The World Cup: Ranking the competitors

Stephen Richer Law Student, University of Chicago
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By Stephen Richer and R. Ben Sperry

If you feel like we feel, soccer only merits attention for one month out of every four years. But when the World Cup does come along, it should be celebrated with gusto. Why? Because it’s one of the most public opportunities to evince American Exceptionalism. GDP statistics, nuclear warheads, Nobel Prizes, Olympic Gold medals, and other indicators of United States supremacy are all well and fine, but were the U.S. to win the World Cup while reminding the other nations that, “By the way, we don’t even like this game,” it would be the ultimate coup de grace.

As such, affection for the United States during the next few weeks should not be limited in any way, even if it means running around your office when the United States scores the tying goal (as it did last Friday morning).

The problem comes on non-U.S. game days. What does the American patriot—trying to immerse himself in World Cup soccer—do when Chile plays Switzerland or when Spain plays Honduras? If you’ve lived in one of these countries then, by all means, root for it. But for the two of us, and for most Americans, most other countries can just be relegated to the tier-2 level of non-U.S. countries. And when there’s no reason to root for one country over the other, the game becomes a lot less fun.

Beset with this problem, we developed The American Patriot’s ranking of World Cup teams. The composite score is the average of two factors 1) How free the country is—something that every American liberty lover should appreciate, and 2) How friendly the country is to the United States.

The first of these two factors we computed by taking the Freedom House index of civil and political liberties, standardizing it, and combining it with the 2010 Index of Economic Freedom produced by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal.

Friendliness to the United States is a hard thing to quantify. We decided a decent estimate might be arrived at by averaging the percentages from the last four years (2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009) of concurring votes with the U.S. at the United Nations. This method has the added benefit of giving the U.N. votes some value in our eyes.

This raw “friendliness score” is averaged with the “freedom score” to yield the following rankings:

Again, this list should be used by the patriotic, freedom loving American who wants to know which country to root for in non-United States games. But hopefully this index will be less and less important as teams continue to fall by the wayside and the U.S. moves closer to the World Cup! U.S.A!

Stephen Richer and R. Ben Sperry advocate for freedom and justice at a legal think tank in Washington, DC.