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Here’s how USMNT can become "world champions" against Colombia

A win against Colombia would make the USA world champions. Confused? Euan McTear explains.

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-Editor's Note: This is a guest post by Euan McTear. He is a Scottish football journalist and author of the book Eibar the Brave. He can be found on Twitter at @emctear.

The first ever FIFA World Cup took place in 1930, held in Uruguay and contested between 13 nations. As is often the case at World Cups, home advantage played a major role and Uruguay clinched the title on home soil, defeating neighbours Argentina 4-2 in a fierce grudge match final. In fact, the two teams trusted each other so little that the teams requested they each be allowed to use a football of their own choosing for each half.

The United States were among the 13 teams to make the trek - and it really was a trek back in those days - to Montevideo and they actually achieved their best ever finish in a World Cup by reaching the semi-finals, where they fell 6-1 to Argentina.

What mattered, though, was that Uruguay won the first ever official world championship, with their captain José Nasazzi becoming the first man to lift the trophy.

The next two World Cups were won by Italy, meaning that the Italians were - in most people's mind - the world champions from 1934 to the fourth World Cup in 1950. Yet not everybody viewed the title of world champions that way.

Some football fans imagined an alternative version of the world championship, viewing the honour the same way that titles are passed on in boxing. To become the world champions, they reckoned, you had to defeat the current holders of the title.

As such, Italy were not the "defending world champs" at the 1950 World Cup. Rather, England was the team putting the title on the line. They had defeated Scotland, who had defeated England beforehand, who had defeated Sweden, who had defeated Switzerland, and so on and so forth all the way back to Brazil, who had defeated the 1930 World Cup winners Uruguay in September of 1931.

This unofficial world championship needed a name and the term "Nasazzi's Baton" was chosen, in honour of the first captain to consider himself world champion. Sadly there is no actual baton, nor is there even a shiny plastic-looking belt that teams can lay out in their dugout during matches.

53 different nations have held the theoretical baton at some stage, including some countries that no longer even exist, as well as minnows such as Iceland, Northern Ireland, Zimbabwe and Netherlands Antilles. Yes, the tiny Dutch colony was technically the world champion for four days in 1963.

Going through the list all the way up to the present day - as task that takes some time, but which the folks at thanklessly have done over the years - we find that the current holders of the baton are Colombia, who claimed it with a 3-1 win over Ecuador in March, before defending it with another 3-1 win over Haiti last weekend.
And so, putting on my boxing ring announcer voice, "Ladies and gentlemen, this Friday night at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Colombia, the current champion of the world, puts its world title on the line against the challenger, the United States of Ammeeerrrrrrriiiiicccccaaaaaaa."

Jurgen Klinsmann's men would probably be content with a draw against James Rodriguez and co, but they should know that a win over the La Tricolor will allow the USMNT to call themselves world champions, at least until their meeting with Costa Rica four days later.

It would not actually be the first time that the USA has held Nasazzi's Baton, having previously held it for a grand total of eight days.

The first time was when a USA team of part-timers humiliated England in the 1950 World Cup with a 1-0 win. It was, however, immediately lost to Chile in the next match - a 5-2 win for the South Americans - but the USMNT would win it back at the NSYNC and Spice Girls end on the 1990s with a famous 1-0 win over Brazil in the 1998 Gold Cup- Again, however, it would be conceded at the first attempt, when Mexico defeated their neighbours 1-0 to take home the title.

In the end, the title means very little and most players to have won it don't even know that they have done so. This is a world championship that comes with the heaviest of asterisks. It could be extra motivation for the US team this Friday night, but Jurgen Klinsmann, in all likelihood, does not even know that there is a possibility of becoming unofficial world champions with a win - just as most managers are similarly unaware.

If they do win, however, the USMNT's history with the former Uruguayan captain's baton suggests that they would lose it to Costa Rica at the first attempt anyway. The beauty of this title is that from that point onwards, it could go to anyone, from Argentina to Zimbabwe.