3 Stars of the 2014 World Cup

When researchers and sociologists look back at the World Cup in Brazil, they will have a mountain of information (and blog posts like this one) to sift through. From the alleged FIFA corruption to Brazilian protests, there will be no shortage of topics to choose for discussions in years to come.

This World Cup, however, will be known for its star power. We had the Lionel Messi, Arjen Robben, Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Suarez watch. Joining the crowd was Colombia’s James Rodriguez. All-Stars and stars in the making. All “starred” for their countries and made headlines in one way or another. BUT, that’s not the type of star power I’m referring to for this World Cup. I’m referring to the stars of social media and search.


1) Social Media: Like it or not, the #1 star in this year’s World Cup wasn’t on the pitch. It was on our desktops, laptops, phones and tablets on a daily basis. The #1 star could only be social media. A few highlights: 

Facebook: 350 million people with over 3 billion interactions centered around the World Cup. Sunday’s final alone had 280 million interactions among 88 million people. Brazil, U.S.A. and Mexico were the top countries in terms of people discussing the tournament. Neymar and Memphis Dupay led all players in terms of growth (raw, percent increase, respectively).

While I, myself, did not go to Facebook much during the tournament, I have no doubt that these numbers prove that Facebook can be a player when it comes to a live sporting event. Now, it helps that this is a world event. The “world” loves Facebook. Events like this draw in casual fans. And, of course, when national pride is at stake, well…you don’t mess with that. That said, Facebook has made some strides to be a player when it comes to sports events. While it is the #1 social network based on numbers, for me it pales in comparison for sports to…


Twitter: 672 million tweets were World Cup related, according to Twitter. Neymar and Messi led the way in terms of mentions on Twitter. 

One of the brilliant moves by Twitter was sharing their data like this…

[tweet https://twitter.com/TwitterData/statuses/488483433849438208 align=’center’]

and this:

Twitter has grown up fast. They’ve had to because of user demand (think: journalists). Demand for Twitter, and subsequent positive response to its usage, forced Facebook to change, adapt and become relevant in the world of sports. The numbers for Facebook seem to dwarf Twitter. However, as this Forbes article points out, “Twitter is where people go to talk about surprising, unexpected events as they’re unfolding. Facebook is where people go to record their feelings about big, shared milestones somewhat after the fact.”  

When it’s a “live event”, conversation happens on Twitter. I was hoping to take that to the next level on…


Google: Google+ to be exact. And, we’re not quite there yet on Google+. Real-time conversation can happen through Hangouts On Air, or rather Business Hangouts On Air, but that concept is not there yet. Where Google did excel is in Search. According to Google wth 64 matches having been played, there were over 2.1 billion (yes, BILLION) related searches. 

Google meme

Monitoring everything from most searched match to, well, player memes, Google’s prowess in Search is unmatched. Especially considering Google’s very own…


YouTube: While writing this post, I went to look for some stats on the World Cup and YouTube. Aside from the video below (which happened to be trending on YouTube this past week), I was unable to find current  data on anything post-World Cup related. 

Plenty of brands, teams, athletes, broadcast entities and the like utilized YouTube in creative and engaging ways. According to this AdNews article, views are there – subscribers are not. Views for non-World Cup sponsors were a hit. They outpaced the official sponsors of the tournament, according to AdAge.


Instagram: Picture sharing leader Instagram was a force to be reckoned with during the World Cup. At this point, you’ll just have to take my word for it as no official stats have been released yet. Some of the Facebook numbers could include Instagram posts. If they do or don’t, please let me know. 

Random Google search of anything related to Instagram stats for the World Cup doesn’t provide anything of substance. I did happen to stumble across a Tumblr page that documented IG numbers before the tournament, here.

Followers, well, that’s a different conversation. Athletes from nearly every sport have embraced the photo/video sharing platform. And, their fans have responded in kind. Bloomberg reports that “7 of the top 10” players,  with respect to follower numbers, hail from Brazil. Neymar and his library of selfies proved to be quite popular with fans…and maybe a few non-soccer types too. 

How popular is Neymar on Instagram? Note the number of Likes and Comments on his two highest posts over the past month.



