Every two years, Americans become infatuated with soccer. Whether it's the Summer Olympics or the World Cup, people who talk about how much they hate soccer will inevitably end up glued to their TV cheering on the red, white, and blue. They throw their hands up and let out an "Are you serious?!" with every slide tackle. They yell "OFFSIDES!" any time the other team has a breakaway. And they get super confused when someone scores in extra time - and not only does the game continue, it goes ANOTHER 15 minutes after that! But not this year...
With no US representation in the World Cup, the first time since 1986, we're left with a soccer void. The one time every two years when we're supposed to get all fired up for the sport, we can't. Nevermind the fact that the US hasn't played more than 4 games in the World Cup since 2002. If they aren't in it, we can't get excited for it! 'MURICA GODDAMNIT!
But it doesn't have to be that way. The MLB Playoffs are still amazing to watch, even when your team sucked and was eliminated from contention in August (looking at you, Cincinnati). The NCAA Playoffs are still must-see TV, even when your team shits all over itself and wastes a change at them by losing 2 of it's last 3 games (looking at you, Notre Dame). The NFL Playoffs...well...they're on TV, so that's a thing. The point is, the World Cup will still be entertaining as hell, as long as you do it right.
First thing's first, get yourself a team to follow. Pick a name out of a hat. Throw darts at a board. Or take this quiz from Five Thirty Eight. Whatever you do, just find someone to follow so you can stick with it throughout the tournament. If your team is eliminated in the Group Stage, do it all over again for the Knockout Round.
I took the Five Thirty Eight quiz and was given Colombia as my team to cheer for. Sounds like a plan to me. I thought it was because I filled out answers that would give me the best shot at a winner: a team with history, a team that's all about offense, a team that shoots more than they pass. But in reality, I think Five Thirty Eight knew my history with teams and said, "he's used to his teams getting his hopes up and then crushing them. Which country has a history of having titles snatched away from them? Ahh...Colombia!"
Next, act like you've been a fan of that team forever. All of your social media posts should be about this team. Do some research on them - might I recommend this site called Wikipedia? It's never wrong and 100% accurate all the time. Quote made up stats. Drop made up player names. But sprinkle in real stuff to keep people on their toes. If your team is eliminated in the Group Stage, do it all over again for the Knockout Round. "What do you mean I was a Colombia fan? Nope. I was hacked. Been Team England from the go!"
Celebrate like hell when your team wins. You know all the videos they show during the World Cup of packed bars and people out in the streets watching a game and losing their minds when their team wins? Do that. Whether you're at a bar with some friends, or sitting in your own living room, go all out. Paint your face. Wear the team colors. Play the country's national anthem at full blast. Lose your mind over every single thing that happens in the game. A call you don't like? Throw shit around. Your team scores a goal? Pop off that shirt and yell at the top of your lungs. Your team wins? It's time to go streaking through the neighborhood. Anything to show just how big of a fan you are of this team.
But what if your team loses? Here's the secret...your team never loses. You can switch sides whenever you want. Your team goes down by four with 2 minutes to go? "I've been pulling for Senegal this whole time!"
"But dude, your face is painted for Colombia."
"Nope, that's not true."
"Colombia is literally written on your forehead...backwards...and it's spelled wrong."
"That's the joke, you just don't understand it."
"You're wearing a 'Colombia's #1 Fan' shirt'"
Finally, drink up. If nothing else, the World Cup gives you a chance to watch sports and drink. So play a little drinking game with yourself and take a shot every time someone gets a card (two if it's a red card). Pound a beer whenever someone tries to sell a penalty and flops. Or my personal favorite: watch the Spanish broadcast and chug through the entire goal call from the announcer.
Whether or not you actually do any of this is beside the point. The real point is, even without the US in the tournament, the World Cup is still amazing to watch. So find some reason to watch.