The men’s version of the FIFA World Cup is a long way from home this winter. Held in Qatar, it’s the first time that either the men’s or women’s finals have been hosted in the Middle East. With players traveling long distances from in Europe or the US, the prep work for a successful tourney starts the minute they touch down in Doha. Off the pitch provides the blueprint for performance on it, whether that’s training, tactics talks or team bonding. And a big part of any athletic event is diet and nutrition.
The men’s team, or USMNT, have lived in the shadow of their female counterparts for the last couple of decades. While they made the quarter-finals in 2002 and managed to progress from the group stage in 2010 and 2014, they missed out on qualification for 2018. In the same period, the ladies have lifted the trophy three times; in 1999, 2015 and 2019. It could be argued their success was partly through home advantage – the 1999 Finals were held in the US while 2015 saw Canada host – but 2019 saw them triumph in France.
Proper preparation produces peak performance. Alongside coaches and trainers, the sides are accompanied by nutritionists, dieticians and team chefs when they travel. Let’s break down breakfasts (and lunch and dinners).
Examining The Diets Of US World Cup Stars
Qatar comes at an awkward time for coach Gregg Berhalter and his men. Of the 26 players named, 19 play in Europe, where domestic seasons are at the midway point. The other seven star in MLS, where the regular season concluded on October 9th. This means some players will be in the midst of their club sides’ dietary regimes, while some will have eased off a little for some weeks. The diets contained within weight loss programs for men often feature personalized structures for individuals, and the USMNT will have to lean on those principles. Leading players may need more protein in order to recover quicker from knocks and niggles picked up from games right before flying.
While are all about carbohydrates to gain the energy needed from the match, timezones could also play a part. Qatar is eight hours ahead of EST, so body clocks may mean players can’t stomach a plate of pasta pre-game and will opt for a bigger breakfast, supplementing on fruit juices for simple sugars as kickoff draws closer. Hydration is also key in the dry desert air, so expect plenty of liquids around the pitch, as well as copious amounts of water with each meal.
in the CONCACAF Women’s Championship, the women’s side has a stable setup as regards nutrition, and it shows in their performance. Fitness coach Dawn Scott allows her players some flexibility in what they eat, saying, “A lot of players like the egg station at breakfast where they can have eggs prepared in their favorite style. Obviously, they’re getting the protein in, but then they choose how those eggs are cooked, and I’m fine with that.”
They have a long-term team chef, Teren Green, or ‘Chef T’ as he’s known to just about everyone. T is happy to work with varied diets and lifestyles. Star striker Alex Morgan in 2017, and other players have followed in her footsteps; around a quarter of the regular squad selection is now plant-based. The Detroit-based culinarian revealed to ESPN, “When we went to France, there were maybe two vegans. By the end, there were about six. I build the plate specifically for them and make it nice and fancy and deliver it to them. When the other players see that, they’re like, ‘Oh, I want a meal brought to me, too.” His post-match cheat meals – from ice cream to small portions of mac and cheese – make him a firm favorite with the entire training camp.
Of course, healthy weight management has to start long before game day. Building a soccer player’s body involves sensible, healthy eating with the right balance of protein, carbs, and nutrients. Honing it to perfection prioritizes the player themselves.