The 2014 FIFA World Cup kicked off this afternoon as Brazil defeated Croatia 3-1 in front of a sea of yellow at Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
On Monday, the United States will take the pitch in what many consider a "must win" match against Ghana, the African nation that has knocked the United States out of the previous two tournaments. Monday's match will also mark the fifth consecutive World Cup tournament that has featured a player from the Kansas City Wizards / Sporting KC in defender Matt Besler and midfielder Graham Zusi.
So for the next four weeks in #TBT, we'll be looking back at the past four World Cup tournaments that featured Kansas City players and how those players fared in their respective tournament.
First up? 1998.
1998 saw two Kansas City Wizards take the pitch in France as Preki lined up for the United States and Uche Okafor for Nigeria (pictured, right).
Okafor's Nigerian squad finished first in their group for the second consecutive tournament. The Kansas City defender made his World Cup debut in their third group stage match, starting and playing 90 minutes in a 3-1 loss to Paraguay. Okafor did not feature in their Round of 16 loss to Denmark.
Unfortunately for Preki (pictured, left, No. 14), the United States did not fare as well. Steve Sampson's side lost all three group stage matches, tallying only one goal in the tournament. Preki came on in the 57th minute of the USMNT's 2-1 loss to Iran and came on in the 58th minute of their 1-0 loss to Yugoslavia.
One of the most prolific goalscorers in Major League Soccer history, Preki went on to play three more years for the USMNT, tallying four goals in 28 career appearances.
Preki and Okafor played together in Kansas City for five years and - along with current Manager Peter Vermes and assistant coach Kerry Zavagnin - were part of the 2000 team that won the MLS Cup championship. Okafor retired from soccer after the 2000 championship-winning campaign, but Preki played five more years in MLS - four more with Kansas City - and finished his MLS career with 79 goals and 112 assists.
As Brazil and Croatia kicked off the 2014 FIFA World Cup today, six Sporting Kansas City players with different nationalities offered their predictions for soccer's most coveted tournament. The picks indicate a shared belief among the players that their home countries will perform well in Brazil.
|Player (nationality)||World Cup Final prediction||Golden Boot winner||World Cup dark horse||Prediction for native country|
|Dom Dwyer (English)||Brazil over Spain||Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)||United States||England will lose in the quarterfinals|
|Brazil over Argentina||Fred (Brazil)||Chile||Brazil will win the tournament, and the United States will not advance from the group stage|
|Alex Martinez (Uruguayan)||Uruguay over Germany||Luis Suarez (Uruguay)||Belgium||Uruguay will win the tournament|
Jimmy Medranda (Colombian)
|Argentina over Brazil||Lionel Messi (Argentina)||Colombia||Colombia will lose in the quarterfinals|
|Victor Munoz (Spanish)||Spain over Argentina||Neymar (Brazil)||Belgium||Spain will win the tournament|
|Paulo Nagamura (Brazilian)||Brazil over Argentina||Neymar (Brazil)||Colombia||Brazil will win the tournament|
- Must be following @SportingKC_SCN on Twitter or like the page on Facebook
- Must tag @SportingKC_SCN in the tweet or post their picture to the Facebook page
- Must include the hashtag #ForClubAndCountry in the social media post
- Must include a picture of an SCN member watching a World Cup game, while wearing their SCN team gear or Sporting KC attire.
- For Club And Country limited edition SKC/USMNT Scarves: three (3) to be given away to SCN members after each USMNT game, as well as the World Cup Final
- GRAND PRIZE – Four (4) match tickets to Sporting KC vs. Manchester City (face value of $60/each) at Sporting Park on July 23rd
The 2014 FIFA World Cup kicks off on Thursday and everyone wants a piece of the action. Check out the latest spot from ESPN featuring University of Missouri graduate Jon Hamm.
As a reminder, all 64 World Cup matches will be shown at the Kansas City Power and Light District on either the big screen at KC Live! or in the surrounding bars. For more info, visit SportingKC.com/Summer.
On the eve of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, predictions are flying fast and furious. Which country will win it all in Brazil? How will the U.S. MNT fare in the group of death? Who will take home the golden boot?
Take part in the punditry and cast your conjecture as the buzz builds for the world's most widely viewed sporting event. KICKTV is offering up an Xbox One for the winner of their group in MLSsoccer.com's Brazil Bracket Challenge and bragging rights are up for grabs on Knoda's social prediction platform (web, android, iOS).
— Erik Bergrud (@erikbergrud) June 11, 2014
Got a guess? Have a hunch? Join the forecasting frenzy to see how your soothsaying stacks up against fellow fans. After all, even the experts can't call 'em all.
- VOTE NOW: Pick your All-Star Fan XI
Sports anchors Jason Lamb and Al Wallace provide a behind-the-scenes look at the Kansas City native's transition to the world stage. Besler, along with his parents Greg and Diane, share a sampling of moments that help to quantify the magnitude of Matt's recent success and his selection to Jurgen Klinsmann's 23-man roster. Watch part three of the series below.
In an effort to bring fans closer to their favorite national team stars, US Soccer released a series of short video vignettes on Sunday titled One Nation. One Team. 23 Stories.
Each feature showcases the players' lives away from the field as they talk about friends, family and moments that helped them achieve their goal of playing for the U.S. Men's National Team at the FIFA World Cup.
Watch Besler's feature
Watch Zusi's feature
The complete playlist
On Sunday, US Soccer will begin the release of a new series titled One Nation. One Team. 23 Stories.
The series will focus on each of the 23 players on the current U.S. Men's National Team - including Sporting KC's Matt Besler and Graham Zusi - that will compete at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. The short video vignettes will provide insight in the players' lives on and off the field. Below is the trailer for the new web series.
The USMNT will complete their pre-World Cup send-off series Saturday afternoon when they host Nigeria in Jacksonville. The match will kick off at 5 p.m. CT and can be seen on ESPN and Univision. Follow @ussoccer on Twitter for complete coverage.