Just a few more hours now until Belgium-USA and it's hard not to feel it. The buzz, the hype, anticipation, the nervousness. It's in the smiles of that guy on the subway in the Clint Dempsey jersey. It's on the face of that girl in star-spangled spandex making her way toward Soldier Field in Chicago. It's in your own fidgeting foot underneath your desk, itching to start walking out of the office, out onto the street, down to the bar or to the park or to wherever you are going to watch the game and maybe -- just maybe -- explode in joy and relief when the final whistle comes.
There's so much to do before we get there. So many miles to go before we sleep.
There are preview videos to watch. Expert predictions to read. Endless streams of tweets to pore over in hopes of gleaning tasty morsels of information about Jozy Altidore's hamstring, Michael Bradley's mindset, Kyle Beckerman's growing stature as a player and a sex symbol (?), and who's going to get the starting nod, Geoff Cameron or Omar Gonzalez?
There are decisions to make, too. Like, is it OK to eat Belgian waffles today? What 'Merican beer should you drink if Klinsi's boys win?
But in the end, we all know these are silly, irrelevant questions. Because today isn't about waffles or moules frites or Belgium. It's not about the United States, either. And ultimately, it's not about soccer.
It's about a cultural moment and a burgeoning community of soccer fans who have loved the game for years and have worked to see it grow. It's about the stranger standing next to you at that viewing party in Kansas City or Redondo Beach or Orlando who might not fully grasp the offside rule but fully understands the joy of having fun and expressing a passion. It's about a TV news anchor asking she should say "nil" or whether she can still say "zero." (Either is just fine, by the way.)
They are the new fans, drawn to the energy and buzz of a sport on the rise in the constantly shifting cultural landscape that is America and Canada. Not that soccer is a new phenomenon here. It's been around for decades. But we'd be naive if we didn't say there is something happening here. There is a movement that started a few years ago that ushered in a new era of supporters and soccer culture.
And whether the US wins or loses isn't going to change that. It won't determine whether soccer has "made it" in America. It won't have some kind of impact on MLS's continued evolution.
What this Belgium game will do, though, is send another message to the world that American soccer is something real. Something that we take seriously. And the game will open a few more eyes here in the States to the fact that, yes, we do care about the world's game and that, yes, we do have soccer culture, one that has existed for years. All anyone had to do was look around.
And so, let me end by saying this: I do believe. In fact, win or lose, I believe.
Though I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I'd believe a little more if the US won.