  • SnapChat angers users with their “Story” from Rio
  • Tumblr part of the social media conversation too


2) The numbers are in and it’s allllllll gooooood for ESPN and Univision. Viewership (live-streaming) earns the runner-up spot in my unscientific list of World Cup stars. Rather than quoting the numbers, here are a few selected links on this subject:

  • Ken Fang of fangsbites.com: Univision goes out from the World Cup on top
  • Jonathan Tannenwald of philly.com: Discussing the records and near misses in the World Cup final and tournament overall
  • SI.com’s Noise Report: Breaking down the numbers and markets

Not breaking any earth-shattering news here, but numbers were up. Way up in some cases compared to South Africa in 2010. There were a couple of scenarios that played into ESPN and Univision’s hand for this level of soccer viewership. One is a known quantity. The other, an unmeasurable one. Sort of. 

  • Time difference. For those of us on the West Coast of the United States, this is a big deal. Watching a game at 9 am is a heck of a lot easier than 4 am! Noon on the East Coast? Piece of cake to plan a lunch (long lunch) to watch a game, right? Early morning when you’re just getting to work? Maybe not. So yes, a manageable time difference allows for more eyeballs, even casual eyeballs, to watch the tournament. And, if your friends are talking about it on social media (see #1 above), you might just tune in yourself. 
  • Rise of the Hispanic/Latino population in America. This is more of a theory on my part, but one I firmly believe in. Soccer (futbol) is popular, the #1 sport, in many Hispanic/Latino countries. It rivals and even surpasses what the NFL is here in America. Those who come or who have come to this country don’t just stop being fans of the game. They bring that passion and love of it with them. Add in a World Cup component and you have yourself a huge demographic tuning in to the tournament. But, if the Univision numbers are any indication, “my” demographic brought it, and brought it LARGE to the World Cup.

Keep in mind, these are only based on America’s viewing audience. This does not take into account any numbers from around the world. My guess is that from England to India to Australia to Japan, numbers were equivalent or up compared to 2010, depending upon location, of course. Time difference could very well come into play. But, the deeper the run by a country’s team, the guess here is, the higher the viewership. 


3) Bringing up the rear in my Star Power list is mobile. Part of mobile includes the live streaming as discussed above (WatchESPN and Univision apps). But, there’s more to it than that. Much like we do in our daily lives, our mobile devices became nearly essential to our staying connected to the World Cup. The CBC alone had their World Cup apps downloaded over one million times. FIFA too saw a rise in their app for the tournament – downloaded over 10 million times as of July 7th.

During the Olympics, talk began centering on the rise of dating apps like Tinderr. According to this article last month, dating apps were seeing a 50% increase. Not just in downloads either. That is in usage too. Surprising or perhaps not in this day & age, some “dates” are turning into relationships.

RELATED: USA-Ghana match sees apps in demandGottaBeMobile


FINAL THOUGHTS: So there you have it. The 3 stars of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil for me are: Social Media, Viewership and Mobile. I did not mention compelling games, but there are always compelling games to some degree or another during the World Cup. Compelling games lead to higher social media activity, increased viewership and a need for apps, apps & more apps on our devices. 

There can be no question of social media’s impact in sports. It supplements events and sometimes drives engagement either in posts/tweets or actual views. Mobile continues to grow. And grow. And grow. That is and will be a key component for any sporting event in the future — making it work for mobile. 

But, what will you remember about this World Cup? Will it be the social media records that were broken? Or, will you remember the breakout tournament for young Mr. James Rodriguez? Or the flying Van Persie? Late game heroics from USA’s John Brooks? Surprising Costa Rica? The bite heard, seen, shared around the world from Luis Suarez? Germany’s pasting of Brazil? Algeria’s never-give-up attitude? Nigeria playing despite unrest back home? Brand engagement? Perhaps it’s the less popular stories of Brazilian protests? 

What will you remember? What stood out to you? 

While we all reflect on it over the next four years, or (PLEASE) simply leave your comments below, let me leave you with this gem of a video from KickTV. 


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If Only

If only

…Chris Wondolowski had scored that potential game-winning goal. 

…DeAndre Yedlin hadn’t been pushed forward to where he couldn’t track back in time to stop Lukaku.

…Fabian Johnson had not gotten hurt.

…Coach Jurgen Klinsmann had selected different players to the squad.

…Klinsmann had gone with a different line-up against Belgium.

