In just a few weeks, the members of the United States men’s national soccer team will take the field in front of tens of thousands of rabid fans in Brazil to compete in the World Cup with the eyes of the entire world upon them — moments and games that will surely place among the greatest of their lives. But for the past week, the national team has called the Stanford campus home as it has prepared in the confines of Cagan Stadium and Stanford Stadium to challenge for soccer’s ultimate prize.
“It’s unbelievable, it’s just beautiful,” said national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. “Having this [football] stadium at our disposal, and then going over to the soccer stadium, and going back and forth between the two fields, going to the food places here at campus, mixing with the college students, I think [the players] enjoy that a lot.”
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The most interaction the players have had with the students has come in their regular appearances at the Arrillaga Family Dining Commons. After the morning training session ends, the players ride in golf carts over to the dining hall where they eat along with hundreds of Stanford students.
“It’s been really cool seeing them in the cafeteria and sometimes they come up for pics, and sometimes they’re just coming up to tell us good luck, and it’s been really cool,” said midfielder Kyle Beckerman.
“I feel like I’m in a high school movie, just standing there with my food and it’s like, ‘Hi, is there some space?’ ‘Alright, cool, cool,’” said forward Terrence Boyd. “It’s pretty chill and everybody is nice so it’s a chill atmosphere.”
However, in addition to the usual Arrillaga food, the national team brought its own chef along who has helped design the meals and supplemented the dining hall food.
“I’ve seen a couple of the Stanford students trying to sneak in [to the national team’s] line but they’re blocking them — but I think we can let them go through,” Beckerman said.
A typical day for the players consists of an early morning run and breakfast before coming to campus. Training begins in the morning and continues until a short gym session and a break for lunch. After lunch, the players have been given a locker room and lounge area to rest and relax in before again training through the afternoon until dinner, when they return to their hotel.
For many of the players, this is the first time spending extended time on a college campus. Thirteen of the 30 players training for the national team played professional soccer directly after high school rather than attending college.
“It’s nice to see the college life since I didn’t really experience it myself,” Boyd said. “It’s cool to just experience how it is living on a campus.”
“We feel like we go to Stanford right now,” Beckerman added.
Although none of the players on the team have direct connections to Stanford, many played college soccer and some even competed against the Cardinal. Goalkeeper Nick Rimando and midfielder Joe Corona attended UCLA and San Diego State, respectively, for some period of time before turning professional. Both UCLA and San Diego State play in the Pac-12 for men’s soccer; a total of 16 members of the national team played collegiate soccer in the United States, including four at the University of Maryland.
When they’re not roaming campus or in their hotels, the players are busy shaping into form for the World Cup. The camp serves not only as a way for Klinsmann to select his final 23-man squad, but more importantly, to give the players top-notch preparation for the World Cup and the environment ahead in Brazil. The location for the camp is always strategically chosen in an attempt to replicate the weather that the team will face at the World Cup, and of course to provide top-notch facilities for training.
“Logistically, we couldn’t be at a better place,” Klinsmann said. “The climate — it’s dry, it’s fresh and we can push the guys, and this is what the campaign here at Stanford is about: Push them to their limits absolutely because we have to build the foundation for the World Cup.”
The team will continue to train on campus until its friendly against Azerbaijan at Candlestick Park next Tuesday night. After that, the national team will travel to New Jersey for another pre-World Cup match against Turkey on June 1 and to Jacksonville for a game against Nigeria on June 7. These three matches will provide the final tune-ups before the first World Cup match takes place on June 16 against Ghana in Natal, Brazil.
Contact Michael Peterson at mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu.
For more photos of the team’s practices, click here.