World Cup experience.
Would you like to become one of The Elkhart Truth’s community bloggers? Get in touch with our community manager, Ann Elise Taylor, at firstname.lastname@example.org with a little information about yourself and what you’d like to blog about.