When the various legends of past tournaments begin pulling plastic balls filled with tiny pieces of paper from glass bowls on Friday, every American soccer fan will feel that familiar gut punch — again, and again, and again — as 32 nations learn their fates during the 2018 World Cup draw.
[ STREAM: Draw live, 10 a.m. ET ]
Welcome to our impending eight months of F.O.M.O., otherwise known as the fear of missing out.
We’ll work out the order of the 32 qualified teams, figure out where in the heap the U.S. national team would have landed — they’d occupy what is currently Sweden’s place as team no. 4 in Pot 3, in case you’re wondering — and convince ourselves we’d find a way out of the hypothetical group, no matter how stacked the odds might be.
It could have been as tough as: Germany, Spain, USA, Nigeria. If you’re more the optimistic type, a dream draw would have been: Russia, Peru, USA, Saudi Arabia. Most likely, though, it would have landed somewhere in the middle: Argentina, Switzerland, USA, Morocco.
As it turns out, none of it makes a lick of difference. It won’t make you feel any better. It doesn’t change a thing. Of course, it will hurt as old wounds are reopened and salt is rubbed in for the umpteenth time.
[ MORE: Pots for 2018 World Cup draw ]
Speaking as a fan of both the sport and my national team, it’s already abundantly clear that the F.O.M.O. factor is going to be deathly strong and painful for all of Friday.
Four years ago, I looked on in horror and felt the anxiety brought about by “the group of death” — drawn alongside Germany, Portugal and Ghana. But, at least we were headed to Brazil.
Eight years ago, with South Africa 2010 looming, England came calling, alongside the plucky up-and-comers from Slovenia and Algeria. From it was born E.A.S.Y., the greatest front-page headline in the sport’s history — only once we’d somehow finished top of the group, of course. Silly Brits, soccer
is was for Americans.
The 2018 World Cup will go on
with or without us.
[ MORE: PST’s 2018 World Cup draw roundtable ]
In the end, we’ll watch anyway, because the World Cup is a party that comes around once every four years. We’ll latch onto a trendy team — Iceland, Colombia,
England or Belgium, or the country of our familial heritage — but it won’t be the same.
Every fourth or fifth day will pass sans the stress and agony, and we’ll tell ourselves that, actually, it’s easier to watch the World Cup without the burden of competing; that it’s somehow a useful exercise to watch from afar; that it’s better this way.
The tournament’s opening game is 196 days away, and these are the pathetic, feeble lies we’ve told ourselves. I miss the excitement and unwarranted confidence that come from the opening ceremony’s nonsensical musical and dance routines already.