CHICAGO (Reuters) – For all the talk of how the United States has embraced soccer, it became clear there is still some way to go to complete the conversion after newly arrived Bastian Schweinsteiger was asked if he thought his club, Chicago Fire, could win the World Cup.
Chicago is a huge sports city, boasting fanatical followers of ice hockey, American football, basketball and baseball. Last year, 60,000 even turned out to watch Ireland shock New Zealand in a rugby union test. But not everybody has quite bought into the “other football”.
Schweinsteiger, who helped Germany win the sport’s ultimate trophy in 2014, was facing the media on Wednesday after his move from Manchester United and though he has excellent English, the midfielder was understandably bemused when asked if he felt his arrival might help Fire win the World Cup.
A team official hurriedly whispered that the question must refer to the World Club Cup but while Schweinsteiger was preparing to answer, the reporter rephrased the question, making it painfully obvious he was indeed referring to the most-watched sporting event in the world.
General Manager Nelson Rodriguez stepped in to gently explain to the reporter that clubs do not compete for the World Cup — a tournament where the United States has featured in the last seven editions, reaching the knockout stage in four of them.
Instead he suggested that Schweinsteiger treat the question as an enquiry about a more modest, but eminently more achievable ambition — winning the MLS Cup.
“I think in football everything is realistic and I always believe in the team which I play for that you can win the game even if it’s against the best team in the world,” Schweinsteiger said, presumably not in reference to Fire’s chances against Brazil.
“You have a chance to win and I experienced that a lot in my career that everything is possible.”
(Writing by Mitch Phillips; Editing by Catherine Evans)