In case you missed the last 250 years there is a little bit of history between England and the United States. While there is a mutual respect and courtesy between the two countries, there is also this underlying big brother little brother dynamic. It might be an analogy not everyone can understand, so let me explain.
First, don’t think America is the big brother. We’re the little brother to England. England is the successful big brother that went to a good state school, has a good job, nice home, two kids named Brian and Katie, a loving wife, and a nice house in a suburb of some Midwest city. Nice life. Mom and Dad are very proud. The USA is the little brother that went to Harvard, got his law degree, lives in a New York City Penthouse and dates models and actresses. The little brother was under the shadow of big brother his whole life until little brother started doing everything a little better. Except the older brother has one thing on the little brother, the family. And at every family gathering big brother pulls this card and waves it around in front of little brother just to show he still has one thing mom and dad are more proud of him for. While the little brother quietly steams about the fact he is still somewhat in the shadow of the brother he worked so hard to be better than. Now the only way the little brother can be the top dog is if he marries an actress has a few kids and moves to the suburbs. And the little brother will do everything he can do it, because he wants to show he’s better…at everything.
The USA is the most powerful country in the world. People look to this country for guidance and leadership. And we used to be under the control of England. We were their country, part of their Empire. But one day we broke away and started surpassing the Brits in most categories. But England still has that one thing they like to hold over our heads. Soccer…or Football as they call it. Soccer is the English’s Family Christmas Card, its stories of little Brian winning the city championship. It shouldn’t be a big deal that they have one little thing that is better than the USA. I mean look at us. But it is. We want to better with absolutely everything. That is why Saturday’s game is so important.
For the second time, the first since 1950, the United States will face off against England in the World Cup. The only other time the two teams met the USA won 1-0. But there is a consensus between both countries that that win doesn’t really count. It was lucky; soccer has come a long way. The English invented the modern game. They established the first set of rules in 1863. More than anything this is their game, it is their countries badge of pride; it is the one card they hold, their family. Just like Yankees fans can always pull out “27 Championships”, the English can pull out that they are better at soccer.
You wouldn’t think it would bother America. We won the Revolution. We have the greatest army, best athletes, we invented computers and everyone looks to us to be a leader. All of that used to be the British’s calling card. But we surpassed them. And that annoys them.
They still have their sport, however. No matter what America does in the Olympics (the only other real way to measure who has the best athletes, when they face off head to head). The English have a World Cup Title. They have the best professional league in the world. They scoff at our little MLS. They pick it apart like the Yankees pick apart the Royals. ‘We’ll take your best and leave the rest to wander around in mediocrity.’
Imagine what would happen if the United States beat England at its sport on the world’s biggest stage. The United States, who wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for the brilliance and fortitude of the English to colonize these lands and get us going in the right direction, would surpass England completely. There would be no more trump cards. Not to mention the respect in world soccer it would bring to a country that is just now starting to have an elite program.
The United States has really only been properly developing players for world class soccer for thirty years. Most other countries are working on a hundred years or more of perfecting the formula to make the best. The scary thing is you can feel that USA Soccer is almost there. We are almost to the point that we can be one of the best. There just needs to be a catalyst to push us over the edge. A victory against England would be that catalyst.
The US sports fan doesn’t really like soccer. That is not to say there isn’t a giant following that supports the US team. (Can we officially get a nickname for our soccer squad? I am tired of just calling them the USA or US Team. Every country in the world has a nickname for their team. England – The Three Lions. The Dutch – Oranje. Cameroon – The Indomitable Lions. Come on! We can’t think of something!? The Super Eagles is already taken by Nigeria. There has to be something. Let’s work on this.) Besides the millions of soccer supporters in this country that will be glued to their TV’s Saturday, there will be millions more on the fence about becoming a fan. A win for the US would convert millions of people to not only support the US soccer team, but it would give millions of Americans respect for the team. And that is what it takes to be popular. Respect.
Americans want to be the best, and they won’t respect a sport unless it is the best, or have a really good chance to be the best. Right now the USA is on the verge of respect, a good showing against the English will gain that respect. It will also let that little brother step completely out of the big brothers shadow and say “look I have everything you have, plus all this other stuff that is better than yours.” And isn’t that all we really want, to be better than our big brother.
Please send any comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Want more World Cup talk? Listen to myself and Kyndra de St. Aubin break down each World Cup group and the England v. USA game by .