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Friday, June 02, 2006

We are the World...Cup

"Hey, is that guy with the crazy red hair and goatee still playing?"

Um, no.

We are now just one week away from the biggest sporting event in the world. I for one cannot wait until World Cup 2006, which takes place in Germany this year. Every four years, 32 fortunate nations are represented in an event that always stirs pride and passion, that reflects the unique culture and politics of each nation, and that produces some magical moments of team accomplishment and individual glory.

The World Cup is also a time when many reflect on soccer's status in the United States. Many Americans delight in soccer's inferior status in this country, while soccer fans protectively argue for the virtues of their sport and hope against hope that it will one day reign supreme. Let's start with this fact: Major League Soccer will never reach the heights of the NFL, Major League Baseball or probably even the NBA. That being said, soccer has a massive, growing following in this country. One obvious reason is our large immigrant population. But something struck me recently when I went to a local soccer pub here in Atlanta, the Brewhouse Cafe, to watch Barcelona defeat Arsenal to claim the European Championship. A lot of the fans were not English or Spanish transplants but Americans following English and Spanish teams. The internet and cable television have made it easy to follow international soccer. I know very little about Major League Soccer but read about the English Premiership and my team Arsenal every day. Youth soccer leagues and technology, more than a hugely successful domestic league, will ensure the growing popularity of soccer in the United States. But a domestic league is important, because it strengthens the national team. Anyhoo...

I know Dignan is a soccer fan who is stoked about the World Cup as well. So with his permission, I would like to commit to doing regular, if not daily, entries on the World Cup. My mission, should I choose to accept it (and I do), will be to give you the links, the previews and predictions, the human interest stories, the history, and the facts about the US team that you need to engage this event. I guess you could say that I'm your World Cup of Coffee.

Over the next couple of days, I will point you to the essential websites for World Cup knowledge. Today I will begin, appropriately, with the blogosphere, which has exploded since the last World Cup. Check out...

World Cup Blog
I love this site. They have a main section, updated several times a day, in which the day's main stories leading up to the Cup are explored as well as the event's penchant for the Theatre of the Absurd. Want to check in on international efforts to stop work, school and the political process so emplyees, students, and politicians can focus on the World Cup? This is your place. But this blog really is a way station where over 30 blogs reside. Each country in the World Cup has their own blog where they check in on respective national teams. Highly informative and entertaining.

NY Times World Cup Blog
Let's here it for the Gray Lady, who wisely didn't put this behind the Times$elect firewall. Nice to see mainstream media demonstrate interest in both the blogosphere and soccer. Good insights and lots of links to other places here. It's updated throughout the day.

Washington Post's "Road to the World Cup"
Same format--commentary and links galore. What strikes me about this blog is that they seem to get a lot of discussion going in the comments section.

Now, for an overall preview and analysis of each national team, check out...

Fox Sports World's 32 Teams in 32 Days
CNN SI's World Cup Teams
BBC Sport World Cup 2006
ESPN Soccernet

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