By: Steve Johnson
America isn’t like other countries in the world. America has a countless number of sports. And their favorite two, consist of sports that are still new to the World. Basketball has grown leaps and bounds internationally as of recent, but is still relatively new. Where as, Football is still primarily just played in the U.S. Professional Basketball players have only been allowed to play in the Olympics since 1992. The most popular sport in the World, is still very much soccer. While, some countries are known for Hockey or Rugby, the majority of countries favorite sport is soccer. Children growing up in these countries, grow up wanting to be the next Pele or Christiano Ronaldo, not the next Michael Jordan or LeBron James. This article isn’t to criticize the game of soccer, but for the most part in America, the best athletes don’t pick soccer at a young age. The United States has only once (1930) had a winning record in the World Cup. That year, they finished 3rd, despite the tournament not having a third place game. Between 1954 and 1986, the U.S. failed to quality for the World Cup. Since then, they’ve gone 5-15 with 6 draws, and haven’t finished better than 8th. All-time, the U.S. ranks 23rd, according to FIFA, just ahead of Romania, Denmark, and South Korea. Paraguay, Austria and Switzerland, all 3 ranked ahead of the U.S., have a population of just under 9 million, which is about the size of New York City. The point being, imagine if every American child grew up wanting to play soccer. How good could the United States be at Soccer? Here’s a fun take on how it might look, in this alternate universe.
With this team, we’re going to run a 3-4-3, soccer legend and coaching icon Bill Belichick’s formation of choice. Belichick likes to attack opponents defense at all time. The 3-4-3 helps him do that with 3 attacking strikers and 4 mid fielders to back them up. It’s not that Belichick doesn’t care about defense, leaving only 3 backs, he just doesn’t let up on the attack on offense. This is unusual in modern soccer (yes, the world know recognizes it as Soccer), other countries have tried it, but unfortunately couldn’t replicate the speed of the Americans.
Coach. Bill Belichick
Alternate Universe: Bill Belichick is the winningest coach in soccer history. He has 5 World Cups to his name, and has won 15 division titles in the American Premier League with the Boston Minutemen.
Reality: Belichick, is probably the best professional sports coach we’ve ever seen. Imagine taking his work habits and passion to another sport, you’re telling me he wouldn’t be successful?
Goalie. Anthony Davis
Alternate Universe: Nicknamed “The Brow”, Davis’ key to goaltending is his 7’5″ wingspan and 9″ hands that can pluck balls out of the air. This will be his first World Cup, as he’s replacing long time USMNT goalie Kevin Garnett.
Reality: Davis, is one of the best defenders in the NBA. He has active hands and great hand eye coordination. Goalies are typically some of the taller players on the field.
Left Fullback. Earl Thomas
Alternate Universe: Thomas, is part of the United States elite 3 man defense. He along, with Luke Kuechly, and Eric Berry rarely even allow goaltender Anthony Davis to see any good looks.
Reality: Although dealing with a lot of injuries as of late, Thomas has been an elite defender since entering the league in 2010.
Center Fullback. Luke Kuechly
Alternate Universe: Kuechly is one of the world’s premier defenders, with his touchline to touchline tackling ability.
Reality: Kuchley, is the premier linebacker in the NFL. Despite his injuries, he hasn’t lost a step manning the middle for his Carolina Panthers.
Right Fullback. Eric Berry
Alternate Universe: This is Berry’s first World Cup, as he was a late scratch in the 2014 Tournament, due to being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. In 2014, long time elite fullback Ed Reed came out of retirement for one more World Cup. He’s been working with Berry ever since his recovery.
Reality: One of the best defenders in the NFL, Berry uses his speed, strength, and closing ability to key in on defenders.
Left Midfielder. SaQuon Barkley
Alternate Universe: Barkley, was the top draft picks in this years APL draft. The former Nittany Lion had a great career for powerhouse Penn State Soccer. He looks to add his young legs to this already dominate USMNT.
Reality: SaQuon, was drafted by the Giants 2nd overall this year and projects to be an all-time great Running Back. He possesses elite cut on a dime ability, acceleration, and top end speed. Plus, you’re telling me these legs don’t look great in short shorts?
Center Midfielder. LeBron James
Alternate Universe: LeBron James, is currently challenging his Footness Michael Jordan, as the greatest Soccer player of all time. His speed, strength, and leadership qualities make him the premiere player in the World. LeBron is a 3-time World Cup Champion and 4-time FIFA Player of the Year. James has played for Real Miami and Cleveland Calvary of the American Premier League, after starting professional soccer right after his High School graduation. This is LeBron’s first World Cup as Captain, since the retirement of Kobe Bryant.
Reality: LeBron gave football a try as a youth, and was an All-State Wide Receiver. The World has never seen an athlete like LeBron James, with his combination of size and speed. Soccer players aren’t even close to LeBron’s size, maybe because it wouldn’t work, but who knows? Soccer requires elite agility and endurance, two things LeBron, despite his size, posses in his arsenal.
Center Midfielder Russell Westbrook
Alternate Universe: Westbrook is known for 2 things, sometimes possessing the ball too long and being a dominate player, capable of making electric plays. This is Westbrook’s 2nd World Cup, winning his first back in 2014.
Reality: There’s not many athletes in the World that compare athletically to Russell Westbrook. He rivals even LeBron James, in terms of explosiveness. Sometimes his knock is that he’s a bad teammate or a ball hog, that might be an issue in a game like soccer that requires such unselfishness. However, nobody says those things about Westbrook when he’s surrounded by other studs, like in the Olympics or All-Star Games. Maybe in this universe, he gets a bad rep in club play, but dominates International as well.
Right Midfielder. Julio Jones
Alternate Universe: Jones, took the World by storm 4 years ago at his first World Cup since replacing long time USMNT star Michael Vick. He looks to win his 2nd World Cup this year.
Reality: Jones is an athletic freak, one of the best we’ve ever seen at the Wide Receiver position in the NFL. Hopefully in this alternate universe, he didn’t cut off his dreads.
Left Wing. Antonio Brown
Alternate Universe: Brown, makes up 1/3 of the World’s fastest offense. His elite footwork and strong left leg makes him an elite finisher from the Left Wing.
Reality: AB has some of the quickest feet I’ve ever seen, it’s hard to not picture those feet translated to a game that requires such quick feet. He truly is a master of his craft, something the NFL hasn’t seen since Jerry Rice.
Striker. Tyreek Hill
Alternate Universe: Hill, arguably the fastest player in the World, gets his goals with his blazing speed and great footwork. He took the World by storm just 2 years ago in his APL debut season. This will be Hill’s first World Cup.
Reality: Hill, just 24, is the fastest player in the NFL. He ran a 4.24 40 at his pro day, and has been clocked at around 23 mph…with pads on. His extremely quick feet would translate well in Soccer.
Right Wing. Odell Beckham Jr.
Alternate Universe: Beckham, is one of the World’s most popular soccer players with his goal scoring ability and charisma. He helped the USMNT win the 2014 World Cup, he looks for his second one this year.
Reality: Beckham actually played soccer, from the age of 3 until 14. He shows off some pretty impressive skills here. Like Antonio Brown, Odell has tremendous footwork as a route runner, these skills may have helped him if he chose a different path.