It has to be said that the best team won in the end, the Germans outlasted and outclassed Argentina after 120 thrilling minutes in Rio. It was quite an end to an entertaining World Cup. We saw champions strike out in the first round, last second victories, the rise and fall of Costa Rica, and the never ending embarrassment of Brazil. It doesn't have to end here though. Every four years attention turns to the World Cup, casual sports fans and people that have no vested interest in soccer pay attention, they gather in bars, living rooms, discuss saves and goals in the break room, and then when the World Cup ends or the US exits, they continue on. It doesn't have to be this way however, the best thing about soccer is it never really ends, the cycle continues, new players join up and legends retire.
Folks watching the final yesterday may have heard continuous advertisement for the MLS game of the week, a game featuring American soccer stars Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin making their return home, playing for their club team Seattle Sounders FC. They were playing their bitter rivals, the Portland Timbers in front of over 64,000 fans in Seattle. It was quite a showcase for MLS, as it is one of the best game day atmospheres in the world. The MLS has been growing continuously in the last few years, adding several teams, and bringing Americans Michael Bradly and Clint Dempsey home on huge contracts. In the next two years two more teams join, Manchester City owned NYC FC with Spanish star David Villa lined up to play, and Orlando City, a lower division team making it's way to the big time with an incredibly passionate fanbase. They will feature Brazilian legend Kaka on the field. The MLS isn't quite at the level of the overseas giants, but it's still a lot of fun to watch and has a number of good young players developing, it's already looked at as a top ten league. If you are looking for something to watch, give MLS a shot right now, as league play is ramping up and the MLS playoffs are around the corner. You could also look up the local team in your area, like FC Tucson, the possibilities are limitless. If you're only into the highest level of competition, European leagues like Barclay's Premier League and the Italian Serie A start play in a a little over a month, with many top teams coming to the United States to tour and play local teams. These matches are a big deal for local fans, as it gives these European stars a look the infrastructure in place and what could be, if MLS ever eliminates their salary cap or looks to invest more heavily in players.
If you're jonesing for other tournaments to enjoy, the CONCACAF Gold Cup is happening next summer, US coach Jurgen Klinnsman will be bringing in his young players to battle against bitter CONCACAF rivals. Mexico and Costa Rica were fun to root for in the World Cup, but in the Gold Cup, anything goes. If Argentina and Colombia got your interest this summer, Copa America, the South American competition is also in 2015, with the centennial tournament taking place the year after and hosted by the United States. Also taking place in 2016, the Olympics in Rio. the Olympics are an under 23 tournament that allows three over age players to participate. The US missed out on London in 2012 and it was deemed a massive setback to our youth players. The Olympics may not be looked at as very important as the other tournaments, with most countries writing them off almost completely, but the development and experience gained by the young guys is invaluable at the next stage, as is the opportunity to implement the same strategies that will take place at the next level.
The World Cup may not be coming back for another four years, but the actual competition starts up again very soon. Over 200 countries strive to make it to the final 32, the big event in the host nation. The CONCACAF cycle has over 30 teams competing and all of the US home games are televised in the states. Feel free to watch your country go through all the ups and downs of qualifying. It's not just an automatic entry, Mexico was almost shut out of this summer, it took a fluke United States tie against Panama late in the hexagonal for Mexico to make it through. Our region gets tougher and tougher and playing away matches in Honduras, Jamaica, and Guatemala can be nightmares. Klinnsman showed he is committed to the youth and the US have a lot of promise in that aspect. I look forward to seeing Julian Green, DeAndre Yedlin, John Anthony Brooks, and a number of players who we may not have heard of yet, but will make a difference in the next four years as we go through a grueling process, just to make it to the final 32 in Russia.