The long qualifying road to World Cup 2014 starts on Friday in Tampa for the U.S. men's national team, and while the first semifinal-round opponent (tiny Antigua and Barbuda) shouldn't provide much resistance, there's always a danger in taking World Cup qualifying for granted. The U.S. is one of only seven nations to reach the last six World Cups -- along with Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Italy, South Korea and Spain -- and at least 16 qualifying games over the next 17 months stand between the Yanks and Brazil 2014. As always, there are no guarantees.
Big news in the world of U.S. soccer came on Friday when FIFA awarded the U.S. broadcast rights for 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Fox (English language) and Telemundo (Spanish language). The Sports Business Journal reported the total rights fee for the U.S. to be between $1.05 billion and $1.1 billion, an increase of at least 147 percent over the combined $425 million that ESPN and Univisión paid for the rights to the '10 and '14 tournaments.
ZURICH -- How convoluted are the politics surrounding this Thursday's FIFA vote to award the hosts for World Cups 2018 and '22? Well, the first person I saw upon leaving airport customs here was Bora Milutinovic, the peripatetic Serbian-born, Mexican-based coach who managed the U.S. at World Cup '94.
Dissatisfied with what he sees as tepid effort on behalf of oil giant BP to stop the flow of petroleum from an exploded well in the Gulf of Mexico, a New York-based video producer named Adam Quirk has started raising money for a stunt designed to irritate its executives.
Over the past few weeks Barcelona's Lionel Messi has stunned the soccer world with some of the most superlative performances people have ever seen -- relentlessly bettering himself and his team and enhancing the game itself.
It was the ultimate expression of modern player power. In January, Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic announced he was "taking a break" from international football. The Barcelona forward will not play for the Swedish national team for the foreseeable future.
When people name their favorites for the World Cup, Brazil comes up every time. The Seleção conjures up images of excitement and artful soccer. With a record five World Cup titles, it's the most successful team as well, and is the favorite to add a sixth crown in South Africa in July.
The first year of a new decade is upon us, and the stories that will unfold in 2010 will be vast. Soccer lovers around the globe are anticipating the World Cup, one of three that will be played in this new decade.
PLAYER OF THE DECADE: Zinedine Zidane, France Zizou gets our Player of the Decade nod, barely beating out Ronaldinho, who also won two World Player of the Year awards this decade but didn't have anything approaching Zidane's longevity at the top of the global game. No player since Diego Maradona has provided as much joy to viewers who love the artistry of soccer. Case in point: France's stunning upset of Brazil in the 2006 World Cup quarterfinals, in which Zidane rediscovered his mojo on the game's biggest stage. (Bonus points for scoring the greatest goal of the decade in the 2002 Champions League final against Bayer Leverkusen.)
SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras -- You'd be forgiven for thinking you had traveled in a time warp back to the 1980s for the U.S.' big World Cup qualifier against Honduras here on Saturday night (10 p.m. ET, closed-circuit TV in English and Spanish).
Brazil and Paraguay already booked their tickets for the 2010 World Cup, but six other teams are still in the running. There are only two automatic tickets left for South America, and one playoff berth against the fourth-place team from CONCACAF.
It was just more than five months ago that Diego Maradona's reign in charge of Argentina seemed on the right track. After a couple of wins in friendly matches, he debuted in World Cup qualification with a conclusive 4-0 triumph at home to Venezuela.
With South American qualifying for the 2010 World Cup resuming next month, the top four positioned teams of the continent tested their strength in what ended up being worthwhile friendly matches on Wednesday. While Brazil, Argentina and Chile claimed hard-fought victories in Europe, Paraguay lost in Asia.
When a tough loss follows a string of poor results, it's natural to want to take out frustrations on someone. And when that tough loss comes against a bitter rival in arguably the biggest game of the year, it may seem like a foregone conclusion that the coach should pay with his job.
Maykel Galindo won't be here on Saturday for Cuba's historic World Cup qualifier against the United States. The former star forward of the Cuban national team defected to the U.S. in 2005, boarding a bus in Seattle during the 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
BEIJING -- It would be easy to put on my TMZ hat to write about Heather Mitts. After all, the right back for the U.S. women's team has posed for FHM and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and has dated an NFL quarterback (A.J. Feeley), a major league baseball player (Pat Burrell) and a pro tennis star (James Blake).
Got a text from my buddy J.C. right after the best women's soccer player I've ever seen (Brazil's Marta) scored her breathtaking, Maradona-at-the-height-of-his-powers goal to sink the U.S. 4-0 in Thursday's Women's World Cup semifinals.