Cole Pepper: World Cup Down To Four, Murphy Makes All-Star Squad, Bambino's Ghost Launches Fireworks

Jul 7, 2014

The World Cup is down to four teams, and despite the U.S. not being among them soccer is getting a boost in popularity across the country. Cole Pepper has the latest in his First Coast Connect weekly sports wrap.

World Cup down to four

Brazilian fans celebrate at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Brazil was beaten by the Netherlands in semi-final play during the 2010 tournament; they will play No. 2 ranked Germany on Tuesday. Brazil is ranked third in the world.
Credit Marcello Casal Jr/Agência Brasil / Wikimedia Commons

After the matches over the weekend, we are down to four teams with a chance to win the world cup. Brazil plays Germany on Tuesday and the Netherlands will face Argentina on Wednesday with the final set for Sunday. Brazil will have to play without their star Neymar, who has a broken vertebrae, sustained in the closing minutes of Brazil's 2-1 victory over Colombia.

An ongoing story is how this World Cup is going to impact soccer in America. The TV ratings this year were up 45 percent from the last World Cup four years ago and up 124 percent over 2006. The U.S. vs. Portugal match was the most viewed soccer match in the U.S. ever, averaging over 18 million viewers.

The Jacksonville Armada have already had over 2,000 season tickets reserved and they haven't even settled where they will play their games in the spring. We're early here, but I think we're seeing a change in the way the American public interacts with soccer.

Armada tryouts this month

Speaking of the Armada, they have announced that they're holding open tryouts on July 26 and 27 at Patton Park. Anyone who thinks they have what it takes to be a pro soccer player can tryout.

The registration fee is $100 per player. You can sign up online at ArmadaFC.com. You must be 16 or older. The Armada has said that they intend on having six or seven players from the region on the roster when they begin play next spring.

Argentine pride for soccer and golf

It's a big weekend for Argentina. I mentioned that their national team is on to the semi-finals. Argentinian golfer Angel Cabrera won on the PGA Tour yesterday, taking the Green Briar.

NASCAR

Closer to home, rain delayed the NASCAR race at Daytona, but they got it in yeserday. In a rain-shortened race, Aric Almirola won it in the #43 car. That was Richard Petty's old number.

Almirola won 30 years after Petty won his 200th and final victory and more than 15 years since the #43 car had won a race.

Sharks could make playoffs

The Jacksonville Sharks are still alive for the playoff chase by the narrowest of margins after a 62-34 thumping of San Antonio yesterday at Veterans Memorial Arena.

The Sharks have three games remaining and need to win all three and get some help to keep their playoff streak alive. They've made the post-season in all four years of their existence.

Suns summon Babe's ghost for fireworks show

The Suns host a noon game today and and a 7:05 p.m. game tomorrow.

On Saturday, the day after Independence Day, the Suns got creative with their fireworks. Nearly 100 years to the day since Babe Ruth made his major league debut, the Suns had the "Ghost of the Bambino" amble out of the dugout. Step the the plate, spotlighted against the darkened field, call his shot and send a rocket (literally) over the center field wall that set off the fireworks at the Baseball Grounds.

WATCH: The "Ghost of the Bambino" sends a shot to center to start the Sun's fireworks display

Jax native to play in MLB All Star Game

The All-Star teams have been announced in Major League Baseball and Jacksonville native Daniel Murphy has made his first National League All-Star Team. The New York Mets second baseman, Englewood High grad and Jacksonville University alum, is tied for the league lead in hits. The All-Star game will be played July 15 at Target Field in Minneapolis.

You can follow Melissa Ross on Twitter @MelissainJax and Cole Pepper @ColePepper.