By: Alec Garcia (@alecbruins)
The last step in the seven stages of grief is acceptance and hope. After a loss to Trinidad and Tobago in October, the USMNT failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in over 30 years. So while there's some hope for the future of United States soccer, we must accept our fate and enjoy this spectacular event we only get every four years. With the USMNT out, who should you be rooting for?
Before you get riled up, understand I know how egregious it is to suggest you root for the USMNT's only rival in existence. However, whether you like it or not, statistically speaking the most popular sports team in the United States is actually the Mexican national team. It's no secret when the USMNT is playing road games against Mexico right here in the states. Mexico plays 80% of their friendlies in the states for this very reason. Liga MX draws more viewers in the United States than the Premier League. This will be without a doubt the most popular team right here in Los Angeles. #ElTri
They're considered to be heavy favorites. Brazil also has one of the most recognizable players in the world in Neymar. He alongside Gabriel Jesus will provide tons of excitement up top. There will be no shortage of entertainment when you tune into their games and you have to admire their classic 'O Canarinho' jerseys. #Selecao
Lionel Messi. Critics will say the only thing in the way of anointing Messi as the best ever is his inability to win with Argentina. In 2014, Argentina lost the World Cup to Germany and back to back Copa America finals the next two summers. In fact, it took a heroic hat-trick by Messi in qualifying to even send Argentina to Russia as they were in danger of missing for the first time since 1970. So if you're a fan of Messi and want to see him finally win the big one, you should be rooting for Argentina. #LaAlbiceleste
Germany is the closest to a sure thing in this World Cup. The defending champs have revamped with young talent to add to their already outstanding core of returners. For the first time ever, we will be able to see the brilliance that is Marco Reus suit up for Deutschland. Germany is a well-oiled machine and it is almost certain we will be seeing them play deep in the tournament. Don't worry we won't call you a front runner. #DieMannschaft
This is who I'll be personally rooting for but that has everything to do with family lineage. Spain is hopeful to have a showing way more like 2010 than 2014. They are different than other teams in that they don't have a true striker and instead base their attack on precision passing and possession. If you're a fan of La Liga you should be rooting for Spain who is basically a mixture of both Barcelona and Real Madrid on one team. #VamosEspana
In 2014 we saw the potential for this Belgium squad and now in 2018 we could see all that come to fruition. They're absolutely loaded and have recognizable names like Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, and Romelu Lukaku. They also have the most badass nickname in the tournament "Red Devils" so there's another reason to root for them. Belgium has the makings of a world cup champion but it remains to be seen if they can put it all together. #RedDevils
Nike blessed Nigeria and the rest of us with the sauciest jerseys in the entire tournament. These kits actually sold out in 15 minutes with over 3 million pre-orders. I'm a firm believer in "look good, play good" and Nigeria is no slouch on the playing field. They have recent victories over Argentina and Spain and play an exciting brand of soccer. I personally can't wait to see these jerseys and Naija in action and since we're talking nicknames the Super Eagles is very dope. #SoarSuperEagles
Are you part of that very small and confused group of people who believe Ronaldo is better than Messi? Well I have just the team for you. Portugal is fresh off a European championship in which they won the final without Ronaldo. He'll be there for the World Cup and they'll need him to score some goals to make up for an aging defense. They should advance from Group B and everyone should tune into that first game on Friday 6/15 vs Spain. #ConquistaOSonho
They speak the same language as us so I guess that's a plus. They're almost certain to disappoint their fan base just like the USMNT. But in all seriousness, England doesn't have a great chance to make noise in this World Cup. What they do have, though, is tons of familiar faces from throughout the premier league that most will be able to rally behind. #ThreeLions
France has the talent to win a world cup every time it comes around. This year is no different with entertaining young players like Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann. After letting their country down in Euro 2016 don't be surprised to see France playing deep into this tournament and possibly winning it.