ESPN is set to premiere a new series, "Inside: U.S. Soccer’s March to Brazil," beginning on May 13 and focusing on the U.S. team as it prepares for the upcoming 2014 World Cup.•McIntyre: The great U.S. debate Part 1| Part 2
"We want to show the fans what our team is all about," U.S. men’s coach Jurgen Klinsmann said Sunday while speaking about the series at the SXSW 2014 conference.
Klinsmann was joined at the conference by ESPN FC’s Roger Bennett, who is producing the six-episode documentary series, along with Jonathan Hock and ESPN Films, the production group behind 30 for 30. The series will air for five straight weeks beginning on May 13 and will also be seen on ABC following the ESPN premieres.
"We know there will be enormous interest surrounding this team as the World Cup approaches so we’re focused on providing an in-depth look at how the players deal with the stakes of preparing for soccer’s biggest stage," said Connor Schell, VP and executive producer, ESPN Films and original content. "The breadth and variety of content offerings across ESPN platforms leading up to and during the tournament will give soccer fans a chance to feel close to the action and 'Inside: US Soccer’s March to Brazil' is intended to capture the mental and physical demands of the U.S. players giving viewers a truly unique perspective."
The series will follow the coaches and players, including Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Tim Howard and Michael Bradley, as they endure a demanding preparation camp and play three international matches before their departure for Sao Paulo.
Led by head coach Klinsmann, a World Cup champion as a player and former coach of the German national team, the U.S. is coming off the most successful year in its history. For the World Cup, the team has been drawn into the "Group of Death" against Ghana, Portugal and Germany. The U.S. opens vs. Ghana in Natal on June 16, followed by matches against Portugal on June 22 in Manaus, and Germany on June 26 in Recife.
"We have always said that the national team should represent the culture of the country, and the fans play a big part in that," said Klinsmann. "We are going to work extremely hard to get this group prepared to do something special in Brazil, and we are excited to work with ESPN to allow our supporters the opportunity to see the tremendous effort our players and staff will put in to get ready."
Klinsmann has led the team to historic results since taking over as head coach in 2011. In the past two-and-a-half years, the U.S. has won a record-setting 12 straight games at home, put together a 12-match win streak -- the longest in program history -- captured the 2013 Gold Cup title, and finished in first place in qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
"We want all the players going to the World Cup to understand the message -- this is your moment," Klinsmann said Sunday during his SXSW chat with Bennett. "Everyone wants to raise the bar."
Producer Hock is an eight-time Emmy Award winner whose contributions to ESPN's 30 for 30 series include "The Best That Never Was" and "Survive and Advance." Bennett is a writer and a broadcaster with "Men in Blazers" and ESPN who has chronicled the evolution of the US team under Klinsmann.
"Since 1994, I have watched with wonder as the U.S. team's profile has risen in this country after every World Cup," said Bennett. "The American players are hungry not just for victory, but for respect. That quest gives Jonathan and me an opportunity to capture true human drama, on the pitch and off." The U.S. team will play final home exhibition games against Azerbaijan, Turkey and Nigeria. The 13th-ranked Americans will host No. 93 Azerbaijan at San Francisco's Candlestick Park on May 27, then play No. 42 Turkey at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., on June 1. The U.S. faces No. 47 Nigeria at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla., on June 7 before heading to Brazil and the American base camp in Sao Paulo. Of the three opponents, only Nigeria is headed to the World Cup. The U.S. played Turkey four years ago in its final home game before going to South Africa. The Americans have the longest first-round travel schedule of the 32 nations. They open against Ghana on June 16 at Recife, face Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal six days later in the Amazon rain forest city of Manaus and close the group stage against Germany on June 26 at Recife. They will return to Sao Paulo between games.