Returning for another year of
finding something to argue about during the offseason excitement is my annual mashup of soccer and college football! One of the reasons that it's so fun to do this every year is because, like college football, international soccer has more teams than you could probably name if you tried. But in spite of that, there are still just about 5-10 teams that are going to win it all at the end of the season, and they're pretty much the same teams every year. Even with that disparity, though, soccer fans around the world are just as passionately rabid in support of their own teams as college football fans are in support of theirs. We've never had the element of hooliganism and violence associated with college football that soccer has seen in the past, but even on the soccer side, the 1% of people making trouble give a bad name to the 99% of fans who just like to cheer their hearts out for their team.
This summer has been a strong one for soccer, as well. After a thrilling Champions' League Final in May, we saw the USA Men's team defeat the bluest of the blue-bloods Germany and the Netherlands in their own houses in friendlies. Then, the USA Women's team won the World Cup, racking up a third world championship (but the first since 1999). Now, we're in the middle of the Gold Cup on the men's side, which is the tournament for the USA's FIFA world region, known as CONCACAF. (That's "COnfederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football. Or, if you've been watching the refereeing jobs done so far this tournament, the "Con Caca Federation.") If the USA wins the Gold Cup, we lock up a spot in the FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia in 2017, which is a reasonably big deal. (If we don't win, we still might go to the Confed Cup, because we're MURRICA and we're awesome, dammit. Also, because a long rule thing that would take more than one sentence to explain, so nevermind.)
So, as the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament rolls into Georgia for its semifinal round and the U.S. Men's National Team prepares to play their first match in Atlanta since 1977, let's pause for a moment and see what some of our most well-known college football teams (and Vanderbilt) would look like if we stepped up to the currency conversion window at the airport and asked that they be converted into "that Euro thang."
We start, as always, with the BEST DANG CONFURNCE IN THE LAND, PAAAAWWWWWWLLLLL:
Alabama - Brazil : They have more championships than any other team in the sport. And they will not let you forget that. They always seem to be good no matter who they trot out onto the field. If you have been really watching closely the last couple of years, though, you'll notice that they've had some astonishing and mind-numbing face-plants that don't fit that "WE THE BEST EVER PAAAOOOOOLLLLOOOOO" narrative that they sell so often.
Arkansas - Greece: Remember when Greece kneeled on the ball 3 times at the end to beat Germany in the game of international financial brinksmanship? Borderline erotic.
Auburn - FIFA: They both cheat with a proclivity and enthusiasm that is almost unrivaled in the history of sport. They are certain they will never be caught... but "never" ain't as long as us used to be. (Yes, I just made this pairing so I could make a joke about cheating. Sorry.*)
* - I'm not sorry.
Florida - Mexico: The most despicable bunch of a**holes this side of a FIFA executive committee. Thorn in our side for years, but we've been turning the tide against them recently. And man, have they stunk in general for the past couple of years. But seriously, nobody likes 'em. Even their own fans usually hate them. They've never kept a coach longer than a few years, because the pressure and unrealistic expectations of the environment keep running off even their best coaches of all time. What are realistic expectations for this team, you ask? Well, I wouldn't mind if the bastards never won another game ever again.
Georgia - USA: Because obviously. The women's teams are some of the best around, but the men's side ain't no slouch, either. Also, US Soccer won it all for the 3rd time in their history this year, and Georgia... well, let's just see about that.
LSU - France: LSU is always France. There is no other option. Other than the obvious historical and symbolical ties, there are other remarkable similarities, as well. For example, LSU always seems to be good despite the fact that they haven't had an elite quarterback that was healthy for an entire season since the Nixon administration. Much in the same way that France always seems to be good despite the fact that half their players are contractually required to be on strike at any particular point in time, even if they're on the field.
Missouri - Switzerland: Much like Switzerland, Mizzou's football players are small and neutral. Yet somehow, they both seem to keep beating all of these other teams in the best conference in the land. No, I don't know how they do it, either, but I'm sure if we try hard enough we can come up with a conspiracy theory that involves the Pope's personal guards, meth, and a giant international money laundering operation.
Ole Miss - Trinidad and Tobago: This is another money/cheating joke. The disgraced, ousted president of CONCACAF, Jack Warner, is Trinidadian. And I'll just bet somebody on Ole Miss' football team had a toboggan hat full of money shoved into their hands during recruiting. Also, both places are surprisingly nice venues in which to spend a weekend in the fall, so they've got that going for them, at least.
Mississippi State - Scotland: Look, they're never going to be really good. Their geographic location combined with their financial situation is just never going to work in their favor. Remember that one time everybody thought they were good, right up until they crashed and burned when the spotlight was on? Yeah. You almost have to feel sorry for these guys, because they're trying their best, and they're generally a likable bunch. But the odds really aren't in their favor.
South Carolina - Canada: You know, it seems like Canada should be good at this thing. But no, they've only won 1 Gold Cup title in their history, and other than little pockets of small success here and there, they've never really been very good. Same for South Carolina, which only has 1 conference title to its name (and not even an SEC title), and who isn't bad, but isn't really that good, either.
Tennessee - England: Remember that one time they won it all? Yeah, I don't either, but their fans sure do. Also seems like every media outlet in the entire world is always predicting that "this is the year" that they return to prominence. But... no, they never do.
Texas A&M - Australia: I almost paired the Aggies with England, because if there's one thing England can never do, it's beat Germany. /trollface.jpg In the end, however, Australia seemed like a better fit for A&M. Australia switched conferences recently, too, from Oceania to Asia. Is Australia really in Asia? No more than Texas A&M is in the "southeast." This comparison falls apart a bit, though, when you come to on-field success. You see, Australia has won their conference title once and made it to the championship game twice in the last 4 years.
Vanderbilt - Qatar: Bunch of rich kids who don't really belong at the big boys' table other than the fact that they have a lot of money and live in the right region of the world to exploit that fact. Do the best teams really need to be coming to their house for a major sporting competition? Of course not, but ESPN's Gameday has been to Nashville, and likewise, Fox Sports' World Cup stage will be set up in Qatar in 2022. Also, Qatar broke the FIFA World Cup selection process, and Vanderbilt broke the Fulmer Cup. They have so much in common.
And now, for some selected "other teams of interest" from around the country:
Michigan - Uruguay: Remember when this team used to be good? When they won those championships long before you were born? No? Well, ok, then.
Notre Dame - Argentina: Huge historical success, and they're still pretty good today. Well, that is, they've each been to the championship game once recently, though they didn't win. Fans can be absolutely toxic at times. They both claim to have the Pope on their side. One of the most famous players for each team is an "after" poster for why you shouldn't snort enough cocaine to kill an elephant every day.
Texas - Germany: If one U.S. state were going to be the state that almost singlehandedly started two devastating wars, who would you be laying money on? I rest my case. Also, see my Arkansas and Texas A&M picks above.
Florida State - Italy: This is a joke about diving. That is all.
That's all for now, folks. Like George Costanza, I know you go out on a high note, and it's hard to get a much higher note than Jameis Winston looking like a completely incompetent buffoon in the Rose Bowl. If you're interested in watching the USA match and won't actually be in the Georgia Dome doing so, you can catch the game on Fox Sports 1 at 6:00 PM Wednesday night. Until later...