U.S. soccer prez on World Cup chances: “Why play unless you believe you can win?”

Sunil GulatiThe United States national team, once the David of international soccer, is growing up. Slowly, but growing. He qualified for his sixth consecutive World Cup last month. He has been in the quarter finals twice, and many people see him as the most formidable rising soccer power. But can he win the world championship?

His general manger thinks so. “One of our players was asked if we could win the World Cup and said why not?” said Sunil Gulati, president of U.S. soccer, in an interview with the New York Times. “I love that confidence. Why play unless you believe you have some chance to win? The fact is if you get past the first round, anything is possible.”

The next question: How? The U.S. routinely downed Goliaths with speed and constant attacking at the 2002 games, before losing to Germany in the quarter finals on a missed penalty call. This squad, however, is a little less exciting to watch — at least for now.

Donovan, Altidore, and Howard in cat fight for U.S. “Player of the Year”

Facetious headline aside, the three are competing finalist for the 2009 Honda Player of the Year, which recognizes the most important player from the men’s national team. Donovan has won the award five times, including the last two years. Howard is a finalist for the third year in the row, and 19 year-old Altidore is a first-time finalist.

To recap their achievements, Donovan has contributed to 69% of all World Cup qualifying goals (either on his own or by way of assists). Tim Howard is a monster goal keeper, saving multiple wins throughout the year and winning a Golden Glove award for best goalkeeper at the Confederations Cup. And rising-star Jozy Altidore became the first U.S. player to record a hat trick during 3-0 win against Trinidad & Tobago in April, not to mention scoring eight goals in 19 appearances.

Who do you think should win?