…Landon Donovan was on the team.

…Michael Bradley had played better.

…Jozy Altidore hadn’t tweaked his hamstring early in the tournament.

…the U.S. had more skilled players

…they had beaten Germany

…they had beaten Portugal.

If only, if only, if only.

If only


“If only” is the statement equivalent to the age-old question, “what if”.

Much like the daily life that goes on in the world itself, the World Cup is filled with “if only’s” and “what if’s”. For every team that makes it to the World Cup but doesn’t win it or every team that didn’t even make it to the World Cup, it’s that statements and questions that linger for years.

For every team but one. 

The U.S. won’t be that one this year. They will be part of that fraternity that has to provide answers or explanations. They are necessary things to reflect upon. For it’s when those are meditated upon that growth happens . In life and yes in the World Cup too

It’s easy to second-guess coaching decisions, especially when you’re doing it from your computer. I suppose that’s the beauty of being a fan or working in media. We’re not the ones who actually have to implement the ideas or the execute the schemes or the plans. We evaluate based on what we see being done. And, if the expectations are winning and we don’t see it happen, second-guessing rises. 

There were positives and negatives in this tournament for the United States. Positives like Tim Howard, Jermaine Jones, super-sub DeAndre Yedlin. There was the unsung dirty work Michael Bradley did off the ball, despite the many missed touches or passes he made. The grinders like DaMarcus Beasley just bustin’ his you-know-what every single time he was on the field. But, with the loss fresh in our minds the positives are offset by the fact that the U.S. is no longer playing. Again. 

There is one question, however, that continues to hang over this country.

Has soccer made it in the America?

My only answer to that is a question: Does it matter? Soccer continues to grow in this country, make no mistake about that. In terms of both playing and watching – it’s growing. With the growth of the Hispanic population and Hispanics continuing to play (and watch) soccer, it will only grow. Many Hispanics (and Latinos) who come to this country have soccer as part of their identity. Just as the NFL or MLB or NBA is part of many who are born here, that is how it is with soccer in other Latin countries. They bring that with them. And, they transfer that to their children, the next generation.

Will that translate into rise television ratings for Major League Soccer (MLS) or English Premier League (EPL) or Liga MX? That remains to be seen. I think it will. In the next 10 to 20 years you could very well see a change in sports popularity landscape. It’s inevitable. Baseball (Major League Baseball – MLB) used to be America’s past-time. In the world of American sports, it’s the NFL, NBA and MLB. In terms of ratings, baseball continues to lose ground. It struggles to fend off college football or NASCAR as part of the big three  It used to be the big four with the NHL, but the NHL’s popularity has waned to. If it can happen to America’s past-time it can happen to any of them. That’s not to say that soccer will ever take it over. That’s just the natural ebb and flow of sports and the American sports fan. 

As much as I’d love for every American to embrace soccer or football like I do, it’s unrealistic. Just as it’s unrealistic for MLB fans to expect embracing every single game on the 162 game schedule. I can appreciate all of the different nuances of each sport. That doesn’t mean I have to like them all or watch them. Neither do I expect that from others. Accept it for what it is, recognize that it has a place and enjoy the sports you like. 
Will Soccer ever make it in America? That depends on your definition of make it. “Make it” in terms of having a soccer league as popular as the EPL is in England? Or “make it” as being a part of daily conversations, daily sports conversations, around the country? During the World Cup, it’s as popular as the EPL. During the World Cup, every social media channel is buzzing about it in this country. During the World Cup fans, are turning out for public viewings of games in the tens of thousands. That’s during the World Cup when fans embrace their national identity with pride. Fans wear their colors on their faces, their shirts, their outfits – any place they can they wear their colors, they wear them. It’s about national pride. Diehards and casual fans alike tune in to the World Cup. 

Beyond the World Cup, these next few months we will see how much it tranfers into daily life. We’ll find out how much connection this team made. The casual fans that heard the names, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, DeAndre Yedlin, Omar Gonzalez – who all play in the MLS – will fans tune in, or attend games in person, to connect with them again? 

The answer would be a resounding YES, if only the United States had won the World Cup. I’m sure stadiums would be packed to the rafters. The “American heroes” would be mobbed by fans. Fans would be seeking them out everywhere they turn. Fans wouldn’t be able to get enough of them. This U.S. team would have been “world” slayers. The MLS surely would have been attractive even to the casual fans. Fans crave connection. They would have been able to connect with the winning team’s players. 

