Friends, family, food, shelter, good fortune, employment, health and freedom; we at SOCCER.COM certainly are thankful for all that life affords as we prepare to put away our cleats and pick up our forks on Thursday.
Looking at the soccer world, as we do here, there is plenty to be thankful for, as well. Let’s go around the table, being sure to take a look at league tables near and far, and pay homage to all that makes ours the beautiful game this holiday season.
All around the globe:
We’re starting off strong here, but there’s nary a soccer supporter in sight who wouldn’t list next summer’s 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil at the top of this list. The tournament is a glorious gift every four years, bringing the best players, teams and passionate fans in the world together to test their mettle, celebrate the game and share culture in an event watched by millions of eyes and stirring emotion in almost as many hearts.
Back in Brazil for the first time since 1950, this FIFA World Cup™ is shaping up to be truly special. All of the big boys qualified—Spain, Argentina, Germany, England, USA, Italy, Holland and the like—and “golden generations” of Colombia and Belgium are attracting new crowds and fresh optimism. Mexico made it, too; thank heavens.
The 32 teams are set, the draw comes Dec. 6, a week from Friday, and we’re giddy.
In the United States:
Aside from Jurgen Klinsmann, who has guided the USMNT to CONCACAF Gold Cup glory, a dominant World Cup™ qualification campaign and famous friendly wins against Germany, Italy and Bosnia, we’re thankful for the growth of Major League Soccer.
Buoyed by fervent fans in the Pacific Northwest and in soccer cities like Columbus and Kansas City, among others, the MLS has grown to the point that a player of Clint Dempsey’s stature would move back home from Europe in his prime and still play in front of sold out, rowdy crowds. A supremely talented player such as Graham Zusi, wanted overseas, would rather ply his trade stateside.
New franchises are emerging in Orlando and New York with goals to build the MLS to 24 teams by 2020 (there are 19 now). The league has legs, and they are stretching and growing stronger each season.
Arsenal fans are surely thankful that Arsene Wenger finally opened his checkbook to bring in the otherworldly Mesut Ozil and reach the summit in style. Southampton supporters and lovers of Liverpool fans are pleased to see their sides start the season in stunning form. Neutrals are grateful for the wide-open title race.
Our pick, though, is NBC. After paying a king’s ransom, $250 million for three years, to take control of EPL broadcasting rights, NBC has met or surpassed all expectations, staying true to the sport and bringing us more English soccer than ever before on this side of the pond.
We can get every game, whether on TV or online, every weekend. For those of us who spent years reading about games in a magazine weeks after they were played or relying on dodgy satellite or dubious Internet feeds for our weekly fix, NBC deserves more than an extra helping of turkey and a slice of pumpkin pie for their classy coverage.
We are thankful for and in awe of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and send along our wishes for speedy recovery as they deal with hamstring and thigh injuries, respectively. Fans are witnessing two of the best players to ever don cleats competing in their primes both for their teams, trophies and lasting legacies.
Both are able to score for fun and are seemingly playing on a different planet. Ronaldo has 17 goals in 14 La Liga games this year and eight more in just four UEFA Champions League matches. Messi has eight from 11 contests in Spain and another six in three UCL fixtures. Unbelievable. Be thankful for every game you get to witness their greatness.
We also are pleased to see Atletico Madrid making a true title charge even after selling star Radamel Falcao to cash-rich Monaco in the summer. Los Colchoneros have Diego Costa to thank in large part for that.
We are indebted to Roma for showing that the Seria A isn’t all about who can buy the best stars, it’s about teamwork, organization and belief, too. Though they lost the likes of Marquinhos, Erik Lamela and Pablo Osvaldo, the Giallorossi has gone on to only concede three goals and are yet to be beaten this year. They are just one point behind Scudetto holders Juventus.
Speaking of unbeaten teams, Bayern Munich set a record earlier this month with 37 straight Bundesliga games unblemished on the trot. The Bavarians haven’t lost a league game since Oct. 2012. They can be thankful that a manager the quality of Pep Guardiola was available when Jupp Heynckes was due to retire.
Share your thanks with Passback:
Most of all at SOCCER.COM we’re thankful for you. Thank you for letting us into your soccer families. Thank you for joining us on the fields. Thank you for standing beside us on the sidelines. Thank you for sitting with us in the stands. Thank you for playing, cheering and celebrating with us. It is with your help that we have been able to continue to do what we love – growing and supporting the game of soccer.
All of us are extremely fortunate to be able to afford what we need to play and watch the sport we love, and with that in mind, and in the spirit of the holiday season, we invite you to share your passion with others around the world.
Our Passback program (run with the help of the US Soccer Foundation) sends gently used soccer gear to players in need around the world. This year marks Passback’s 24th anniversary. Learn more and get involved at www.passback.com.
What are you thankful for in the world of soccer this season? Let’s go around the table, everyone, and then we can carve the turkey.