The summer we should have had

It feels different. I can't put my finger on it exactly but it just feels different.

So here we are, one day until the party begins and something feels like it's just off and it shouldn't, we should be over the moon. The excitement is there, that is undeniable, but it is different somehow. 

Most of us barely remember the 1986 World Cup, therefore our first real memories are of Italy 1990. That group of pioneering Americans that qualified with that Paul Caligiuri goal, ironically against Trinidad and Tobago.

Obviously this is one of the reasons it just doesn't feel the same. Most of us have no memory of experiencing a World Cup without the US. But it's more than that, much more than that. 

Don't get me wrong, we are not over here thinking that the US had a realistic chance to win the World Cup in Brazil or even in Russia if they were to have qualified. That's not the point.

It's all about the run, the possibility of going on a run. It's about being the underdog, talking about all the what if's and engaging every morning at the crack of dawn with other American football supporters. What if Wando could have tapped that chance in against Belgium, who could be the next Jermaine Jones type player to come out of nowhere to make a difference, could Klinsmann have lined us up differently, all of that is gone.

The US football supporter is the minority here.

This has always created a strong bond between us, the whole us against the rest feeling. When we recognize one of our own it takes no time for us to become fast friends. 

The other day I was eating breakfast at a diner in LA and reading a stack of Soccer Bible magazines. The guy sitting next to me at the counter asked me if I have any involvement with the magazine and what was "Saturdays Football" on the back of my shirt. We end up talking for an hour about everything under the sun. He has a background in analytics and wants to create a platform to identify talent so that his dream can come true, the US winning the World Cup. Needless to say we will be watching matches together for years to come and we will be supporting his efforts. 

THIS IS WHAT WE'LL BE MISSING THIS SUMMER. These moments when we would have gathered to support our country and meet other people that belong to our little minority. These were the times we would collaborate, create friendships, learn, debate and most importantly grow the sport through our passion. How many collaborative efforts won't be sparked this summer? 

The exponential explosion of energy and ideas that is generated from our little minority coming together for one intense month can change everything and can't be replicated. 

We love everyone thinking we are crazy to show up at a pub at 6:30 am to watch Landon Donovan score a late goal against a little country like Algeria but all of us know that the moment we just witnessed will be talked about for decades. 

The World Cup was always the moment every 4 years when "we" could gather for a few weeks and really feel at home. It was the time when we always made a leap forward, not necessarily on the pitch but in the culture. We would create those memories that stay with us and propel us to grow the game here.

There would also be the inevitable converts that would catch the bug as well. Those people that start off knowing nothing but get caught up in our tribal madness for some reason. Slowly they learn more and more and realize that football really is different than any American sport, it's closer to religion.


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