If only…


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Not Ready To Come Home

Not ready to come home.

No, this U.S. Men’s soccer team is not ready to return home yet. 

That is the story I wanted to write. In a way, I am writing that story. Just not in a way I had hoped. I’m left wanting.

As is the team. Wanting. Wanting to make that crucial pass. That crucial kick. That crucial touch.

The difference maker that would put Team USA ahead. For good. 


Chris Wondowlowski had his chance. 

That’s what the U.S. gave too many of in this game. They gave Belgium too many chances. 38 to be exact. Of those 38, 27 were shots on goal. Goalie Tim Howard had to play otherworldly to stop 16 of them. Two, well, he couldn’t quite be other-universally could he? 

And yet, the U.S. still had a chance. But, that’s how it is with U.S. Men’s Soccer. There’s always a chance. And we, as Americans, fully embrace that notion. Every four years we embrace it. Less, for those of us who follow the game closely. We know that it’s not a wait until 2018 mentality. We know there are games between now and then that are important with a lead-up to Russia in four years. But, for the casual fan this was the chance. 

The chance to embrace Tim Howard, Michael Bradley, DaMarcus Beasley, DeAndre Yedlin. The chance to wear the colors of our flag with pride. To fall in love with a team that could unite us under one umbrella. To conquer a mountain established by the world’s game that always says the Americans are not ready for the elite level of football (futbol, soccer).

It was a chance to show we belonged. 


As Chris Wondolowski’s dad reminds us above (tweet was retweeted by Chris’ MLS team the San Jose Earthquakes), the heart of this team was inspiring and amazing. We should be proud of how this team handled the Group of Death. Proud of how they held their own against the likes of Germany, Portugal, Ghana and yes, Belgium. Watching DaMarcus Beasley, at age 32, running like a boss from his left back position, drawing fouls and playing full speed from kickoff today…that’s the spirit die-hard and casual fans embrace in this country. 

Was it the outcome we were looking for? No. Were there questionable line-up and substitution decisions made? Yes. Now that there’s no “World Cup tomorrow”, there will be plenty of time for analyzation and over-analyzation. We wanted it to be them not wanting to come home because they’re still playing feeling, not this.

Instead, we’ll wait another four years (again, less for the die-hards). For now, all we can say is:


RELATED: U.S. Soccer’s social media team killed it during this World Cup. 

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Hispanics A Driving Force in Soccer Ratings

The numbers are in and they are HUGE!

The USA-Portugal match on Sunday delivered drama and viewership for both ESPN and Univision. According to ESPN, the match peaked during the final 30 minutes of telecast between 7:30-8:00 pm ET when 22 million plus were watching. Univision’s numbers are staggering as they report yesterday as their highest rated USA match ever.  Philly.com indicates viewership records were “either matched or beaten this weekend”. Keep in mind this does not include the thousands of viewers at the outdoor viewing events and bars across the country. If there were a way to track that, well, my guess is they would approach NFL numbers.

The numbers are both surprising and not surprising. The U.S. national team playing on a Sunday evening, East Coast time, made it easier viewing for those in that time zone. Even with a 3 pm kickoff on the West Coast, a Sunday afternoon of soccer made for ideal viewing. Naturally, the ratings for an event of the World Cup’s magnitude should see this level, but in America? That’s big news.
Wonder why?
The growth of the Hispanic population in America.

This cannot be underestimated. Soccer (futbol) is part of many Hispanic (Latino) cultures around the world. As many Hispanics immigrate to America, the passion for the sport comes with them. It spans the generations. For me, born and raised here, I’m more of a first generation soccer fan. But, I’ve already passed it down to my oldest son. It’s become part of us. I will cheer on the U.S. all day long. But, I will cheer on Mexico and other CONCACAF teams too. I’m not alone. Children of immigrants who are raised here are exposed to a bi-cultural sports view. They cheer on the USMNT as much as they cheer El Tri. And, judging by Univision’s numbers, they’re tuning in.


