Last night, I had the privilege of cheering on the U.S. men’s soccer team as it defeated Ghana in its first game of the World Cup in Brazil. It was an incredible match from the first minute to the final ones as our guys made an entire country proud.
It’s palpable how consequential the World Cup is for people all around the world. It’s the sports fan’s combination of panic, exhilaration, and — depending on your team — agony or ecstasy. It’s felt in villages and major cities. It’s felt in every time zone, every hour, every day and night, and in homes, bars, offices, and stadiums where tens of thousands of people paint their faces, sing their anthems, and raise a banner.
And last night, you could actually feel the energy in the air. You could feel the global jolt of electricity from the Arena das Dunas Stadium in Natal to the big screens in parks and bars across America where fans young and old waved the stars and stripes and chanted that uniquely American sentiment: “I believe.”
If you need evidence of how the World Cup brings the people together, just consider the U.S. men’s team: With a German coach at the helm, a number of players who can claim dual citizenship, and numerous first- and second-generation Americans on the roster, this young team represents America’s melting pot of extraordinary talent.
Twenty-five million people in the United States play soccer; 80 percent of them are young people who will be players and fans for years to come; and our major league soccer teams are selling out stadiums. Our women’s team is ranked number one in the world. And as our men’s team showed last night, our grit, determination, and resolve is our defining characteristic as a team — and as a country.
We face some big challenges around the globe right now. But the World Cup is a moment to be celebrated — an exciting time for Brazil, for the United States, and for all soccer fans all over the world. It was a thrill to be a part of it last night — and as I told the guys in the locker room after the game, they truly do represent one team, one nation united.