WASHINGTON (AFP) - America is heading to Brazil "ready to play" in the 2014 World Cup, and Vice-President Joe Biden will be leading the cheers for the US to bring home the coveted trophy for the first time.
"When it comes to soccer, America is coming on," Biden assured Monday's audience at the State Department, where the 2014 World Cup trophy made its first stop in the United States as part of a global tour before heading later to Brazil.
"It's not historically been our game... but 25 million people in the United States play soccer, 80 per cent of them are young people who will be players and fans for years to come," Biden said.
"The world should know, we're coming ready to play." With only nine weeks remaining before the World Cup kicks off in Brazil, coach Jurgen Klinsmann's United States currently stands 13 in Fifa's rankings.
The White House announced that Biden would travel to Brazil in June to attend the World Cup, saying he would attend a match by the US side.
World Cup fever was "like a jolt of electricity that's felt all around the world", Biden said.
And he thanked the tour organisers for "bringing the World Cup trophy to the United States, and my expectation and hope is that it will come back soon in the hands of our players, rather than being delivered by someone else". He was joined at the ceremony by Secretary of State John Kerry and former US national team members Cobi Jones and Julie Foudy, who are both sports envoys for the State Department.
"Athletes can be some of our finest ambassadors," Kerry said, hailing their part in past "diplomatic breakthroughs". "All you need is a ball, and you go out and play. And it's remarkable how it captures the imaginations of young people everywhere," Biden said.
But he acknowledged that the US, drawn against Germany, Portugal and Ghana, faced a daunting fight to advance out of their World Cup group and forward in the competition. "We have a strong squad, and strong spirit," Kerry assured, promising that if Brazil and the US face off against each other, "we will both be rooting to bring the cup back to our hemisphere."