All of these numbers bode well for Fox Sports and Telemundo for 2018. They’ll have four years to learn from what ESPN and Univision have done as to how best to present the tournament (i.e. announcers, feature stories, social media). They’ll be faced with the challenge of the time zone difference in Russia, but soccer fans will follow. Especially when national pride is on the line. Fans will watch.

In droves.
Well, that is if the United States plays like they did yesterday against Portugal.
I still can’t believe it…30 seconds left.

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World Cup: USMNT, I’m Stunned


I’m still stunned. 

Hours later, lying in bed, I’m still stunned at the U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) at the World Cup today. 

30 seconds away from a huge upset of #4 ranked Portugal. And Portugal gets a goal to tie it up. 


Yet, happy. 

Going into the game, I, like everyone else, had my concerns. After the last game against Ghana where they labored, lost Jozy Altidore to injury and expended a tremendous amount of energy for the opening game win…well, yeah, I wondered. I wondered whether this team had what it took to succeed in this “Group of Death” (Group D) with Germany, Portugal and Ghana. I was nervous before the Ghana game. Yeah, I was nervous before today’s game. Going in, I would have been happy with a tie. But, watching this team play today, NO, I wanted them to win. 

It’s an odd sensation for me. I don’t cheer out loud much when I’m watching “my” team play. I used to. But, I didn’t like what I turned into. Think: Fanatic. I didn’t want to be that kind of fan. So, I taught myself to watch without showing much emotion. Not that I watch sports with very many people around. I don’t like to talk much while I’m watching sports. But, Twitter has brought the “fan” (no, not fanatic) out in me again. 

[NOTE: I screamed and cheered when Jermaine Jones scored. And, I did it again when Clint Dempsey scored. And it felt goooooood.] 

I have said for years that it’s the “World’s Largest Sports Bar”. And, it is. Watching a sporting event with fans from around the world and reading their reactions is unlike anything I’ve experienced. Throw in Google+ where you can actually talk with people via video while you’re watching something together and it’s a unique time that we are living in. 

But, today, I had a hard time watching. The tv was on, but, it was hard to look at that screen. My oldest son was watching, but I was nervous. Why? Why was I nervous? Because I wanted the USMNT to have a solid showing. I didn’t want Cristiano Ronaldo to run wild on the U.S. defense. I didn’t want them blown out. I, I, I. 

I was into this game, wasn’t I? 

Nothing compares to the World Cup. I know, there’s the Olympics. But, there are more individual sports than team sports. Or, at least it seems like. In the World Cup, it’s one team. A group of aforementioned individuals coming together for one purpose: to represent their country on the world stage playing at the highest level possible. They put on the shirt with the colors

Our colors. 

Whatever differences exist within a country, somehow soccer (football, footy, futbol) can seemingly unite us. It doesn’t change the country, but for one brief moment, we are side-by-side linked in virtual arms cheering them on. They are our players. 

Our players. 

It was a heart-racing end of the second half. Jerseys drenched in sweat. I could see it in their legs. Players on both sides mustering up whatever energy was left to see this game through to the end. One missed step. One man unmarked. And, it would mean a goal. A win or a tie. And that missed step,  a missed touch, happened. It happened at the wrong time. To Michael Bradley, And, Portugal with Cristiano Ronaldo did what they had to do with 30 seconds left. Portugal tied it up. And, somehow it felt like a loss for our country. 

Our country.

Some would take to Twitter to blame Michael Bradley. True, he hasn’t had the greatest of World Cups so far. But, to anyone who saw this game and was cognizant of the conditions, there were heavy legs out there on the pitch. Heavy legs that could easily miss a step, their mark or a touch. Making an extra pass? That’s what Michael Bradley should have done, right? Seems easy from here. Everything’s easy in sports when you’re at home. 

Our colors. Our players. Our country. 


Why am I still awake with a 5 o’clock alarm set?

Yup. I might be too stunned to sleep


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Sharing the Moment: USA vs Ghana

Every kick. Every run. Every header. Every switch of field.

My oldest son and I shared the viewing experience of today’s Team USA opener at the World Cup against Ghana. After a quick 1-0 start with a first minute Clint Dempsey goal, the angst in the room slowly started to rise. My son is the more passionate soccer fan and is a former soccer player. He knows far better than I when someone could have seen an open shot or the next key pass to make. Perhaps that’s why he’s more passionate. Or, I’m just getting too old.

