SALVADOR, Brazil, (Reuters) – The future of soccer in the United States has never seemed brighter.
Like the rest of the planet, the land of the free has been swept up in the excitement of the World Cup, with millions of people glued to their television sets watching the events unfold in Brazil.
The enthusiasm for Team USA – one of the tournament’s supposed underdogs – has been infectious with President Barack Obama leading a nationwide cheer squad that includes America’s biggest sports stars and celebrities.
The World Cup remains one of the few final frontiers that no U.S. team has ever conquered but if the surge of American children who have made soccer their first-choice sport is any indication, it may only be a matter for time.
The U.S. national head coach Juergen Klinsmann knows better than most the enormous potential of the U.S. but for him, the future will have to wait.
“We are not thinking at all about the future right now, we are thinking about the present and we want to go far,” he told a news conference on Monday, the eve of his team’s second round clash with Belgium.
“The more experienced players like Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, DaMarcus Beasley, Jermaine Jones, this is the moment, you have to squeeze everything out of yourself.
“Right now it is all about Brazil, this World Cup.”
The U.S. were rated as longshots to win the title after being drawn in a difficult group with Germany, Portugal and Ghana, but defied the odds to finish runners-up to Germany and reach the last 16.
The road ahead is no easier with Belgium favoured to end America’s run as early as Tuesday but Klinsmann, a World Cup winner with Germany in 1990, has instilled his players with the belief that now is their moment.