BY NICHOLAS SPILLER
As 2013 heads down its final stretch of December and into the holiday season, the time is ripe for soccer fans to look ahead to the exciting fixtures of soccer that 2014 figures to display! With major tournaments looming ahead and with the many domestic leagues around the world set to excite in narrow end-of-season races, the upcoming year will be an absolute joy for the sport of soccer. Here is a preview of what lies ahead in the upcoming year:
First and foremost, we must discuss the 2014 World Cup! Every four years, much of the world literally stops turning as billions of people tune in for the ultimate prize in sport: the World Cup. Set to be held in Brazil, the tournament will feature 32 of the top soccer nations in the world! With every major super-power involved, and containing players the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar, Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, and scores of other international superstars, these games will be among the most exciting and dramatic in the year. This is the ultimate treat for soccer fans around the world, and the United States will surely be put to the test. Let’s see who rises to the top and is crowned as champions of the world!
But aside from the ever-popular World Cup, 2014 will also bring about several other matchups of extreme excitement, especially in the domestic leagues. At this halfway point in many of the European leagues, there figures to be several dramatic finishes to the season.
The English Premier League is widely touted as the most watched soccer league worldwide, and for good reason! The highly energized and often physically abusing league attracts many of the world’s best players and coaches. There are currently 5 English clubs within 4 points of the lead! With over half the season left, the intensity will certainly rise as pressure mounts between the likes of Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool, and Chelsea, who currently look to be among the title contenders.
Meanwhile, Spain’s La Liga figures to be a 3-way race for the first time in years, with Athletico Madrid joining the pair of Barcelona and Real Madrid at the top of the mid-season standings. Led by rising star striker Diego Costa and the mature David Villa, Athletico Madrid may just be the surprise of the season!
France’s Ligue 1 also looks to have an exciting finish between the big-spending clubs Monaco and PSG. With highly talented strikers like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edinson Cavani, and Radamel Falcao, the French league title may come down to who scores the most goals!
For Americans, the 2014 MLS season figures to be an exciting one with the return of Clint Dempsey to United States with Seattle Sounders. Although he failed to make an impact last year arriving towards the end of the season, with a fresh start in 2014 expect Dempsey to make an abundance of highlight-reel plays. Facing competition from the LA Galaxy’s Landon Donovan and Thierry Henry of the New York Red Bulls, 2014 figures to be a dramatic battle in the MLS.
But club soccer may just find the greatest excitement through the UEFA Champions League, in which 16 of the top European clubs will square off in a 2-legged knockout tournament throughout the spring. With the top world stars competing ahead of the summer World Cup, expect high drama and sensational soccer as these clubs play with flair and less of the international pressure that will surely come in Brazil.
While traditional clubs like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, and AC Milan hope to earn another notch in their trophy cases, other exciting teams like Zenit St. Petersburg, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Athletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen, Olympiakos, Galatasaray, and Shalke will all be looking to make a statement and prove their worth.
Additionally, as the World Cup approaches, many of these players will be competing for places on their respective international teams. With the urge to prove their worth on the biggest of stages, 2014 will showcase the sport of soccer in the most incredible fashion! Look forward to what could possibly be one of the sport’s finest years, and be sure to pick up a soccer scarf from Ruffneck Scarves of your favorite team so that you can help cheer them on to success!