Four years of speculation and anticipation will end for those of us obsessed with US Soccer tomorrow as our side faces a mammoth challenge to reach the knock out stages of Germany 2006. We must beat Ghana, which involves scoring goals something we have not done yet in this World Cup while stopping a potent Ghanaian attack who had more shots on goal in a five minute period against the Czech Republic than we have had in the entire World Cup thus far. At the same time we must hope that Italy beats the Czech Republic. For those who do not recall, Italy and Mexico showed a disgraceful lack of respect for the sport in Korea/Japan 2002 by playing for a draw allowing both teams to advance to the knock out stages. That particular game was the worst I’ve ever seen on the International level and hopefully the Italians who are very much in the same, draw and advance position they were in the last World Cup will show a little more interest in the match at hand this time around.
This match is wildly critical for the future of Soccer in the United States. For the first time as walk around in suburbia USA people are talking about the World Cup and are anxious for the USA to play. The previously microscopic television ratings for the event have now risen to the point where the World Cup is outdrawing NHL’s Stanley Cup and Golf’s US Open (in fairness to the Open, Tiger Woods missed the cut) and the ratings look respectable even when compared to the NBA Finals. Soccer is becoming mainstream in our nation, even if so many elites in the media remain hostile to it. If the USA were to advance and play Brazil, we can expect record interest in Soccer in this nation. Building a soccer culture has taken time and several baby steps through the years. A victory tomorrow coupled with an Italian win would be one of the most positive developments for soccer in this nation. Not only would the USA advance to the knock out stages for the third time in the last four world cups, but we would have done so on European soil, and for the first time with many casual American sports fans paying attention. The stakes tomorrow could not be higher.