So you watched the U.S. sadly lose in the sweet 16 of the World Cup this summer, but don’t want to wait four more years before seeing the team compete again?
Good news. There are a lot of exciting tournaments (and even a few high-profile exhibitions) to tide you over until Brazil ’14.
Exact dates are still pending, with exception to a high-profile exhibition game later this year against Brazil. But the following should give you an idea of what to look forward to in the coming years. Go, USA!
Gold Cup (Summer: 2011, 2013)
The World Cup this is not. But the Gold Cup—which pits the best national teams of North, Central, and Caribbean America against each other—is definitively worth watching. Especially as the U.S. battles all opposing teams for regional supremacy over arch rival Mexico. What’s more, the winner of next summer’s tournament earns the right to star in the FIFA regional championships (aka Confederations Cup). So there’s a lot at stake. And of course, since the tournament is every other year, there’s even a bonus one in 2013 before the Brazil games commence a year later.
World Cup Qualification (Year round: 2012-2013)
Believe it or not, World Cup play lasts a lot longer than a single month in a single summer. In fact, qualification starts two years before each tournament, so the road to participate is actually a long one, consisting of at least 10 games in the case of the United States and their regional opponents. Other FIFA regions—including South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Oceania—vary in schedules and number of games. But suffice to say that qualification is as much fun as the World Cup itself, especially since berths into the finals are always at stake.
Confederations Cup (Summer: 2013)
Less exciting than World Cup Qualification, but more exciting than Gold Cup. Held once every four years, the FIFA Confederations Cup is a baby World Cup, so to speak. It can also be thought of as a preliminary or warm-up to the big show and pits the six most recent regional FIFA champions against the upcoming World Cup host nation and defending World Cup champions. Last year, the U.S. eaked into the semi-finals, beating Spain in the process, before losing 3-2 to Brazil in the finals. Although meaningless in the grand scheme of things, the Confed Cup still fields the best teams. Which makes it a joy to watch for international bragging rights.
Anytime we play Mexico (usually 2-3 times a year)
Since star players are usually busy playing for club teams or play in fear of being injured, international exhibitions (aka “friendlies”) can be pretty boring. Furthermore, even if stars are available, the coach will usually experiment (aka tryout) second and third-string players. Exhibitions against Mexico, however, are always hotly contested. So be on the look out for the next time we play them, as they are equally as thrilling as any team the U.S. will face in any World Cup.
HONORABLE MENTION: Any high-profile friendlies against the aforementioned Brazil or other traditional soccer powers like Italy, Germany, Argentina, England, or France. Watch this space for more information.
So there you have it: Proof you can enjoy World Cup-like excitement without waiting every four years. Now if only they’d bring back the U.S. Cup.