Remember all those watch parties in various American cities for World Cup games involving the United States men’s national team four years ago in Brazil?
Well, hopefully people do and keep those memories fresh in their minds for four years from now for when the 2022 World Cup is contested in Qatar, because watch parties to see the U.S. team compete in Russia won’t be happening this year.
For the first time since 1986, the U.S. failed to qualify for the World Cup.
The Americans embarrassingly missed out by losing their final qualification game to Trinidad and Tobago, by far the worst team in the six-team CONCACAF qualifying group, last fall when simply a tie would have advanced the U.S. squad.
But even without the U.S., all is not lost. Diehard soccer fans can still hop on the bandwagon of other nations.
Here are five other teams U.S. soccer fans can get behind.
By the way, they don’t include traditional powers Italy and the Netherlands. They didn’t qualify either and can join the U.S. team for a watch party of their own.
Yes, on the surface it might seem ludicrous to root for the U.S.’s most hated rival. But Mexico, the top qualifier out of the CONCACAF qualifying group, has a big following of fans in the U.S. and it would be neat to see El Tri (team’s nickname) overcome its round of 16 hex. Mexico has lost in the round of 16 in six straight World Cup appearances. Most of all, what better way to give the U.S. program a figurative kick in the butt going forward than to see its hated rival do well this summer? No doubt, this will be the team Fox fixates on the most for viewership without the U.S. team, both for the Mexican fans in the U.S. and the diehard U.S. fans who will watch and root for El Tri to lose.
Americans certainly latched onto the royal wedding a few weeks ago, so why not support England’s soccer team as well? While England is home to arguably the world’s best professional league and some of the most decorated franchises in all of worldwide sports, it hasn’t won a World Cup since 1966.
England hasn’t reached the semifinals since 1990 and will be fielding a youthful squad in Russia, with only five holdovers from the 2014 team that didn’t get out of the group stage in Brazil.
This team became the darling of the 2016 European championships when it improbably advanced to the tournament quarterfinals despite being a nation of only 335,000 people. But as exciting as that was, Iceland was more of a story when it became the smallest nation to ever qualify for a World Cup last fall. A side note is that head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson doubles as one of the island’s few dentists.
Another team making its first ever World Cup appearance, Panama took the third and final qualifying spot out of the CONCACAF group behind Mexico and Costa Rica (the U.S. was fifth). It was one of the greatest moments in the history of the nation, which had endured decades of heartbreak trying to qualify for the World Cup. A national holiday was declared following the achievement, and you can bet the entire country will pretty much stop what it’s doing for the team’s games, starting with the opener against Belgium on June 18.
Ok, it might be hard to root for Brazil given it has won a record five World Cups. But then again, how can you NOT root for Brazil when watching them play? The Brazilians always are colorful with their skill, flair and roster dominant with one-named players. You almost feel like you are doing the salsa dance just watching them.
Is there another nation besides these five you will root for? Let us know and why in the comments below.
All images by Getty Images