Let's start out by introducing the "Well I'll Be Damned" team in the North American 2nd Round: the US Virgin Islands (USVI for short).
How unlikely is the 2nd round berth for the "Dashing Eagles" of the USVI? Bear in mind that they only became a FIFA recognized team in 2000. Over the last decade the team's record was 1 Win, 6 Draws and 20 Losses. In June they neared a personal best in the World Rankings by getting to 193rd in the World. The area is known more for being a port for cruise ships than for having any football fortunes to speak of.
Then this happened:
After 2 wins over the British Virgin Islands and advancing on to the Second Round of the Cup competition, the USVI has leapt up to 149th in the World--in a dead heat with Madagascar. They've already gone farther than any USVI team ever has in the Cup...can the go even farther?
Honestly...Maybe. Top ranked Haiti has been in disarray of late (with good reason) and neither Antigua and Barbuda nor Curacao have a larger international legacy than the USVI does. Some of the local press have got high hopes for a third round tussle with the big bad U.S. of A, but that might be putting the cart before the horse--or in USVI terms, putting the sales before the conch shells--especially given the inexperience of the team.
Most players ply their trade in the amateur league that dots the three islands (St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix), but a young squad has gotten better by incorporating college players into the mix including a Seton Hall Griffin, a Pitt Panther and Alberto Van Grup--a Virginia Tech Hokie. Unfortuantely, it's not clear yet whether the college boys will be able to squeeze Cup qualifiers into their course schedule...I mean, can you imagine selling that to a professor? "Yeah, I know that we have a mid-term but I have to fly to Curacao...to play soccer...please...". Not the most compelling excuse I've yet heard.
But the best player may be Reid Klopp who has made two appearances and scored two goals to boost the Dashing Eagles into the second round. He lives on the islands so no worries about his arrival, and hey...if the NBA's locked the USVI could always ask Tim Duncan to come home and use his height in a Peter Crouchian manner. (He's already got the Robot thing wired!)
But win lose or draw you've gotta root for the Dashing Eagles and the US Virgin Islands. If only because they play and pump themselves up like your local high school squad. (Seriously, hard to imagine snobby Frenchmen doing this)
So best of luck Dashing Eagles! Rise on!