NATAL, Brazil -- A Brazilian newspaper predicted as many as 20,000 U.S. fans will show up at Natal's brand-new Arena das Dunas (seating capacity 39,971) for Monday's World Cup opener with Ghana.
Three major league baseball teams don't average that many fans at home -- and for U.S. Soccer, this is a far away game, 4,600 miles from its Chicago headquarters.
Even U.S. Soccer isn't sure exactly how many American fans are in Brazil, but more World Cup tickets were sold in the U.S. -- more than 154,000 -- than in any country outside Brazil. Certainly thousands of those were purchased by fans of other national teams, but U.S. Soccer says its supporters make up the largest group of traveling fans.
"That's something that I've been looking forward to since Day 1," midfielder Graham Zusi said. "To hear that stat of having the best traveling fans, it makes you feel good. It allows you to push all the more when you're on the field for them."
Added Jermaine Jones: "It's always nice to see the people are behind you and try to push you. We try to make the people happy."
Just four days into this World Cup, scoring is up.
Through the first 10 games of the opening round, 34 goals were scored, more than double the number from the first 10 games in South Africa four years ago. That's an average of nearly 31/2 goals a game, a number that hasn't been reached in a full World Cup since 1958.
"This is what fans are waiting for. They want to see goals," said U.S. coach Juergen Klinsmann, whose 11 World Cup goals as a player is tied for sixth-best all-time. "They want to see attacking football, they want to see excitement."
Here are a few more trends worth watching:
-- In half of the first 10 games, the team that scored first has lost.
-- Two of the three CONCACAF teams to play have won, with Costa Rica beating heavily favored Uruguay and Mexico downing Cameroon. Only Honduras, which failed to score in its fifth straight World Cup match while falling to France on Sunday, has lost. The fourth team from the region, the U.S., which won the CONCACAF qualifying tournament, plays Monday.
-- Speaking of the U.S. debut against Ghana, if defender DaMarcus Beasley plays, he will become the first American to appear in four World Cups.
Cristiano Ronaldo, the reigning world player of the year, said he is fit and will play Monday for Portugal against Germany despite concerns about the tendinitis in his left knee.
Ronaldo has played just 65 minutes since last month's UEFA Champions League final and had to cut short training last week.
"I would be the first to tell the coach if I were unable to play. I would never put my career at risk even for a World Cup," Ronaldo told The Associated Press.
Meanwhile, Brazil forward Hulk left Sunday's training session after 15 minutes with a muscle injury in his left leg. He said he expects to play in Tuesday's game with Mexico.
ASSIST OF THE DAY
A pair of Mexican fans in Sao Paulo left 40 World Cup tickets in the back seat of a taxi cab. But when the driver, Adilson Luiz da Cruz, discovered the package, he drove back to their hotel and returned the tickets. "I hope they'll be more careful from now on," he said.
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