World Cup: What You Need to Know to Pretend to be a Soccer Fan

By Matt Deger

The World Cup has started and it’s time for every American to do their patriotic duty and become a

ravenous soccer fanatic. Just like the Olympics, it only comes once every four years, so here’s a quick

primer for watching the US this summer.

Soccer in General

First off, it is correct that in most of the world soccer is football. It is also correct that telling people

this over and over again will make them believe that you are a self-righteous twit. In the US, soccer

is the accepted term. Now that that’s covered, there are 11 players on each team just like American

football. Unlike American football you’ll mostly see the players staying on the field, once a soccer player

is subbed out, they can’t reenter the game. Teams will play different formations to maximize the use of

the talent they have available, but mostly teams will start a goalkeeper, four defenders, four midfielders,

and two strikers. This is a gross generalization because roles and tactics change situation to situation.

Two players lining up as midfielders can have drastically different roles in the game. As far as the game

goes it’s going to be 90-ish minutes long. The first half will start and the clock will count from zero to

forty-five minutes. Then there will be a minute or two of stoppage time. Stoppage time is extra time

that the referee will allow based on how much time has been spent not actually playing the game. Then

there will be halftime and the clock will count up from forty-five to ninety minutes. After this, more

stoppage time and then the end of the game.

World Cup

Qualifying for the world cup started in June of 2011 and each continent was allowed to send a certain

number of teams. For the purposes of soccer Australia is considered Asia, and Turkey and Israel and

Azerbaijan are considered Europe. The United States won their qualifying group and is the highest

ranked team from North America. World rankings are used to decide who gets to play who with a semi-
random draw used to assign teams to groups. The thirty-two teams that qualify for the world cup are

divided into eight groups of four each. Each team will play each other team in the group once. The top

two teams from each group advance and from then on its single elimination until there is a winner of

the tournament. The US is drawn in a group with Portugal (very good), Germany (very very good), and

Ghana (eliminated the US in 2010 and 2014).


Jurgen Klinsmann coaches the US National Team after a career as one of the world’s best strikers. While

playing for Germany he scored at least three goals in each of the three World Cups he appeared in. He

famously won third place in the 2006 World Cup coaching Germany before walking away to spend more

time with his family. The US Men’s National Team has twenty three roster spots but we’re going to look

at just a few of the more intriguing players.

Clint Dempsey (8) – The captain, 37 goals in 105 appearances. Just moved from England to play for the

Seattle sounders in MLS, listed as a forward, but will probably line up in the midfield to help coordinate

the attack. He’s scored in the last two world cups. The US doesn’t necessarily need him to score, but

they very much need him to play well.

Michael Bradley (4) – Son of Bob Bradley ex-USMNT coach. 12 goals in 86 appearances. Recently moved

from Italy back to MLS. Possibly the best player on the US team. Most of the US offense will depend on

his vision and passing ability.

Tim Howard (1) – The Goalkeeper and oldest player on the team. He’s spent the last decade in the English

Premier League and is considered an elite goalkeeper. On his day Howard can keep the US in the game

against any team.

Jozy Altidore (17) – 23 goals in 70 appearances. Altidore will line up as the US prime forward. Although

he recently went six months without scoring a single goal, he scored twice against Nigeria in the last

match before the World Cup. He will probably need to score several goals for the US to go far in the


Games to Watch

US vs. Ghana 6:00pm 6/16/14

US vs. Portugal 6:00 pm 6/22/2014

US vs. Germany noon 6/26/2014


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