Finally, it matters.
After months and months of friendlies (exhibitions), the U.S. men's national soccer team begins its 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign Friday night in Tampa.
No more practices. No more training. This game has meaning.
Raymond James Stadium will play host to the opening game, an underwhelming matchup with relatively unknown Antigua and Barbuda, which isn't expected to make a strong push for qualification.
If you're not familiar with the U.S. national team, World Cup qualifying, or soccer in general, don't worry. We've got you covered. Here are a few things to watch Friday night.
If you're familiar with U.S. soccer, you've probably heard the name Landon Donovan – decades-long star and household name around the world.
But the U.S. has three more that have just as much star power: Midfielder Clint Dempsey, goalkeeper Tim Howard and forward Jozy Altidore.
Dempsey is coming off perhaps the most successful season any U.S. player has ever had abroad, impressing with Fulham of the English Premier League. Howard also plays in the EPL with Everton and is one of the league's best keepers. Altidore scored 19 goals in the Dutch league with AZ Alkmaar.
Is that a German?
Yes, the American national soccer team is coached by a German. For some, it's puzzling.
Our national soccer team coached by a non-American?
But in the world of soccer, it's not that uncommon.
Even England, where pride in the national team is at high pitch, was coached by an Italian for a recent spell.
And Klinsmann is as good as they come on the world stage. He led Germany to the semifinals of the 2006 World Cup, only to lose on a late goal to eventual champions Italy. He's been around the block, and most importantly, he bring an attacking style U.S. fans have always wanted.
Under Klinsmann, expect to see more goals.
A points game
World Cup qualifying is all about points.
More than 200 nations around the world are playing for just 32 spots in the World Cup Finals in Brazil 2014, and more than 800 qualifying games will be played between those teams.
In qualifying, a win gets you three points, a tie gets you one point, and a loss gets you nothing.
In our region, there are three groups with four teams in each group. Finish in the top two in your respective group and you move onto a final group of six teams.
Finish in the top three of that group and you're headed to Brazil. The fourth-placed team will enter a playoff with the winner of the Oceania region.
Did you get all that?
Just remember: This is the first game in a very long qualifying campaign, but every point matters.
And for the U.S., anything less than a win will be a disappointing night.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
Didn't find what you were looking for?