Tony Meola's soccer accomplishments have landed him in the National Soccer Hall of Fame. As a terrific goalkeeper for multiple U.S. men's national teams, he was captain of the United States team in the 1994 World Cup. His impressive resume also includes a terrific year in 2000 when he won the Major League Soccer Most Valuable Player and led the Kansas City Wizards to the MLS Championship. Last time I spoke with Tony Meola in 2011, he was working with youth as part of Project GOAL, a non-profit organization comprised of education, business and sports professionals whose mission is to facilitate the development of Rhode Island’s disadvantaged youth through after-school tutoring and soccer-related programs. My most recent interview with Tony Meola included questions about the highly anticipated friendly match between the United States men's national team and Mexico that took place on April 2nd, the United States' men's expectations for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and his continued work in teaching youth about soccer and leadership.
MH: Matches between the U.S. men's national team and Mexico often seem to bring out the best in both teams. Why do you feel that these two teams play such great matches against each other regularly?
Tony Meola: The US v Mexico game has grown into a matchup that everyone, from the players and staff to the fans, get excited about. Both teams are very talented and for the last twenty years have battled for supremacy in COCACAF. There is no such the as a "friendly match" between these two teams and never any love lost. The players are fully aware of this and really look forward to playing in this rivalry. It brings out the best in every player.
MH: Looking ahead to the FIFA World Cup this June, which of the countries in Group G (Germany, Portugal, Ghana) will pose the greatest challenge for the United States' men this summer?
Tony Meola: Group G is considered one of the groups of death. This is partly due to the fact that the US is in the group. The US starts with Ghana, a team that has knocked them out of the WC the last two tournaments. They follow with Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal which will be a huge test. Lastly, they play Germany, a group that many pick to compete for the trophy. I believe that Portugal will be the toughest test as dealing with Ronaldo will be the toughest individual test for the US defense.
MH: You teamed with Allstate very recently to give a cool surprise to a group of youth soccer players. Could tell me more about that and your involvement with Allstate?
Tony Meola: Allstate is in its fourth year of sponsorship with US Soccer and Major League Soccer. I have been involved since Day 1 with this exciting initiative to get entrenched in the local communities around major games in the US. It's an opportunity for Allstate and myself to "give back" something to the kids in cities around the country. Allstate provides things like uniforms, soccer balls, warm up suits as well as tickets to games in order for kids to have an experience of a lifetime. Most kids in these communities would likely never have the chance to have this experience if not for Allstate.