Today's that day! That day many United States citizens care about soccer for the first time in four years. And if the U.S. wins, they'll continue caring about soccer until the point where the Stars and Stripes lose.
But for those in the thread today, you're likely better than those folks, right? You're someone who cares about soccer all=year round, and not just once every four years. You know things about the team, its most notable wins and losses in recent years, and its prospects (or lack thereof) for success in this year's World Cup tournament.
... Or perhaps you don't, and you just started paying attention this morning. If so, that's cool too!
Well, either way, the U.S. Soccer team plays its first game of the World Cup today, against Ghana. Here's what you need to know:
What's Going On?
The United States Men's National Team is playing against Ghana in soccer today at the FIFA World Cup. You may have heard of the sport before. Most non-Americans call it football/futbol.
Are We Any Good?
By FIFA (the Fédération Internationale de Football Association) standards, yes, the numbers seem to back up that theory. Soccer's governing body says we're the 13th-best country in the world, according to its hackneyed formula. That's both encouraging and disconcerting all at once!
And What About Ghana?
Ghana is 24th, so not as good by those subjective number standards. However, the Black Stars have beaten us in each of the last two World Cups, and a lot of people think they're more talented than us this year and could do so for a third straight tournament. This sucks.
So Why is Today So Important?
While each team plays three games in Group Play, the first match can typically be a crucial tone-setter for how the rest of the World Cup's opening round plays out. This morning, our group-mates Germany (No. 2, according to FIFA) and Portugal (No. 4 in FIFA rankings) played one another, and the Germans won 4-0. That's bad for Portugal and very good for us.
The U.S. was unfortunately (I'd suggest, purposefully) put into the "Group of Death" (similar to the "Bracket of Death" typically mentioned in the NCAA Tournament seeding process). As mentioned, Portugal and Germany are two of the best teams in the world, and Ghana seemingly has our number. A big Portugal loss this morning (check), coupled with a big win for the U.S. today puts our boys in great position to get out of group play as the second-place team to Germany. Just need a draw with Portugal, and that should set us up pretty nicely to advance on the strength of goal differential (hopefully).
Okay, What Else Do I Need to Know?
I don't write about soccer, but know a good amount of things about it. Still, plenty more people know a lot more things about soccer. So I'll direct you to those links below for further reading. But there are still some crucial pieces of information I can convey to you, believe it or not.
Game time: 6 p.m. ET
Where: Estádio das Dunas, Natal, Brazil
U.S. Manager: Jürgen Klinsmann
Twitter Feed: @USSoccer
SB Nation Blog: Stars and Stripes FC
Like I said, plenty more-qualified folks wrote lengthy things about the U.S. Soccer team to preview today's game and the World Cup overall. I'd highly recommend you read those in advance. Some of those pieces include:
SB Nation's full collection of previews (this should be your first stop)
"For Love Of Country" -- Matt Ufford's great piece about this wonderfully diverse team
Spencer Hall's World Cup viewing guide for today
Today is a must-win for both the U.S. and Ghana
Back-tracking on all of this "Group of Death" nonsense
... that's at least an hour's-worth of reading for you. A quick Google search will yield a whole lot more, too.
So watch the game with us here, and root on the Stars and Stripes to beat Ghana and set themselves up for some improbable success at this year's World Cup.