With the 2014 World Cup right around the corner, there’s no time like the present to learn more about the U.S. team’s star players. Most Americans don’t usually pay a lot of attention to soccer, but the World Cup is an action-packed international event no sports fan will want to miss. By familiarizing yourself with each player’s strengths, weaknesses and personal history, you can get a better feel for your team’s chances. So if you’re eager to learn about the athletes who will be representing the U.S., don’t overlook the following players.

Michael Bradley
Born in New Jersey, 26-year-old superstar Michael Bradley has soccer in his genes. His father, Bob Bradley, coached Princeton University’s formidable soccer team for over a decade before going on to manage such successful franchises as the Chicago Fire, Metro Stars and Chivas U.S.A. The elder Bradley also managed the U.S. World Cup team from 2006 to 2011, so it’s no surprise his son knows his way around the field.

Before finishing college, Bradley was signed by the New York Metro Stars and became the team’s starter in 2005. The next year, Bradley was transferred to Sports Club Heerenveen, a Dutch soccer team where he scored 16 league goals in a single season — a record for an American athlete in the European soccer league. Michael Bradley is currently a starter for the Toronto Football Club, making him one of the most prolific American soccer players on the field today. Fans of Bradley — and the U.S. team — can show their support by donning authentic World Cup jerseys, hats and other soccer swag while watching the team play.

Clint Dempsey

Athletically-gifted Texas native Clint Dempsey has been standing out on the soccer field since the age of 12. During his adolescence while attending tryouts with his older brother, Dempsey was immediately recruited by the Dallas Texans, one of the country’s most prestigious youth soccer clubs. Dempsey’s love of the game continued into his college years as he led Furman University’s soccer team to several successful seasons.

Right out of college, Dempsey was recruited as a starter for the New England Revolution. His on-field exploits soon drew the attention of London’s Fulham Football Club, who recruited Clint in 2006. After seven eventful seasons in the U.K., Dempsey returned to the U.S. as a starter for the Seattle Sounders Football Club.

Landon Donovan
Described by USA Today as the best soccer player to come out of the U.S., Landon Donovan has been playing the game since the age of six. Shortly after turning 15, Donovan was selected to take part in the U.S. Olympic Development Program for young soccer players. Throughout his high school and college years, the California native was integral to his schools’ soccer teams.

Shortly after finishing college, Donovan played for the German Bayer Leverkusen Football Club before returning to California and starting for the San Jose Earthquakes and later, the Los Angeles Galaxy. During his time with the Galaxy, Donovan set the team’s record for scored goals and became the two-time recipient of Major League Soccer’s prestigious Support Shield award.

Sean Johnson

One of the youngest professional players on the field today, Georgia-born Sean Johnson rose to fame as an unstoppable force on the college soccer scene in 2009. That same year, Johnson left school to pursue a playing career with the Atlanta Blackhawks. After a single season with the Blackhawks, Johnson was drafted by the Chicago Fire, the team he currently plays for. In 2013, Johnson’s achievements on the field earned him the title of Chicago Fire Defender of the Year.

Jurgen Klinsmann

As any sports fan can tell you, a qualified coach is the heart of a team — and coaches don’t come more qualified than JurgenKlinsmann. In his youth, Klinsmann played for a number of successful soccer clubs throughout Europe and went to the World Cup six times. After retiring as a player, Klinsmann managed the German World Cup team in 2005 and 2006. As someone who has experienced the World Cup from both ends of the spectrum, Klinsmann is more than capable of leading the U.S. team to victory in 2014.

Learning about your team’s players adds a fascinating new dimension to the World Cup, especially if you’re new to the sport.Inexperiencedsoccer fans with an understand of the team’s background can develop a newfound respect for the U.S. team’s rising stars and view the World Cup in a whole new light.

Bradley image by Warrenfishon Wikimedia Commons.

Donovan image by Regular Daddy on Wikimedia Commons.