SAO PAULO – Jurgen Klinsmann has told his United States players that the tantalizing possibility of fame and fortune awaits them as they head into the start of the World Cup.
Apart from a handful of exceptions, the Americans are one of the more low-key teams in the tournament, but Klinsmann stressed that the biggest show in soccer provides the perfect chance for several members of his squad to turbo-charge their careers.
"This is now the stage for our players to prove they are ready for the next level or next two levels in their careers," said Klinsmann looking ahead to the team's first group game against Ghana in Natal on Monday. "There is no better showcase than a World Cup so whoever steps on the field this an opportunity to embrace it, give it a smile and give it a go."
There have been countless examples of players who shine at a World Cup securing lucrative – and often overpriced – transfers to bigger clubs in its aftermath. For the U.S.'s Major League Soccer contingent, in particular, it could be a chance to greatly increase their status and wage packet.
As things stand, Klinsmann's group is relatively inexperienced. Only five members of the 23-man roster have played in a World Cup, while MLS All-Stars Matt Besler ($200,000) and DeAndre Yedlin ($92,000) are on tiny salaries, at least by pro soccer standards.
Of the squad only DaMarcus Beasley and Jermaine Jones have played at the highest level of club soccer, the UEFA Champions League, a statistic that Klinsmann is determined to change.
"We have talked about it for a couple of years," Klinsmann said. "Our wish, our goal, is to get as many players as possible playing in the Champions League because on the club level that is the crème de la crème, it is where you want to be, to have that confidence and experience of playing among the best players in the world.
"I think we have very special players on our team that can play there, players that can make it to that level. Right now the statistics prove we are not there yet."
While players might make the right noises about being solely focused on the task at hand, there is no doubt that the World Cup does create a false economy in club soccer.
Manchester United moved quickly to snap up Mexico's Javier Hernandez just before the last World Cup in 2010, paying around $9 million to Chivas Guadalajara. It was smart business; after Hernandez had a strong tournament in South Africa, the price tag would likely have tripled had the move not already been inked.
In terms of pedigree, the U.S. might be the weakest team in Group G. Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo needs no introduction while the entire Germany squad plays at the top level. Even Ghana has no shortage of elite quality, namely outstanding winger Andre Ayew.
But the U.S. doesn't mind the role of underdog and neither does Klinsmann. The coach's demeanor has changed since his arrival in Brazil in that his language is different, just like it was when he led Germany into the 2006 tournament.
At training camp in Stanford, Klinsmann's tone was more mellow, the wording generally about organization and process. Now it takes the form of a rallying cry, presumably aimed at firing up both the players and the fans back home.
"This is probably the most difficult group in the World Cup and we cant wait to get it started," Klinsmann said. "We respect every opponent and every player that we will face in the group stage games and we know about their strengths – but we also know about their weaknesses.
"We feel very confident going into this game against Ghana but we also know what Ghana represents as one of the top nations in Africa. We are eager to challenge them and go eye-to-eye with them now and once those three games are played you can make your judgment."
Judgment day draws nearer for Klinsmann. Opportunity knocks for his players.