STERLING, Va. (AP) — They don't make road trips like this anymore. It starts in summer and ends in winter, could last up to six weeks and, by the way, the whole world will be watching.
There was plenty to think about Sunday as the U.S. team arrived at Dulles International Airport for the 17-hour flight to South Africa for the World Cup.
"It starts to get real now, you know?" goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann said.
Hahnemann and his teammates pulled off one final trick play before leaving U.S. soil: They went in through the "out" door.
The team entered the airport through the arrivals area — instead of departures — and went straight through security, bypassing the South African Airways ticket counter — where some employees had dressed in U.S. team jerseys — and a handful of disappointed fans who hoped to wish the team well.
"I was hoping to see them," said Alan Muhealden of Centreville, Va., who wore his Landon Donovan jersey and waited 4 hours but didn't get to glimpse a single player. "I'm not too disappointed. I still support them."
Cricket and rugby teams from other countries still take extended tours to far-flung places, but the World Cup is as long as it gets among major U.S. national squads. If they're fortunate enough to make the championship game, these Americans won't return until mid-July.
"We didn't know what to pack, so we packed pretty much everything," Hahnemann said. "It's a long time to potentially be away from everybody. We were talking about it earlier today. A lot of people have to do that, spend a lot of time away from their families, and we're not 100 percent used to that, so everything is a little bit different."
Although it's not technically summer, the weather was summer-like at the airport — mid-80s and take-your-breath-away humidity. The forecast Monday for Johannesburg, where mid-winter is on the way, calls for rain and a high of 63.
No wonder the players packed a little of everything.
"That'll actually make a difference," Hahnemann said, "because every other World Cup, it's usually in hot weather. It slows the game down quite a bit, so we're going to see a faster pace World Cup than we've seen in a long time."