The 2018 FIFA World Cup has begun and for the first time since 1986, the United States men's national soccer team will not be participating. And because of that many American soccer fans are still on the fence on whether or not they should even bother to watch. While it is disheartening that the USA will not be on the world stage, soccer is still a worldwide sport that draws everyone's attention. So for those American soccer fans that are still undecided, here are five reasons why the World Cup is still worth watching.
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1. Major League Soccer will have a presence at the event
Major League Soccer has been the top-tier U.S. based football league since its inception in 1996. But having its players participate in international events has been a struggle more often than not. Well this year 17 MLS players will be playing in Russia which is a good thing as MLS continues to build its international profile and credibility.
2. The game's best players will be participating
It's not often that you get to see players such as Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Javier Hernandez, Kevin Trapp and Jordan Henderson among others all playing in the same event (unless you live in Europe). Many of these players are more popular than any American player that you can put on the pitch and we have the opportunity to watch them live as opposed to needing a specific cable or satellite channel to do so. We also don't have to be glued to our computers or mobile devices. We can watch these players on television and we should take advantage of this opportunity.
3. The World Cup is a once in-a-lifetime event
Like the Olympics, the World Cup only comes around every four years. Any chance to see the best teams and athletes in the world play one another is always worth watching.
4. United States Soccer is rebuilding
The Jurgen Klinsmann era started great but ended rather poorly, hence the reason why the U.S. team failed to qualify for Russia. In the aftermath, Kilnsmann was shown the door and other changes were made within upper management. So this World Cup gives Team USA a chance to make some changes and restock the talent pool to prepare for the next World Cup In 2022.
5. The United States will co-host the 2026 World Cup
In the hours before this World Cup began, FIFA announced the United States will jointly host the 2026 World Cup with Canada and Mexico. This means that Team USA will automatically qualify as every host nation does, and we can attend some of these games right here on our home soil. So until then having to be without Team USA won't hurt too much.
-- Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.
(Top photo courtesy of www.ussoccer.com)