You've probably seen more people wearing soccer jerseys on the streets around the city. It's that time again. World Cup Fever. 32 teams enter. Only one walks away with the 18-carat gold trophy. The madness runs from June 12 - July 13 across 12 different venues across the host nation of Brazil.
The United States has never won a World Cup. In fact, in 19 total tournaments, only eight different countries have. It won't be easy for the Red, White and Blue in 2014. The U.S., in their ninth ever World Cup appearance, was drawn into the "Group of Death" with Germany, Portugal and Ghana. It's also known as Group G. Germany is one of the best teams in the entire field; they finished third in the last World Cup and are second in the FIFA world rankings right now. Portugal, ranked third, has arguably the world's best player in Cristiano Ronaldo. And remember Ghana? That's who eliminated the Americans in the last two World Cups. See, getting out of the knockout rounds will be tough. Not just for the U.S., it won't be easy for any of the four sides.
"Obviously it's one of the most difficult groups in the whole draw," U.S. Men's National Team (USMNT) head coach Jurgen Klinsmann told ESPN after hearing about his draw. "It couldn't get any more difficult or any bigger. But that's what a World Cup is about. It's a real challenge and we'll take it. We'll take it on and hopefully we're going to surprise some people there." The USMNT will open World Cup play against Ghana on June 16. They'll play Portugal on June 22 and complete the knockout round on June 26 against Germany.
It will be the first time Klinsmann will lead the Americans to the worlds most watched event. But, Klinsmann has been under the big stage before. He was on the West Germany team that hoisted the trophy in 1990 and he managed the 2006 Germany team that finished third. He has talent to work with on the American side. Landon Donavon, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore are stars other countries are going to hate to deal with. Goalkeeper Tim Howard can be a thorn in opponent's side, too. Brazil is the favorite to win this year's World Cup. Spain is the reigning champ.
For the first time ever in the World Cup's history Goal-line technology will be used. It will help determine when the ball has completely crossed the goal line. There was a critical missed goal in 2010 off the foot of England's Frank Lampard that would have tied a match. That won't happen this time around. Referees on the field will be notified of every goal within one second of the ball crossing the line. The system is set up to send a message to the referees watches to help the close calls. Keep an eye out for it when you're watching the action.
The USMNT's best finish ever was third place way back in 1930 in Uruguay. To this day, it's the best placing for any team outside of Europe or South America. The Stars and Stripes have made significant progress in the past two-plus years under Klinsmann. Not only did they qualify fairly easily for the upcoming World Cup, the squad notched big wins over Italy, Mexico and Bosnia. "We're making progress," the Klinsmann was quoted on FIFA.com. Now it's time to see how much progress has been made on the biggest stage of them all.