Yeah, yeah, we know the drill: Americans don't get soccer, but we should. Seriously, though, we really should. If it weren't for the World Cup, there would be no legitimate reason to go to a pub at 7 a.m. and have a pint before work without someone wanting to send you to AA. And the World Cup is the biggest, most unifying international sporting event outside of the Olympics. So bust out those tournament sheets and brush up on the top teams, the rivalries, and the hotties, because it will certainly be worth watching. Let the "ball-handling" puns commence!
1. Because everyone is obsessed with Cristiano Ronaldo
Let's face it, the guy has been everywhere lately, and now that he's voiced his support for gay marriage in his home country of Portugal, how could you not swoon? Though the 25-year-old has enjoyed a powerful career on the field with teams like Manchester United and, currently, Real Madrid, Ronaldo is coming back to the World Cup to represent Portugal after a tumultuous incident shut him out of taking home the title of Best Young Player in 2006.
2. Because there's a lot of testosterone to go around
An estimated 300,000, mostly male, visitors from around the world are making the trek to South Africa. If you head to South Africa, your odds of finding someone with an equal penchant for watching "footie" are pretty good, as well as your chances of seeing one of them streak across the field.
3. Because there's a little something for everyone
If there's a particular "type" of man you're into, chances are he's on the field representing one of the 32 teams from around the globe. And if you want to just default to cheering on the American team, we've got a mini-melting pot representing the good old U.S. of A. Whether Carlos Bocanegra catches your eye or Oguchi Onyewu tickles your fancy, Team USA gives you options. They're so good-looking, even presidents Obama and Clinton are drooling over their dapper style.
4. Because it puts marriage equality in the spotlight
Playing host to this year's World Cup is South Africa, one of the few countries in the world to legalize same-sex marriage, and the only nation to do so on the African continent.
5. Because it'll be everywhere, so you might as well watch it
Although many U.S. sporting news outlets have relatively little soccer coverage in the United States, ESPN and its web of channels are beefing up their coverage to broadcast twice as much programming as in the 2006 games in Germany. ESPN alone will broadcast 64 matches live (a fact that highlights NBC's lackluster Olympic coverage). But the kicker is that ESPN 3D will roll 25 matches out into your living room. And for those of you who like to keep score at home en Español, you can hold a contest with your friends to see who can hold the longest "Goooooooooooool!"
6. Because Shakira's providing the soundtrack
Shakira's "Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)" is a fun, flag-waving song that can get people in the mood for cheering on their favorite team from the stands or while watching the game in your neighborhood bar at 7 a.m.
7. Because technical shirts follow form and function
Umbro (Nike's soccer arm), Adidas, and Puma, are all good at taking technical, sweat-wicking materials and making them stylish for on and off the field. You can go for a bold look (like Brazil's away shirts, shown above, or Holland's home shirts) or sleek and simple (like Italy's collared away shirt) while supporting your favorite team. Or just looking good for Sunday brunch.
8. Because the referees can gay it up
Unfortunately, this openly gay referee is no longer living, but if you were going to get carded, wouldn't you want it to be by him?
9. Because some teams are going to have to let out their ... um ... frustrations
One of the big conundrums for world-class athletes is whether it's harmful or helpful to have sex around game time. We'll see how it goes after the Argentina team was OK'd to get busy during the tournament, while the team for jolly old England will be watched, Big Brother-style, by its coach.
10. Because FIFA is catching up in its national diversity
This year will mark the first time FIFA (or the International Federation of Association Football) will bring the World Cup to an African nation, just eight years after the 2002 games went to Asia for the first time, with Japan and South Korea acting as joint hosts.
11. Because there are a plethora ways to show your support
Including these reusable eyelashes, which will set English fans back only about $7.
12. Because soccer players have the best legs
One could argue there are sports with athletes that rock better legs, but it would be a very tough argument, with all the running, jumping, and kicking involved in being a good soccer player. And we assume that Michael's collection of "Legs and Balls" photos over at Hot Male Legs will at least get you thinking. Or fantasizing.
13. Because sports commercials are exciting
Even if you don't care that much about sports, sports commercials can bring out the emotions, whether it's heartache or excitement. Watch this epic Nike commercial featuring Didier Drogba, Wayne Rooney, and Cristiano Ronaldo, as well as a brief appearance by non-soccer stars like Kobe Bryant and Homer Simpson. It's really just a sports–pop culture explosion.
Below is an ESPN commercial that gets to the heart of the matter: For one month of the year, it's not about politics, it's about football.
14. Because karma comes back to kick you where it hurts
Not all the countries that qualified for the World Cup are gay-friendly, but some of the most homophobic countries in the world clearly couldn't man up enough to grab a spot in the tournament. Some of those countries include Indonesia, Malawi, Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Qatar, and Egypt. So ha!
15. Because of the um, athleticism
Sure, there's tons of eye candy, but soccer is a tough sport, more so than American football with all the padding and the amount of time it takes to set up plays. Watch the World Cup for the pure sport of it! And surely a couple of entertaining fights will break out along the way.