The United States are not going to win the World Cup in Qatar. In all likelihood, the U.S. won’t win a World Cup in our lifetime though I confess to secretly holding out some hope – I’ve always been a bit of a dreamer.
Don’t hate us. We hope we are wrong. We would love to watch our boys hoist the World Cup trophy above their heads as much as any fan anywhere.
But to love this team — to follow them across the globe — we don’t need it. It’s the journey that matters.
U.S. Soccer and its amazing fans have walked this path together for more than 20 years. We’ve had some unbelievable highs and unbelievable lows on the field. The USA is for the most part a scrappy underdog on the world stage — capable of incredible results (Italy in 2006 & England in 2010) as well as frustratingly naïve performances.
To say our lives intertwined with U.S. Soccer would be a vast understatement.
I have attended 149 USMNT matches in 18 countries on four continents. As far as I know, I have been to more matches than any other member of ‘The American Outlaws’ fan group. When USA play Wales in Qatar that will be my 150th match. I’ve attended the last four World Cups, including Russia – a sad affair without the USA to keep me company.
My partner Amy has attended 108 USMNT matches. Her first-ever live professional soccer match was USA vs Mexico in the Estadio Azteca in 2005. Our relationship began during the 2002 World Cup. We had our first kiss while staying up late to watch USA vs Portugal on TV.
A few years later, I convinced Amy to attend her first match in Mexico City in 2005. It was a trip that changed our lives forever. We met amazing soccer friends, and fell in love with traveling to other countries to follow the team.
After a long courtship and many, many games, I finally proposed to Amy in Costa Rica, the day before a USA vs Costa Rica World Cup qualifier in 2009 (and, after Amy was attacked by a jellyfish – but that’s another story).
After getting married in 2010, our honeymoon was the World Cup in South Africa, where our tour provider was scammed and we were briefly left without lodging or transportation. Still, it was one of the best trips of our lives, culminating with Landon Donovan’s goal against Algeria.
Then, came Martin.
Our son, Martin, was – of course – born on a USA vs Mexico matchday on 2nd April 2014. His first outfit was a little U.S. soccer onesie. I was holding him as Michael Bradley scored during the match. My joyous shout startled him. I remember him looking up at me as if to say: ‘what is going on?’
But 6 months after he was born, we got some devastating news. Martin was diagnosed with an extremely rare terminal brain condition. We were told Martin had weeks to months to live.
But Martin surprised us all. He went everywhere we went. Traveling with us as we attended soccer games across the country and globe: Ireland, England, Trinidad, Puerto Rico. The U.S. Soccer community and ‘The American Outlaws’ surrounded us with love and support.
Right after Martin was diagnosed, U.S. Soccer hosted us for a behind-the-scenes experience at a game in Miami. We got to visit the locker room. Martin was photographed with players, including Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore.
From there on out, at parties the night before games or at tailgates, our fellow fans would come by to pat Martin on the head or give him a little kiss on the cheek. He met more U.S. players than we can count. And when he came to the stadium with us, he always got the VIP treatment.
Martin died September 23, 2021. He was 7 years old.
At the USA vs Jamaica World Cup Qualifier in Austin, in October 2021, U.S. Soccer and ‘The American Outlaws’ honored our son. They added Martin to their game day roster and celebrated his life before the game. We will forever be grateful.
Amy and I will join our team and our friends – our adopted family of fanatics – in Qatar. We couldn’t be more excited about this young, talented generation that will take to the pitch.
We want to see wins and great goals. We do want to win a World Cup.
But winning isn’t what we love most about our USA soccer team. It’s the journey, and it’s the people you meet along the way.
And Amy will be wearing her U.S. Soccer jersey with Martin’s name on the back for luck.
Go, go, USA!