Tom Sorensen

U.S. is not in the World Cup, so I need a team. Here’s how I’ll go about choosing.

The U.S. isn’t in the World Cup, but that doesn’t mean American soccer fans don’t have a team to cheer. And since Charlotte doesn’t have an MLS team, perhaps you should consider the Atlanta United.
The U.S. isn’t in the World Cup, but that doesn’t mean American soccer fans don’t have a team to cheer. And since Charlotte doesn’t have an MLS team, perhaps you should consider the Atlanta United. AP

The World Cup begins next week in Russia, and the U.S. is not be in it.

In unrelated news, Charlotte does not have a Major League Soccer team.

Marcus Smith, the CEO of Speedway Motorsports, made a run at a team but, although no fault of his, the timing was wrong.

I was in Atlanta last week, walking through a neighborhood. (Since Atlanta is as overmatched by traffic as any city in the U.S., why would you drive?) The Atlanta United flags hanging above doors were more common than Georgia flags.

The United has done everything right. It signed young players rather than older famous players, and hired a big-time coach for whom they’d want to play.

Like Charlotte, Atlanta is a city of transplants, and many of those transplants sustain their allegiance to their hometown teams. But everybody wants to belong, and a common rooting interest is one way to do it. The United has become their team.

I’m true to the sports I grew up playing and watching, and when I was a kid, I don’t think soccer had been invented. I learned to appreciate the World Cup only when I experienced the passion of fans from countries other than the U.S. were.

My kids and I were in Mexico one year as the tournament approached, and it was as if the World Cup was the Super Bowl and the country supported a single, beloved team.

Another year I joined a group of Ecuadorian expatriates who lived in Charlotte and watched Ecuador play. This was their team we were watching, and by the time the game ended, I wanted to fly to Quito, Ecuador, and try to feel what they did.

I need somebody to pull for in the World Cup, which means I need to find a group of fans with whom to hang out. I’m no longer much of a beer drinker, but I like Guinness, Dos Equis and Bass Ale. Maybe I’ll pull for the country with the most drinkable beer.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S. and MLS, I’ll go with Atlanta’s Jailhouse Breakout Stout.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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