The FIFA World Cup


The World Cup is an international soccer competition among the national teams of members of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, also known as FIFA. This championship is played every four years and was first played in 1930. The only years that the world cup was not played were in 1942 and 1946, due to World War 2. Currently the world cup is the most widely viewed sporting event in the world. The cumulative audience of the 2006 worldcup was an estimated 26.29 billion people and more than 715 million people watched the final match alone, which at the time was about 1/9th of the entire planet! 32 national teams qualify for the tournament with one spot saved for the host country. Only 8 teams have ever won the world cup including Brazil, West Germany, Italy, Argentina, Uruguay, England, France and Spain.


The honor of hosting the first ever World Cup in 1930 was awarded to Uruguay partly because they had won the last two Olympic gold medals and partly because Uruguay was celebrating its 100th Anniversary of Independence (Oh yeah, and they agreed to cover all of the costs, including travel and accommodation for participating teams). However, it was not easy to convince the best European teams to travel halfway across the world to play soccer. Travel involved a long sea journey for players and it also meant that their local clubs would have to excuse their most prized players to make the trip. However, President Jules Rimet convinced France, Romania, Belgium and Yugoslavia to partake in the inaugural competition. Uruguay went on the win the first ever World Cup but harbored a huge grudge against many of the European sides who refused to travel to compete. The following world cup competition was held in Italy and Uruguay returned the favor by refusing to travel making them the only country to not defend their title in the following World Cup.


Then came World War 2, which caused the cancellation of multiple World Cup tournaments. After the war the FIFA Congress met again and awarded hosting rights to Brazil. Also at that meeting, Jules Rimet was honored for his role as the President of FIFA for over 25 years. In recognition of his achievements, the FIFA World Cup Trophy was renamed the Jules Rimet Cup.


The Jules Rimet Cup has a fascinating history. French sculptor Abel Lafeur was commissioned by Jules Rimet to create the statue for the first World Cup in 1930. It is a gold-plated statue of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory. It was awarded to Uruguay after they won the first World Cup but returned to Italy for 8 years up until the start of World War 2. Adolf Hitler ordered his forces to find certain desirable artifacts to add to his power including the Holy Grail, the Spear of Destiny and the Jules Rimet Cup. Italian football commissioner Ottorino Barassi had other plans and stole the trophy from it’s hiding place in a bank and hid it in a shoebox under his bed until the war was over. In 1966 it was on display in London and disappeared. It was later found by Pickles, a border collie in a garden hedge. In 1983, the trophy was stolen from a bullet-proof glass case in the Brazilian Football Confederation in Rio de Janeiro. There was a desperate search for the trophy but the trophy was never found and today is still regarded as one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in sports history (the holy grail to football fanatics). Two arrests were made in Brazil but both men were released. One of them was later found dead, murdered due to his possible involvement in the heist. In 1970, a new World Cup trophy was commissioned but winners are not given possession of that trophy. They are awarded replicas of the trophy which is held by FIFA.

Has the USA ever won a World Cup? The answer is no. There best finish was actually in the 1930 World Cup where they finished in 3rd place. The USMNT played in many of the early World Cup competitions but failed to qualify between 1950 and 1990. Since then, they have qualified for every World Cup. In 2002 they made it to the quarterfinals where they lost to Germany. This was the best finish for the USMNT since 1930. In both 2002 and 2006, the USMNT was knocked out of the tournament by Ghana. But just a few days ago, on June 16th, 2014, we finally had our redemption by beating Ghana 2-1 in the first came of group play. Our next group matches are against heavy favorites Portugal and Germany. The USMNT plays Portugal at 5pm on Sunday June 22nd, 2014 and Germany at 11am on Thursday June 26th. Both games will be aired on ESPN.









Roads likely began as paths that were used by animals, humans, or both, and the first road improvements were pretty simple – take a tree out here and a rock out there to make the journey a little easier.


Eventually, the paths widened or became flattened out, and large networks of the most popular paths were created.  Some of the oldest known roads seem to have popped up around 5000 BC, when the wheel is thought to have been invented in mesopotamia.  Since then, they’ve been a crucial part of expanding civilizations throughout the world.


The Incan empire contained nearly 14,000 miles of roads.  The Romans had a network of over 50,000 miles.  Today, the US has about 4 million miles of roads and streets.  Roads provide access for trade, travel, communication, and military movement, and are a pivotal piece of any advanced society.


It’s not clear where the oldest road in the US is (because it depends on your definition of a road), but one of the earliest is the Natchez trace – which started as an animal trail and was adopted by humans for a number of later purposes.


Roads in the US:


As the US expanded, a number of well-worn trails were created.  At that point, they were primarily dirt paths that guided travelers over mountain passess, across swamps, and through forests.  You may recognize some of them: Wilderness Road, The Oregon Trail, and The Mormon Trail are just a few.  As our road network expanded, toll roads cropped up, and improvements were made to the main thoroughfares to allow for repetitive use by big wagons.  Unfortunately, progress slowed down in the late 19th century due the advent of the steam engine and the resultant railway system which gave rise to the Vanderbilt name.  Roads would eventually get a revival from an unexpected place.


In the late 1800s, bicycles were all the rage, and many towns and cities actually had bicycle clubs.  One of the more famous clubs – The League of American Wheelman – started the “Good Roads Movement”.  They were funded by Albert Pope, who was the CEO of Columbia Bicycles, the leading brand of the day.  Due to the fact that roads were largely considered a local concern, and the fact that railroads were the most efficient mode of connecting distant places, roads were run down and made bicycling pretty difficult.  Pope and his “wheelman” collected 150,000 signatures on two huge rolls of paper and delivered them to Washington stating that roads should be a national interest, and as such, should be funded by the federal government.  Congress agreed to appropriate $10,000 and create a new group – the federal highway association – to oversee the construction and maintenance of roads in the US.  Pope continued to fund the evolution of America’s roads by offering a number of engineering prizes to inventors that could improve existing road technology.  He was certainly one of the most influential men in the history of the US road system.


We’ll skip over Ford, who obviously added some important inventions to our national transportation system, and talk about Eisenhower next.  Most people associate our national highway system with President Eisenhower, appropriately so, because it was his Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 that created many of today’s interstates.  He seems to have been inspired by the autobahn in Germany and its use during WW2, and hoped to develop a similar system in the US that could be used not only for commerce, but also in times of emergency.  The project was immense, and equated to about $425 billion in today’s dollars.  At this point, it’s estimated that about 25% of all US auto travel is on one of these interstates.


Road technology continues to develop, and roads need constant upkeep.  One of the more interesting aspects of current road production is the battle between concrete (American Concrete Pavement Association) and asphalt (Asphalt Pavement Alliance).  Next time you’re waiting in road construction, consider what the new road will be made of, and why a particular area may have chosen that product.


Here’s a great list of road FAQs from the American Road and Transportation Builders Association:


Safe travels!