The 2018 FIFA World Cup is here, as is the news that the United States, Canada and Mexico will host the 2026 World Cup.
The biggest tournament in world soccer is usually a landmark occasion in the lives of fans, a way to mark the passage of time and often a moment when incredible memories are made. For many Americans, that truly began the last time the US hosted the World Cup, in 1994.
We asked Senior Editors Ben Couch and Nicholas Rosano, Senior Host and Producer Andrew Wiebe, former MLS player Bobby Warshaw, contributors Alicia Rodriguez and Charles Boehm, and Senior Writer Matthew Doyle their thoughts on this question:
What did the ’94 World Cup mean to you as a young(er) soccer fan?
DOYLE: I wish I had the words for this because I'd write a book. Suffice it to say I was one of the young US sport fans who was radicalized – for lack of a better word – by having the world's game here. Plus, the first day of the tournament was the most amazing day in US sports history. Watch the 30 for 30.
WIEBE: It opened my eyes to a world of soccer I had no idea existed. Today, we take that world for granted. Forget a blurb, read my column.
ROSANO: I'm not going to pretend I can recall all the details of USA '94, which took place the summer of my 6th birthday. I do wish I'd been old enough to appreciate the tremendous talent on the field in the game my dad took me to (the Romania-Sweden quarterfinal featuring, among others, Gheorghe Hagi, Tomas Brolin and an emerging Henrik Larsson). But what I do remember, and what's stuck with me ever since, are the snippets: the colors. The songs. The unabated passion of the people around me at Stanford Stadium, even as we baked under a hot California sun. The packs of trading cards featuring players from places that, at that age, seemed impossibly exotic. It didn't just stoke my interest in soccer, it stoked my interest in learning about the world around me, both of which have since developed into two of my biggest passions. Thanks, dad!
WARSHAW: I was 6 years old and we went to Ireland vs. Italy. I've tried to years to rack my brain to remember something from the game itself, but the only image I can remember is the Ireland fans behind the goal waving their flags all game. They never stopped signing or looking like they were at a party. My only ingrained memory from the game is looking at those fans and thinking to myself, "Holy crap, they are really into this game."
BOEHM: I was a young, dumb adolescent growing up in Dallas/Ft Worth and when I got word of the World Cup coming to the Cotton Bowl, I convinced my skeptical parents to buy a five-game ticket package. I'd played soccer since I was 5, but I didn't really "get it" until I was immersed in the carnival of the "Mundial" – nations like Germany, Nigeria, South Korea and Sweden showcasing their unique styles on the pitch while their fans proudly and passionately repped their cultures in the stands. I was sitting behind the goal in which Rashidi Yekini scored the opening goal for Nigeria in their 3-0 win over Bulgaria and shook the nets in a tearful celebration; that was probably the tipping point that sent me on the path in life that I walk today.
RODRIGUEZ: I wrote extensively about this here but the 1994 World Cup, happening practically in my hometown in Michigan, pretty much changed my life. I almost went to USA-Switzerland…but didn't quite get in. Either way, if not for 1994, I wouldn't be here right now.
COUCH: Sooooo … 1994. Unpopular take around these streets, but as a Brooklyn native I was locked in on the orange roundie, rap-shouting “Go, New York! Go, New York! Go!” until the dream died between John Starks’ fingertips and Hakeem Olajuwon’s on June 19. With a late start to the party, and a heavy dose of a 10-year-old’s NBA Finals loss fatigue, what comes back is in flashes: Alexi Lalas’ proto-Red Priest visage, Cobi Jones flying around with those ’locks trying to keep pace, that Colombia own goal (and the aftermath … yikes) and – of course – the infamous Baggio miss. Also, I definitely read somewhere that Tab Ramos, John Harkes and Tony Meola were from the same town in New Jersey. Google tells me it’s Kearny.