With apologies to Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, you wanted the best, you got the best. The U.S. Soccer Federation finally got its priorities straight and wrangled the Brazilian national team into a friendly in Chicago on Sept. 9.
The Seleção were already going to be Stateside for a clash with Mexico at Gillette Stadium on Sept. 12, so they essentially landed in the USSF’s lap. But let’s not focus on the particulars -- this is still a major coup. I mean, this is Brazil we’re talking about: five-time World Cup winners and perennially ranked No. 1 in the world by FIFA.
This also means that, after we all laid into the USSF for scheduling patsies of opponents over the past few years, the cycle for South Africa 2010 is completely different. Since Bob Bradley inherited the job, Team USA’s ’07 calendar consists of the likes of Argentina, Mexico, Paraguay, Sweden, Brazil and Switzerland -- all participants in the ’06 World Cup. There’s also a likely date at South Africa in November against the 2010 host nation.
These are good developments for the U.S. as it prepares for the ’09 Confederations Cup and the ’10 World Cup. But back to the Brazil game:
The big question is, will we see Brazil’s big stars? It hardly seems worth it to send European-based players like Ronaldinho and Kaká 4,000 miles across the Atlantic for a friendly, especially when you consider neither player deemed the Copa América important enough to merit their participation.
Ronaldinho, however, is a Nike endorser, which increases the likelihood he’ll be in Chicago. There have been whispers for years that The Swoosh holds mighty influence on the Brazilian national team, which it has paid a reported $244 million to sponsor. But my money’s on an even bigger surprise: Ronaldo.
Like his teammate with the more diminutive name, Ronaldo is also a Nike guy, and is perhaps the most recognizable Brazilian player ever on these shores besides Pelé. I still wouldn’t be surprised to see the 30-year-old end his career in Major League Soccer, and the p.r. effect of trotting the three-time World Player of the Year out in the famous canary jersey for his first national-team call-up since Germany '06 would be monstrous.
Yes, Ronaldo hasn't figured into new head coach Dunga's plans; quite the opposite. But in what will essentially be a meaningless game for Brazil -- but an enormous marketing opportunity -- pressure to play "The Phenomenon" may win out.
What are your thoughts? Who will play for Brazil against the U.S. And how do you feel about Team USA’s ’07 schedule?