Eyes around the world are on Brazil as it hosts the 20th World Cup soccer tournament. There are 32 nations participating – with millions of people watching this summer. Even though we’re a nation of soccer moms, there’s a lot the kids know about the World Cup that we don’t. Here is a little bit of background on the tournament and what it means to the USA so you can understand what all the excitement is about.
The FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) World Cup is an international tournament held every four years – similar to the Olympic Games – with teams representing each country that qualifies to play in the tournament. It was originally an Olympic event supervised by FIFA, but became a singular event in 1930. The first tournament was held in Uruguay with 13 teams – the United States was one of them. The United States beat both Mexico and Paraguay, but the host team — Uruguay — won the first ever World cup.
In 1934, the tournament expanded to include 16 teams including the United States, but The World Cup didn’t grow again until 1982 when a total of 24 teams participated.
The United States didn’t make it back to the World Cup until 1950. They beat England in the first round, but the United States was out of the World Cup loop for another four decades and soccer was off the radar as a spectator sport at home for that time. The team didn’t qualify for the World Cup again until 1990.
The United States has been a fierce contender at the World Cup in the last two decades. In 1998 USA made it to the quarterfinals, and in 2010, even though the team was knocked out of the tournament in the final 16, they were ranked #12.
Today, the United States plays their first game in World Cup 2014 against Ghana in Natal, Brazil. Ghana beat the United States in the last two World Cups – sending them home both times. Landon Donovan, USA’s sweetheart for the 16 years and the highest scoring American player in World Cup history, was cut from the United States this World Cup; even so, fans are optimistic. The game starts at 6:00pm EST.
U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!
Update: USA beat Ghana 2-1