Essays from 116th Street

Self-therapy, since 2004...

Location: New York, New York

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Great Soccer FAQ, Part II

Golly gee, Zack, I just got done reading "The Great Soccer FAQ, Part I", and I gotta say it's the greatest soccer FAQ I ever done seen. But how come you didn't mention any American players? Do Americans suck at soccer?
No, Americans do not suck at all! As a matter of fact, the U.S. team made it to the final 8 of the 2002 World Cup, and nearly upset Germany. With that being said, no American has achieved any of the lofty benchmarks (World Cup titles, European Cups, Player of the Year awards, etc.) that the players I previously mentioned have. Nevertheless, the United States has produced a number of quality players who have consistently produced both at home and abroad.

Like who?
Top American players include Brian McBride (Fulham), Claudio Reyna (Manchester City), and Brad Friedel (Blackburn Rovers) of the English Premier League. In Holland, winger DaMarcus Beasley is a key member of PSV Eindhoven, and last season was the first American ever to play in the semifinal round of the Champions' League. Kasey Keller has been going strong in Europe for a decade, and currently defends the goal of Borussia Monchengladbach, in Germany (please don't ask me for the pronunciation of "Borussia Monchengladbach"). All of these players are standouts for the U.S. Men's team, with the exception of Friedel, who left the international game following his sensational World Cup of 2002.
Domestically, Major League Soccer employs a number of U.S. international players, among them golden boy Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), new kid Eddie Johnson (FC Dallas), and super-hyped 16-year-old Freddy Adu (D.C. United).

Do you think they'll do better at the next World Cup?
We can only hope.

When is the next World Cup, anyway?
The World Cup is held every four years, and the next one begins June 9th, 2006, in Germany. 32 teams will compete for four weeks, with the final scheduled for July 9th, 2006 in Berlin.

How do they decide which teams make it into the World Cup?
FIFA allocates a number of World Cup slots to each continental confederation (based upon perceived strength), after which teams go through a two-year qualifying schedule against other squads from their respective continents. The host country automatically qualifies. Once the qualification schedule has ended, FIFA conducts a draw, determining the seeding for the first round of the tournament.

Who do you think will win the World Cup this year?
Most people expect Brazil to repeat as champions, and so do I. England seems to have the talent and balance to win, but inconsistent play and steady controversy always seem to do them in. I also wouldn't count out Holland or Argentina.

Are there any other major international tournaments besides the World Cup?
There are other major tournaments, such as the "Euro" (European Championship), the Copa America, the Asian Cup, the African Cup of Nations, the Gold Cup, and the Oceania Cup. The winners of these continental tournaments, along with World Cup winner and host country, play in the FIFA Confederations Cup. FIFA also produces world championships for the Under-20 and Under-17 age levels.

What about the Olympics?
Olympic soccer is, generally speaking, an Under-23 tournament. Teams are allowed to have up to three players over the age of 23 on their rosters, and many top players stay away. Many young players do see it as a chance to display their skills to a larger audience, however.

Next time, in "The Great Soccer FAQ, Part III":
Why "Houston 1836" is a kick-@$$ name for a soccer club; why "Pizza Hut Park" may be the worst stadium name, ever; the best websites for following the game; and Zidane vs. Ronaldinho.


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