Soccer? I Don't Even Know Her! World Cup Futbol Starts Today

The FIFA World Cup–you
know, that massive sporting event that only comes around every four years, the
one that the United States practically makes a sport out of ignoring–starts today
in South Africa.

Lots of Americans think
soccer is boring. Well . . . it is. But fútbol
is awesome, and they don't play soccer in the World Cup. So from here on out, fútbol's the word.

The American team's first match against England on Saturday
at 11:30 a.m. will be a good litmus test for how this team will fare against
the rest of its competition. England is a fútbol
power and is heavily favored against a Yankee team that fell well short of
expectations in the 2006 World Cup. But Americans love a good underdog story–think “American Fútbol Revolution.”

So if for some reason you decide that watching the single most important
tournament in the world sounds like a good idea, but you also have no one to
cheer for, here's a few local and close-to-local products you can throw your support behind. Some
will sound familiar, others not so much, but they're Yanks all the same:

Landon Donovan,
28, is a name you should recognize–he's only the most famous and successful
American fútbol player of the last
decade. He was named to the MLS All-Time Best XI in 2005 and has continued to
garner accolades and awards, including being named MVP of the MLS last season
while playing for his long-time team, the LA Galaxy. Donovan was born in
Ontario and attended Redlands East Valley High School. His skills on the field
are not in question, and neither is his ability to go head-to-head with the
Brits–he has openly criticized (and later apologized to) David Beckham for being a bad teammate and captain. It's OK,
Donovan, we all know Beckham is a pansy. In any case, Donovan clearly has the
stones to lead the US team in his third consecutive World Cup.

At 31, Carlos Bocanegra is the oldest player of the SoCal contingent on
the U.S. team, but his age apparently hasn't hurt his popularity with the ladies.
In 2009, he was voted No. 6 on The E! Channel's list of sexiest men in sports,
and his fan page on
is awash with creepy posts about his girlfriend and his availability on the
dating scene. That said, Bocanegra is a veteran of the MLS and international fútbol. He played in the 2006 World Cup
and captained the 2009 U.S. team that defeated a first-ranked Spanish team in the
FIFA Confederations Cup, a huge upset for the Americans. Bocanegra was born in
Upland, went to Alta Loma High School and started all three of his playing
years at UCLA.

Benny Feilhaber
and Jonathan Bornstein are the only
two players on the World Cup team's SoCal delegation who actually went to high
school in Orange County. Feilhaber went to Northwood High in Irvine and
Bornstein went to Los Alamitos High. They played together at UCLA in 2004. Feilhaber, 25, was born in Brazil and moved with his parents
to New York. After eight years, they moved again to Orange County where Benny
began playing fútbol for Northwood,
helping the program win a national championship in the process. He was a
walk-on at UCLA and soon was recruited to play for Hamburg in Germany's Bundesliga. Now, he plays for AGF Aarhus in Denmark and is on a World Cup roster.
And his name actually is Benny. He can be seen here miming Jordin Sparks.

Bornstein, also 25, was born in Torrance to a Jewish father
and Mexican mother. He played fútbol
all four of his years at Los Al. He played at Cal Poly Pomona for two years
before transferring to UCLA, and was selected in the fourth round of the 2006
MLS Superdraft by Chivas USA.

While plenty of U.S. fútbol fans
like Bornstein, Honduran fútbol fans
LOVE Bornstein. His goal in the final minutes of a U.S.-Costa Rica World Cup
qualifying match tied the game. While it didn't mean much for an American team
that had already qualified, the goal lifted Honduras to its first World Cup
since 1982. Here's the call on Honduran radio as brought to you by ESPN's Pardon the Interruption.

Maurice “Mo” Edu was born in Fontana, played
for Etiwanda High and at just 24 is one of the youngest members of the U.S. World
Cup team. After playing two years for the University of Marlyand, he was
drafted first overall in the 2007 MLS Superdraft by Toronto FC and was the 2007
MLS Rookie of the Year. In 2008, Edu signed with the Rangers of the Scottish
Premier League and is the only American member of the team. A torn ligament in
his left knee sidelined him for much of 2009, but he's rested and ready for the
World Cup. That's him on the right on the American cover of FIFA Fútbol 2009 (in the red).

Herculez Gomez
was born in Los Angeles but grew up in Las Vegas. Gomez began his career
playing for Cruz Azul of the Mexican First Division but soon after joined the
San Diego Gauchos of the USL Premier Development team. While playing for the Gauchos, he garnered enough attention in a friendly match with the Galaxy that
they brought him on board. He played for LA for three years. In 11 years
playing professional fútbol, he's
played for 11 different teams. However, he really made a name for himself while
playing on the U.S. national team's 30-man developmental roster–he scored two
goals in two friendly matches against the Czech Republic and Australia.

Gomez is also the oldest of five siblings, one of whom is
MMA fighter Ulysses Gomez. Ulysses ranks somewhere between Tila Tequila and the
guy who invented the Frisbee on the “Who's that?” scale, but he is slightly famous for knocking out
Mexican-American boxer Fernando Vargas, a two-time world champion, while Vargas
was hanging out with Tito Ortiz in a Vegas bar after UFC 71. Off topic, but
interesting nonetheless.

In any case, root for a favorite local this Saturday–if the
history of American involvement in the World Cup holds any precedent over how
the U.S. national team performs this year, the Yanks will need all the help they
can get.

But a win over the Brits could definitely be a good start to reversing
that trend. Just maybe, like a similar revolution against the crown over 200
years ago, it could be the beginning of a new era of American dominance in the
sport we love to overlook. USA! USA! USA!

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