As the momentum continued to shift toward Ghana, I could feel his passion rubbing off on me. For the better part of the second half, it looked as though all 10 of the U.S. field players were having to play defense. Losing their possession-man up top in Jozy Altidore in the first half, the U.S. had no Plan B. Ghana was relentless with their pressure. Finally in the 83rd minute, Ghana got their equalizer in a fantastic goal by Andre Ayew.

Our room was deflated. No anger or yelling. Just deflation. More, “What are you doing Michael Bradley?”, came from my mouth as the game was nearing its end. They also kept echoing “Oh no, there’s the one. They’re going to get another one aren’t they?”. I couldn’t help it. Team USA, all 10 field players, were looking spent. Somehow, some way that second goal never came.

Well, at least for Ghana it didn’t. Check out this first IG post.


as my son dropped to his knees in his best soccer celebration


as I tried to maintain some sense of decorum without scaring the dogs in the neighborhood, including my own.

An unbelievable John Brooks game-winning goal. Who wrote the script for that ending?

Truth be told there were nearly 10 agonizing minutes to play, including an inexplicable five extra minutes (but that’s another story). Oldest son and I were on the edge of our seats. Moving with every pass. Running with every run. Leaning higher with every header. And tensing with every Ghana switch of the field.

We held our collective breath. And when it was all done…we exhaled. The USA defeated Ghana and earned those precious three points. For a moment, okay maybe a 30-minute moment, we smiled with prideful joy.

Never mind. We’re still smiling.

Good job boys. Recover and get ready for Portugal on Sunday. My son and I would like another moment like this.



Who was the Man Of The Match? No argument from me here. Jones was busting his a$$ tonight.


Twitter Data has been supplying some fantastic data through the World Cup so far. A must-follow (I rarely give those) during this tournament.

I have professed this for years and reiterated it again today. Never more true than today in America.

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Klinsmann Drops the Donovan Bomb

The move was swift. 

And, just like that, the international career of one, Landon Donovan, seemingly was over. 


rgen Klinsmann, head coach of the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team, made his final cuts for the World Cup roster. Stalwart and clutch goal-scorer, Landon Donovan did not make the cut. The clue came through even earlier than U.S. Soccer’s tweet from ESPN’s Taylor Twellman:

Suffice to say the move caught many by surprise. Was it fair? Let ESPN’s Alexi Lalas weigh in:

I’ll leave the arguments on the final roster and Donovan’s snub to others. I am more curious about the social media effect this news had.

Let’s face it. Americans care about soccer. American soccer, that is, at World Cup time. Some watch soccer only every four years (or two, if they tune in to the women’s World Cup). Those who watched in 2010 saw Landon Donovan’s goal against Algeria. A crucial goal to help the U.S. earn a much-needed three points. They know Donovan’s name. He is, for all intents and purposes, the face of American soccer. 

Well, he was. Which is what made this such a huge story on social media. The non-soccer fan that watches the World Cup knows Landon Donovan. For them, this was unfathomable. Who did Jurgen Klinsmann think he is leaving perhaps the greatest Team USA soccer player ever off of the World Cup roster? This news resonated with them.  

When a story of this magnitude breaks, social media is where you’ll find the reaction. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. They all were a part of the news today. The tweet at the top generated nearly 7300 retweets and 2500 favorites, as of this writing. Normally, I’m not a fan of sharing the same exact post on all social media channels, but in this case, it does provide a level playing field for comparison. The U.S. Soccer social media team shared the same 23-man roster photo accordingly:

Facebook: Over 10k Likes and 7300 Shares

Instagram: Over 15k Likes and 1700 Comments

Google+: Over 180+1’s and 31 Reshares (with 62 Comments)USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann has selected the 23 man roster that will…

Just how big was the news?

and in the UK

and Worldwide too

As of 10pm PT on May 22, he was still trending on Facebook:


To his credit, Landon Donovan took to his Facebook page to thank the fans (note the number of Likes and Shares):

How will this all play outing Brazil remains to be seen. Klinsmann will be second-guessed if the U.S. flames out in the group stage. [Although between you and me, the chances were already slim.] If the U.S. somehow moves through? Well, let’s just say, social media will be a fun place to be regardless. 

But, winning makes it fun. 

In the meantime, 


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