About the Author: Sharon Hudson-Dean serves as the Press Attache at U.S. Embassy Pretoria.
It's all over for the U.S. team, but, more importantly, not for American soccer. We're all picking another team to cheer for in the World Cup finals, yet we also have confidence our team will back on track for Brazil in 2014. A lot of us here will cheer for Ghana. Yes, they beat us, but they did it with strength in overtime, and they are the only African team to move ahead. South Africans celebrated all night long -- my sources tell me the townships were kept up all night by the never-ending vuvuzela choruses.
The U.S. showing, both by the team and by the over 33,000 Americans here now, really boosted soccer's American profile. Our game against Algeria will be long remembered for its Hollywood ending -- Landon Donovan powering in full-steam to finish a goal the Algerian goalkeeper thought he had prevented. It was like watching a big wave of white and green players sweeping toward the goal, and Donovan was a cool surfer on top of them all, sailing into the beach on top of that win. One of my colleagues turned to me and said, “This has got to stop -- I can't take the stress of these games -- my heart has been racing for 90 minutes..."
One visitor who really appreciated that spectacular game, and the Ghana game, was former President Bill Clinton, who came here as a private citizen. Our former president is a well-known quantity in South Africa. His foundation is working especially hard to lower costs for antiretroviral (ARV) drugs for HIV positive patients, which will help support many more individuals on treatment.
But President Clinton is mainly here on this visit, because he is the honorary chairman of the USA Bid Committee. The United States wants to host the World Cup in 2018 or 2022. In December this year, soccer's governing body FIFA will select the two host countries for those years (2014 is in Brazil). The United States is competing against a raft of 10 competitors, including Russia, Australia, Spain-Portugal, and Qatar. Ultimately, the host countries are determined through votes from the FIFA Executive Committee members. FIFA is the international governing body of soccer based in Zurich, Switzerland. FIFA has more member associations than both the United Nations and International Olympic Committee.
While the competition is going to be tough, we have an excellent track record from the 1994 World Cup and one of the fastest growing soccer-playing (and watching) populations in the world. Over 24 million Americans play soccer, the second largest number in the world. Our 1994 World Cup still holds the record for the highest attendance in history, averaging 69,000 fans per game and 3.6 million attendees overall. And, the United States is quite literally the future of the game -- we've got 3.9 million young people playing soccer, making the United States top the world in players at the youth level, and over 6,000 youth clubs and leagues. With stats like that, we should host and win the World Cup by 2022 at the latest!
To view photos from U.S. Embassy Pretoria, click here.Follow U.S. Embassy Pretoria on Facebook and Twitter.For information on the World Cup in South Africa, visit the U.S. Mission's website.See Sharon Hudson-Dean's previous entry: U.S. Consulate in Johannesburg Welcomes Students for U.S.-Slovenia Match.