Players gripped by injury fear as World Cup draws near
The World Cup, a tournament most teams love to win, has suddenly become a source of dread for many soccer fans.
There have been more deaths in international soccer in recent years than in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
A combination of high-profile injuries like Jurgen Klinsmann’s broken ankle last month and the loss of star players like Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan has led to a sense of foreboding among fans.
Some are using it as a pretext to boycott high-profile events, such as the World Cup in Brazil this year.
“It’s a very scary time to be a soccer fan,” said Jeff Morreale, a vice president at the Sports Business Council, a nonprofit that represents major league baseball owners. “When you’re watching someone you love play, there’s a moment where you can see the end of the season.”
Major League Baseball and the NHL both went through lean years in the past decade, he said, and that’s exactly what’s happening to soccer as teams deal with injuries.
“It’s sad, but it happens, and we have to deal with it,” Morreale said.
As the U.S. team looks to reach the semifinals for the first time since 1958, Klinsmann has been left to try and keep his team motivated.
The Americans face Portugal on Monday. Klinsmann said before the tournament began that if his team made it to the quarterfinals, he would start playing his regular starters. However, the team has dropped two of its last three matches and has never advanced beyond the round of 16.
“We’ll be in the fourth round,” Klinsmann said. “We’ll just have to see where we are then.”
The team was eliminated from the knockout round of the World Cup last year after qualifying for the tournament as the No. 3 seed.
For the first time in its history, Major League Baseball used the World Cup as a springboard into the regular season. The Chicago Cubs, the most successful team in franchise history, are enjoying the best season in more than three decades, as their first-place team looks to win the National League Central.