The ball gets rolling at 2010 World Cup later this week in South Africa, and South Floridians are pumped. They should be. Never mind that Miami didn't get a World Cup game when the tournament was held in the U.S. in 1994, or that we might not get one the next time the cup is held in the States (possibly in 2018, or 2022). The truth is the city has strong soccer roots.
Not convinced? You might be when you find out that some of the best players in history once tied their boots (or cleats) to play in South Florida.
Here are the 10 best World Cup players to play in South Florida.
10. Pablo Mastroeni. The Argentine-born defender who played three years with the now defunct Miami Fusion, got a red-card playing for the USA against Italy in the 2006 World Cup.
9. Andy Williams. A member of the Jamaican National Team known as the Reggae Boyz (think bobsled team on grass), Williams played for the Fusion in 2000.
8. Preki. An indoor soccer legend, Preki went outside to score 8 goals for the Fusion in 2001 before playing and scoring in the 1998 World Cup.
7. Eric Wynalda. The former all time leading scorer for the USA played in three World Cups and scored a handful of goals for the Broward-based Miami Fusion.
6. Zinho. A World Cup winner with Brazil in 1994, Zinho went on to play with the second division Miami F.C. and is still their coach.
5. Teofilo Cubillas. "El Nene" is considered the greatest Peruvian player ever and participated in three World Cups. In 1989 he played with the Miami Sharks.
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4. Carlos Valderrama. Columbia's best ever player with the world's most memorable golden locks played in two World Cups, and with the Fusion in 1998.
3. Gerd Muller. "The German Bomber" scored 10 goals in 1970 when Germany won the WC. He also played in the "Soccer Bowl" for the Strikers in the late 1970s.
2. Gordon Banks. The Englishman won the WC in 1966 is widely considered among the greatest goalies ever. More impressive than that, when he played for the Strikers in 1978 he was blind in one eye!
1. Romario. The Brazilian legend scored more than 1,000 goals in his career and won the WC in 1994. He rounded out his career with a short stint at the Miami FC, where he scored 19 goals.