This morning, when perennial power Germany takes on upstart United States in a World Cup quarterfinal game, Peter Senica will be facing an unusual, delicate dilemma.
Growing up in the small town of Racklinghausen, Senica was on the German national team's reserve roster as a 20-year-old goalkeeper in 1974 when the squad won the second of its three World Cup championships.
But he has been in the United States for 20 years now, all in the Baltimore area. He's a vice president at Allfirst Bank, with a wife, Lisa, and a soccer-playing daughter, Jamie, who is 12. Senica, 48, has closely watched the U.S. national team grow and has thus grown attached.
"Which team am I going to be rooting for - that's your first question, right?" he says jokingly.
After a pause, he goes on to say: "I don't know. All I know is that my team will advance into the next round, and may the better team win honestly."
For Senica, it's the best of both worlds, or perhaps countries - a win-win situation, with his loyalty undeniably caught somewhere in the middle.
"When I heard the American anthem the other day I could feel it from within," he said. "That's when I felt, `Yeah, there it is, there it is.' And, of course, I was listening to the German anthem during one of their games and comparing them both; each were just as strong. It just happened that way this World Cup."
Senica can provide an outside perspective of the growth of U.S. soccer in the past 20 years. He said it has come a long way since 1982, his first year here, when the World Cup final from Spain was televised with commercial interruptions during play.
"Soccer is healthy in the U.S. If you ask me if it will ever replace football or baseball, my personal opinion is that I don't think that's ever going to happen," he said. "But the U.S. is on its way to becoming a world-class team if it can maintain the way things are going."
Senica doesn't have to be in Germany right now to know that all the water-cooler talk is about this game. The fact that it's a World Cup quarterfinal is a moot point there; regardless of the game or its magnitude, soccer is always the talk.
"Here in the United States, you can grow up with soccer, but it's optional. Over there, it's almost mandatory, and that mandatory status leads to its passion. There's no choice but to have passion," Senica said.
That made 1974 - his only year spent on the national team - that much more special. Imagine being 20 years old in Germany, representing your country and practicing with the likes of legendary defender Franz Beckenbauer.
"As a young player, it was almost overwhelming; in fact, it was overwhelming in the beginning," Senica said. "I don't want to say you get used to it, but you certainly take to it, you like it. It was a great experience.
"Soccer is soccer, and if you become too preoccupied with the thought that you are on the field with so-and-so and so-and-so, you can't focus on the game. So I was able to put that aside, even as a young player."
While the bookmakers in England have made his native country a 5-1 favorite over the red, white and blue this morning, Senica sees it being much closer.
He said he believes the key for the Americans is getting through the first 15 to 20 minutes of play, with each player getting a touch or two on the ball in order to settle in. As for the Germans, taking advantage of their set plays - a long-standing trademark - will be a must.
He adds that all the United States has to do is catch Germany on a bad day, and that's been a distinct pattern in this round for the Germans over the past two World Cups. In 1994, Bulgaria pulled off a 2-1 upset; in 1998, Croatia was a first-time quarterfinalist that stunned the Germans, 3-0.
"A prediction? I can't make a prediction that would put me on one side. It's a 50-50 thing and I'll just be an interested observer," Senical said.
This much he will tell: "I'll be watching it at home with my American beer - Yuengling. I like it."