PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- Why should you invest your time in watching the United States struggle through the World Cup? Because far more is being invested just to get this team into the first round.
We realize that this isn't exactly an ideal year for soccer novices or lifelong fans to put everything they have behind the U.S. Men's National Team. Its most marketable player, Landon Donovan, couldn't make the cut this year. Its most exciting prospects, including 18-year-old Julian Green, likely won't make a big contribution until 2018. Its competitors in Group G include a nation that has been to the World Cup final seven times and won thrice (Germany, with U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann taking home the country's last World Cup hardware as a member of its 1990 team), another with arguably the best player in the world on its roster (Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo) and a third that has booted the U.S. out of its last two World Cup appearances (Ghana).
So who thinks those long odds are worth betting on? Just these folks: Allstate (ALL), AT&T (T), Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD), General Motors (GM), Clorox (CLX), Unilever (UL), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Marriott (MAR), McDonald's (MCD), PepsiCo (PEP), Mondelez (MDLZ), Nike (NKE), Panasonic (PCRFY) and Visa (V). Those are just the publicly traded sponsors of U.S. Soccer, but they represent billions of dollars of market capitalization supporting not only the men's team and the Women's National Team that takes the pitch in 2015, but the future of soccer in the United States.
They've helped fund 79 development academies designed to help a greater portion of this country's more than 3 million youth soccer players excel at the sport and learn the international game beyond the packs of kids chasing the ball and going out for ice cream afterward. They've helped build a developmental system that takes players out of high school and college programs and puts them into structured age brackets that prepare them for a future with partner teams in Major League Soccer, the English Premier League, Italy's Serie A and elsewhere.
More importantly, they're attempting to elevate the game to a level where most U.S. sports fans can not only see it, but can identify its biggest talent before it every appears on the national team. It's been receiving a whole lot of help in recent years from not only current Major League Soccer, national team and World Cup broadcasters ESPN, ABC and NBC, but from future broadcasters like Fox Sports. Fox alone has dumped $400 million into securing the English-language broadcast rights to the World Cup in 2018 and 2022, but has also joined ESPN in paying $600 million to broadcast both Major League Soccer and U.S. Men's National Team matches.