The secret to soccer success

Edson Buddle's red-hot MLS season could translate to World Cup success. Scott Bales/YCJ/Icon SMI

This article appears in the May 31 issue of ESPN The Magazine; you can find all content from that issue, as populated, by going here.

Those of you searching for a rare bastion of subjectivity in today's increasingly stat-packed sportscape, please turn to the World Cup. Soccer -- low-scoring, hard-to-quantify soccer -- is rife with pregnant truisms such as "the ball is round" (to which the only proper response is a pull on your calabash pipe, a nod neath your deerstalker cap and a somberly intoned, "Indeed") that suffice as analysis. Among the smart-sounding if ill-defined Eurospeak -- opaque terms like "quality," "technique" and "fitness" -- none is tossed about more often than "form." And none will matter more to the U.S. national team's summer fortunes.

A saying in the sport goes "Form is temporary; class is permanent." Right
now, the Yanks stand in the middle of the 32-team pack headed to South Africa, capable in equal measures of upsetting and of being upset. So a single player "in form" could be the difference between a deep run at global glory and an early flameout of international ignominy.