History, bonus money on the line for U.S. versus Belgium

(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Today the U.S. has the chance to advance to the World Cup quarterfinals for the third time in its history, and the first time since 2002 when it defeated Mexico in the round of 16.

Given the tempered expectations heading into this tournament — due to the level of competition in its group and public pessimism by coach Jurgen Klinsmann — the team’s World Cup performance could be considered a success no matter what happens from this point forward.

But if the U.S. can earn its way out of the Group Of Death, why can’t it advance beyond the round of 16?

After three critical matches to advance out of the group, the stakes have been ratcheted up when the U.S. takes on Belgium in the knockout stage. And it’s not merely national pride on the line, we’re talking cold hard cash.

Each team appearing in the round of 16 has already earned $9 million for its federation on top of the $1.5 million earned for participating, but the federation of today’s winner will pocket an extra $5 million in bonus money from FIFA. The winner will remain alive to earn more bonus money for each victory, including the $35 million awarded for winning the World Cup.

FIFA will award a record $576 million in total 2014 World Cup bonus payouts, so for U.S. Soccer, there is a tremendous opportunity at hand today against Belgium. A win, and $16.5 million, would provide much-needed additional revenue for U.S. soccer’s coffers, to spend in any number of key ways — from salaries to player development to further marketing the sport and the U.S. team post-World Cup.

What does this mean from the players’ perspective? As if they needed extra motivation, players would each be distributed shares of the bonus money that reach well into the six figures. In 2002, each player received $203,000 for advancing to the quarterfinals and that payout is expected to at least double with a win against Belgium. Paying each player $400,000 would total $9.2 million for U.S. Soccer, not including bonuses for coach Klinsmann and his staff.

Player payouts are distributed evenly to every member of the 23-man roster. That means 19-year old Julian Green, whose first World Cup experience has been limited to team training and sideline support, would earn as much as veterans Jermaine Jones and Tim Howard, two players largely responsible for the U.S. advancing to this point. For the lesser-paid club players such as DeAndre Yedlin, who makes $92,000 in salary playing for the Seattle Sounders, this would be an especially welcome bonus.

So as the U.S. has its sights set on advancing to a quarterfinal match July 5, U.S. Soccer Federation hopes to earn an extra $5 million in the process.

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