The secret to soccer success

I'm not sure what 'form' is, but I know it will be key to winning the Cup

Originally Published: May 18, 2010
By Luke Cyphers | ESPN The Magazine

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.

To find out how players like Landon Donovan define form and which surprise players on hot streaks could help the U.S. in the World Cup, you must be an ESPN Insider.