Kyle Beckerman faced his country’s flag, the national anthem booming from inside Estadio das Dunas in Brazil, and felt the tears welling up in his eyes.
“Above the flag were all our families,” Beckerman said Tuesday, “and they’re all in tears. And I’m getting all emotional and like, ‘Yo, get it together — you’ve got a game to play’.”
Four years ago, Beckerman made his World Cup debut, leading the U.S. into the Round of 16 before elimination and leaving Brazil widely recognized as one of the better performers for the United States. Yet as the 2018 World Cup began in Russia on Thursday morning, Beckerman was practicing with Real Salt Lake — and another moment of realization that the U.S. missed out on this summer’s tournament sank in.
Beckerman was not part of the U.S. team during CONCACAF qualifying, which ended with a shocking 2-1 loss at Trinidad & Tobago. Nick Rimando was with the U.S. as the team’s third goalkeeper that fateful October night, just as he was during happier moments like 2014 in Brazil.
“Of course it was a disappointment,” said Beckerman of the United States’ failure to qualify, “but the way I’ve been looking at is sometimes you take a step back to take two forward, and that is what I feel like will be the case for this. We’re going to come out of this stronger and better for not qualifying.
“Us qualifying, yeah it makes news, but not as big of news as us not qualifying. So it became a bit more mainstream. Now the next time when we qualify it will be a bigger deal.”
Beckerman achieved his dream of playing in the World Cup at age 32. He expected to be brimming with excitement when he found out he had made the squad, but instead, Beckerman said, he was more sympathetic to the heartbreak of the players who didn’t make the cut.
So it wasn’t until after the United States’ 2-1 win over Ghana to open group play — a game that he started — that Beckerman let it soak in that he had reached the biggest stage in soccer.
“You’re constantly telling yourself, ‘You can play here, you can play at this level, you can play at this level,’” Beckerman said. “But you don’t really know until you do. So when we finally did it was like, ‘I knew it. I was right.’ And it was just really a satisfying feeling to finally know that you can play and you can win at that level.”
While the U.S. players will miss out on that feeling this year, a major victory for U.S. soccer came on Wednesday when a combined North American bid by the U.S., Canada and Mexico won the right to host the 2026 World Cup.
The United States last hosted the World Cup in 1994, and in the stands during that tournament the older brother of Justen Glad fell in love with the pageantry of the game. He passed down that love of the game to his younger brother, now an RSL defender who received his first callup to the U.S. national team in January.
“Hopefully there’s thousands — hundreds of thousands — more of those type of stories,” Glad said, “where they see a game in the U.S. and they get inspired, and maybe they try it out and end up where I am. Or even just to get a fan to fall in love with the game is big time.”
World Cup parties at RSL
Real Salt Lake will be hosting free World Cup watch parties for at the Zions Bank Training Center in Herriman. Fans can stake out a spot on the turf field with blankets and lawn chairs to watch matches on the big screen. Doors open 30 minutes before kickoff.
June 15: Portugal vs. Spain, noon. June 16: Argentina vs. Iceland, 7 a.m.; Peru vs. Denmark, 10 a.m.; June 17: Germany vs. Mexico, 9 a.m.; Brazil vs. Switzerland, noon; June 18: Belgium vs. Panama, 9 a.m.; England vs. Tunisia, noon. June 19: Egypt vs. Russia, noon. June 21: France vs. Peru, 9 a.m.; Argentina vs. Croatia, noon. June 23: South Korea vs. Mexico, 9 a.m.; Germany vs. Sweden, noon. June 25: Uruguay vs. Russia, 8 a.m.; Spain vs. Morocco, noon. June 26: France vs. Denmark, 8 a.m.; Argentina vs. Nigeria, noon. June 27: Mexico vs. Sweden, 8 a.m.; Brazil vs. Serbia, noon. June 28: Senegal vs. Colombia, 8 a.m.; England vs. Belgium, noon.