In this summer before the 2014 World Cup, instead of relaxing and recovering for the upcoming club season, American international soccer players will be gearing up for a tough set of international fixtures that will extend fully throughout the entire summer break. With a pair of big-time friendlies and all-important World Cup qualifiers extending throughout June, and then with the 2013 Gold Cup encompassing most of July, the American players will have to be ready to endure a tiresome journey in the summer heat. Once August arrives, the players will then re-up with their respective clubs and begin their new seasons. And so as the majority of club seasons draw to a close, it seems as if soccer season is just about to start for our nation’s stars.
In just several weeks time, America will take on two powerful European soccer teams in Belgium and Germany. Although they are largely meaningless friendlies, these games will be a great test of potential matchups at the World Cup. Belgium is an up and coming soccer nation with stars like Eden Hazard and Marouane Fellaini, two of the best players in the English Premier League, while Germany is a usual contender at the World Cup. With two German clubs set to play for the UEFA Champions League (basically the Super Bowl of European club soccer), the national team is full of proven talent that will greatly test our national side.
As June continues, the Americans will turn their attention to the 2014 World Cup qualifiers with games against Jamaica, Panama, and Honduras. With a qualifying group that is very tight on points through three games, the American National soccer team will need to be focused in order to ensure a comfortable qualification. Against three teams that America should be able to handedly beat, this are must-win games for both qualification and for national pride. However, as recent history suggests, such games are no cakewalk. The USA lost in Jamaica just last September so they will have to be up for several tough tests.
Enter July and with it the 2013 Gold Cup. With 12 North American nations battling it out for regional supremacy, this will provide a great warm-up for a major tournament like the World Cup next year. With a group composed of Belize, Costa Rica, and Cuba, America should play well in this stage, especially as the entire Gold Cup will be played on home soil in America. This tournament often comes down to a final between America and Mexico, and while Mexico handedly beat America for the last two Gold Cup titles in the final (5-0 and 4-2), America won the two previous tournaments and would love nothing better than to claim this title.
And at this point, the players will be set to return to their clubs for next season, which begins in August. But for American soccer fans, these games will be exciting tests for a team that has generally failed to impress under new manager Jurgen Klinsmann. Players like Jozy Altidore and Landon Donovan will be under heavy scrutiny and the team will be expected to come together for these upcoming matches. This summer will also provide a great understanding for expectations at the 2014 World Cup. If America can compete against big European oppositions, set themselves apart in qualifiers, and win the Gold Cup, American soccer fans will be excited and ready for next year in Brazil. But should America continue to stutter and falter, more questions about the players and manager will simply continue.