Landon Donovan is one of the best-known players for the United States national team, but as most of the soccer-watching world knows by now, he was left off the 2014 World Cup squad, and has signed on to serve as a commentator for ESPN.
The news that Donovan was not on the 23-player roster broke on May 22, and launched many theories about why he was left out.
Donovan is not just some middling midfielder who made a name for himself as a face of the American team in previous World Cups. At the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, he scored multiple key goals, all after stunning supporters with his prodigious performance in the 2002 Cup in South Korea and Japan.
So the fact that the man who had become the poster child for U.S. soccer, its lead scorer and undoubtedly its most famous representative will be sitting out the 2014 tournament came as quite the shock to observers around the globe.
The question on many people's minds is why was Donovan not selected to represent America this year? Turns out there's no simple answer. The team is now unquestionably weaker at midfield than it would have been had he been in Brazil this month, and while ranked at #13 in the world, it needs all the help it can get when facing the tough Portugal and Germany in its second and third matches later in the tournament.
And even the American squad's opener Monday evening against the 37th-ranked Ghana national team -- which beat the U.S. at the World Cup in both 2006 and 2010 -- is not going to be an easy slog, especially given the fact that the stadium in Natal, on Brazil's Northeastern coast, has been pummeled by torrential rains, causing flooding, mudslides and sinkholes throughout the region in recent days.
Adding to the weirdness surrounding his being left off the team is the fact that Donovan attended the U.S. training camp last month as one of the 30 men selected as preliminary squad members and could have been included in the team at the last minute within the last three days in the event of injury.
Some observers believe that Donovan has fallen off in recent years. Though he's only 32, he's seen by many soccer fans as a diminished talent, yet still one of the best American players by a significant margin.
Just ask the team's goalkeeper, Tim Howard.
"For me it's a very easy equation," he told the Los Angeles Times. "If Landon's on the field he's among our top one or two players."
And he has already criticized the American team's coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, for saying that the concept of the U.S. squad winning this year's World Cup "is just not realistic right now," which is the first in 16 years that Donovan will not be playing in.
“This will come as a surprise to nobody, but I don’t agree with Jurgen,” Donovan said on ESPN. “And as someone who has been in that locker room and has sat next to the players, we agree with the (supporter group) American Outlaws: We believe that we will win. I think that’s the way Americans think and I think that’s the sentiment.”
Klinsmann, who coached the stellar German national team in 2006, did not expound much on his reasoning after making the decision to leave Donovan off his roster this year, but he did address it, according to the Los Angeles Times.
"I have to do what I believe is the right thing," Klinsmann said. "And time will tell. … I'm very strongly convinced this is the right way to go, this is the right decision that we made. And I believe in that."
At the end of the day, Donovan will be watching the game, and the world will be left wondering why they're not watching him play the beautiful game.