My highest scoring quarter in a basketball game in my only year of playing? Two points. My total for that half? Two points. Game total? Two points. Season total?

Two. Points.

Eight games that season, and I sported a scintillating 0.25 ppg average.

Baseball? I wasn’t terrible, but I wasn’t as good as half the kids on my team. The football coach was nothing short of dismissive. I never even took a crack at hockey, but my adult skating style has been described as “a moose on Crisco”.

I’m not not athletic, I’m just not always particularly graceful. That may describe you or someone you know well as well.

But when I’d sent the third kickball well past my outfield classmates, the PE teacher wisely thought, “maybe soccer”. I started AYSO in California that year. I played all the way through my junior year in college. I still miss kicking the hell out of the ball, and it’s still the game I “see” the best on the field, in terms of how and why things work out the way they do. I love the game so much, I’m just geeky enough when someone is talking with me about “football” out of context, I might actually ask “which one”?

It always feels strange to then fall into the trap so many Americans have in terms of not paying attention to the game when it is so readily available to me. Colorado Rapids? I’ve been less than ten times in all their seasons in Denver. Broadcasts of English Premiere League, LaLiga, or CONCACAF something or others? I’ll catch them in a bar, but won’t usually stop when out channel surfing. The game I purport to love still doesn’t always catch my attention because I don’t have as many teams that are MINE. As a Colorado kid, that is certainly my fault, and not the Rapids.

I say all that to say I understand if you’ve made it this far and are still feeling… “Eh. That’s how I feel, too. Soccer. Meh”

But I’m here to tell you that soccer/football’s official every-four-year-Christmas has come, and for the first time, really at Christmas time. The World Cup is the sparkliest jewel of the world’s most popular sport, and your team, the boys in Red, White, and Blue have played their three games thus far well enough to move on to what is the world stage’s Sweet Sixteen of Soccer. This Saturday morning, the U.S. Men’s National team will go into their first single-elimination game against a favored Netherlands squad who has struggled in their first few games compared to expectations.

It’s high theatre, and the United States fields the youngest team they’ve ever sent to the World Cup. They’re talented and dangerous, exactly the kind of squad the Netherlands doesn’t want to be facing in the moment. Should the U.S. make it past this round and into the quarterfinals, it will be for the first time in 20 years, and only the second time in their history dating back to 1930. In other words, no small deal.

The game really should appeal to more sports fans. If you’re a hockey fan, the low-scoring and similar offsides rules are right up your alley. Baseball fan? Soccer is also slowly evolving, and has similar big moments punctuating a battle of wills. You like basketball? Soccer never stops moving, just like the hardwood, and the pinpoint passing is just further apart, and with your feet. Rugby? Geez, they’re kissing cousins, to the point the English origin of “soccer” came from trying to differentiate a rugby football player (rugger) from an association football fan (assoccer).

Should you find yourself up and about Saturday morning, do yourself a favor, and introduce yourself to Christian Pulisic, Josh Sargent, Timothy Weah, Matt Turner, Sergino Dest, and the rest of the USMNT and give them a cheer full of holiday cheer and national pride. By the time these guys are hitting the Cup again in four years, they’ll be of prime age and possibly one of the world favorites, and you’ll want to get in on the action early.

Have a great weekend, DNVR Nation… say it with me…



Mike Olson is a weekly columnist for DNVR. The Colorado State University alum was born and raised in Fort Collins and has been writing about Denver sports for the last decade-plus. After over a decade away, he is thrilled to be back in and around Colorado. No place like home.