SAO PAULO — While some World Cup teams whine about withering weather and troublesome travel, American players say: Bring it on!
European teams worry they will wilt. The United States considers cauldron-like climates a regular finishing touch, as if the Americans were a Baked Alaska flambe.
And if FIFA added a Road Warrior prize to the Golden Ball, Golden Boot and Golden Glove, the U.S. would be assured of taking home an award.
“When you talk about playing in the heat, the travel, it doesn’t bother us,” midfielder Michael Bradley said Tuesday. “And not only does it not bother us, it excites us to see that now the other teams are so worried about it.”
The Americans have the lengthiest first-round trek among the 32 teams at 8,800 air miles, chartering roundtrip flights from Sao Paulo to Natal (1,420 each way), Manaus (1,680) and Recife (1,300).
That’s quite a contrast to four years ago, where the U.S. had the shortest group-stage travel in South Africa. To reach their games, the Americans took bus rides from Irene to Rustenburg (62 miles each way), Johannesburg (24) and Pretoria (11) for a total of 194 miles. They needed to pack a weekender only once during the first round, burrowing at their base hotel for the second and third matches.
This year they’ll change cities and climates repeatedly. Tuesday’s training session at Sao Paulo Futebol Club started in a 62-degree temperature with a cooling drizzle, but the Americans’ games up north figure to be played in the mid-80s or higher. And extreme humidity could make each stadium feel like a sauna.
Accustomed to an August-through-May club schedule in Europe, where players use gloves and fans insulate in thermals, some soccer officials fret. No European nation has won a World Cup played in the Americas, where Brazil has taken three titles, and Argentina and Uruguay two apiece.