It is impossible to deny soccer’s growing popularity among U.S. fans. An ESPN Sports Poll Annual Report revealed that Major League Soccer is now as popular with American children as Major League Baseball. And according to FIFA, U.S. fans are second to Brazil in the purchase of tickets to this year’s World Cup. As the Team USA fan base continues to grow, here is a list of interesting facts to prepare you for Sunday’s match against Portugal.
1. John Anthony Brooks possesses psychic powers … maybe.
Two days prior to Monday’s match, John Anthony Brooks dreamed he would score the USA’s winning goal against Ghana, specifically by a header from the corner. The 21-year-old center back, who had never played in an official game for the USA, said, “I said, ‘I had a dream,’ I told some teammates that I dreamed that I had scored in the 80th minute and we won the game.” His dream was spot-on, except it turned out to be in the 86th minute of the game … but seriously, who’s counting.
2. They broke an eight-year dry spell.
Ghana eliminated the USA in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, making Monday’s win extra special.
3. There’s a really complex system behind deciding the color jerseys they wear.
Team USA will wear all-white jerseys against Portugal and Germany, which is different than the red look they sported during the match against Ghana. The FIFA competitions department lays out the look for each game but the referees have the final say. “The emphasis, increasingly, is on completely nonambiguous color clashing. They want white and then a dark color. An orange and a black on certain TVs doesn’t come across as well. In certain parts of the world there aren’t always color TVs, so FIFA is looking for a broader contrast.”
4. DaMarcus Beasley is a soccer legend.
DaMarcus Beasley, 32, is the only player on the U.S. roster to make an appearance in four World Cups. He has played in 115 games for the USA.
5. Team USA is open to trying new (old) techniques.
Instead of their usual 4-2-3-1 formation, the Americans are trying the 4-4-2 “diamond” strategy. It’s one of the oldest formations in soccer and is made up of four defenders, four midfielders and two strikers. So far so good, Team USA!
6. The person in charge of their laundry should be offered a trophy.
Jesse Bignami, the USA team’s equipment operations manager, estimates that just about every player who starts the match changes his jersey at halftime. But in wet conditions, players sometimes want to change their entire ensemble, including socks.
7. Almost half the team plays domestic soccer.
Of the 23-man roster, 10 play for MLS. This doesn’t surpass the U.S. World Cup rosters of the past—there were 12 players on the 2006 and 2002 rosters and 16 players in 1998.
8. Clint Dempsey has an alter ego.
In 2006, Nike approached team captain Clint Dempsey about creating the video for the rap song “Don’t Tread” featuring Houston rappers XO and Big Hawk to ramp up sales of Nike soccer gear. He signed on, and Deuce, the white, tattooed rapper, was born.
9. Fabian Johnson probably coped with the Heat’s recent loss by noshing on sushi.
Off the field, Fabian Johnson loves to eat sushi and cheer from the sidelines at Miami Heat games. He even admits that he cooks a bit, but he says it’s “nothing special.”
10. There will be some serious team jet lag in the coming days.
Team USA will have the worst travel schedule, being forced to travel 9,000-plus miles between the 12 stadiums for their World Cup matches.
11. Their goalie isn’t new to the game. He’s true to the game.
Goalkeeper Tim Howard, 35, became the youngest winner of the Major League Soccer Goalkeeper of the Year award in 2001. That year, he led the league with four shutouts and 146 saves. He recently became the 15th player in U.S. national team history to hit the 100-cap milestone.
12. Geoff Cameron is a neat freak.
The defender’s friends say he has obsessive-compulsive disorder, but he says he’s just really organized. If things are out of order, he has a tough time thinking straight.
13. The U.S. men’s national soccer team members were considered “dead men walking” before beating Ghana.
If you asked any sports critic a week ago, it was impossible for the U.S. to make it out of Group G, infamously renamed the Group of Death. Even head coach Jürgen Klinsmann said it would be “unrealistic” to see his team win the World Cup. After their recent win over Ghana, however, many people are starting to have faith in “One nation. One team.”
14. Jozy Altidore took a serious one for the team.
The Haitian American was temporarily traded to Xerez for a few games. While at a Dutch Cup match, the referee wanted to stop the game prematurely because of the racist “jungle sounds chanted at Altidore.” Altidore persuaded him not to for the sake of the team.
15. Team USA is made up of a lot of half-black half Germans.
Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson, Timmy Chandler, John Anthony Brooks and Julian Green are all German Americans, raised in Deutschland. English is their second language. Green’s father, Jerry, is a retired member of the U.S. military.
Good luck this Sunday, boys!