Bocanegra is poised to make history  

November, 14, 2011

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia -- Carlos Bocanegra knows how big a deal 100 caps is. He's just not one to make a big deal of it himself.

The U.S. captain, barring a natural disaster or an injury at breakfast, will become only the 12th American player in history to appear in 100 national team games on Tuesday against Slovenia. "It's a huge achievement, but I don't think I've thought enough about it yet," Bocanegra says. "And now it's here."

Bocanegra started his Yanks career like every other young player who makes the team: He got a taste, appreciated it and wanted more. "I didn't think about how long I'd be here back then," he says of his debut against South Korea on Dec. 9, 2001. "When you get in here with the national team, you just want to play for your team as much as possible. But now, when I got near it this past year, I've been thinking, 'Wow, it's within reach.'"

While the small number of players who've reached the milestone for the U.S. doesn't lie, Bocanegra's realization of the importance of the achievement came in May 2008, when he saw David Beckham honored before a U.S.-England friendly at Wembley. England legend Bobby Charlton presented Becks a gold cap to commemorate his 100th appearance (against France in March 2008), and that left an impression on the easy-going Californian. "Being able to see that, maybe because he's such a global figure, it sunk in," Bocanegra says. "That's big."

Luke Cyphers is a former senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.