Congratulations, Germany. You've won the 2014 World Cup. How nice. It's been a long road and you're the last one standing on the whole entire planet. Drink up. You've earned it.
But try not to get too comfortable.
As I type this, we are already starting down the road to Russia 2018. The first post-trophy-presentation game has already concluded; FIFA messed with the score ticker app I was using here and I had to take it down, but the road to Moscow started in Seattle mere hours after the final, as the Sounders defeated the Portland Timbers 2-0, in a game involving several players who just got done in Brazil. One of those players was Clint Dempsey, who opened the scoring one week after the United States was eliminated at the hands of Belgium. Perhaps some game, somewhere, in some corner of the planet, started even sooner after Germany lifted the trophy. The window was not large. Three days from now, I'll be in Milwaukee welcoming Chivas Guadalajara and Swansea City to Miller Park, the latter of which sent Jonathan de Guzman and Michel Vorm to play for the Netherlands and Wilfried Bony to play for Cote d'Ivoire. All players concerned who think they might have at least four years left in them have begun the process of trying to make impressions on coaches local, domestic and abroad, especially the coach of their national team, who will soon have to make decisions on who to call to action.
As those national teams are concerned, well, there you have slightly longer to celebrate. But you yourselves, Germany, will be playing your first post-Cup friendly on September 3rd; in a sense, your road to Moscow begins that day in Dusseldorf. And lo and behold, it will be Argentina on the other side of the pitch. Four days later in Dortmund, you'll be starting your Euro 2016 qualifying campaign against Scotland. And this will take place a couple weeks after the Bundesliga gets underway on August 22, when your road really begins.
The World Cup qualifiers won't be for a little while after that, but note that they are not overly far in the distance. Let us take a look at the gaps between the finals and the start of the ensuing qualifiers.
Uruguay 1930: Final, June 30. Ensuing qualifiers began June 11, 1933 (Sweden/Estonia in Stockholm).
Italy 1934: Final, June 15. Ensuing qualifiers began June 16, 1937 (Sweden/Finland in Stockholm).
France 1938: Final, June 19. Ensuing qualifiers began... okay, there was a little thing called World War 2 that got in the way, so the ensuing qualifiers began June 2, 1949 (Sweden/Ireland in Stockholm).
Brazil 1950: Final, July 16. Ensuing qualifiers began May 9, 1953 (Yugoslavia/Greece in Belgrade).
Switzerland 1954: Final, July 4. Ensuing qualifiers began September 30, 1956 (Austria/Luxembourg in Vienna).
Sweden 1958: Final, June 29. Ensuing qualifiers began August 21, 1960 (Costa Rica/Guatemala in San Jose).
Chile 1962: Final, June 17. Ensuing qualifiers began May 24, 1964 (Netherlands/Albania in Rotterdam).
England 1966: Final, July 30. Ensuing qualifiers began May 19, 1968 (Austria/Cyprus in Vienna).
Mexico 1970: Final, June 21. Ensuing qualifiers began November 14, 1971 (Malta/Hungary in Valletta).
West Germany 1974: Final, July 7. Ensuing qualifiers began March 7, 1976 (Sierra Leone/Niger in Freetown).
Argentina 1978: Final, June 25. Ensuing qualifiers began March 26, 1980 (Cyprus/Ireland in Nicosia, and Israel/Northern Ireland in Jerusalem).
Spain 1982: Final, July 11. Ensuing qualifiers began May 2, 1984 (Cyprus/Austria in Nicosia).
Mexico 1986: Final, June 29. Ensuing qualifiers began April 17, 1988 (Guyana/Trinidad and Tobago in Georgetown).
Italy 1990: Final, July 8. Ensuing qualifiers began March 21, 1992 (Dominican Republic/Puerto Rico in Santo Domingo).
United States 1994: Final, July 17. Ensuing qualifiers began March 10, 1996 (Dominica/Antigua and Barbuda in Roseau).
France 1998: Final, July 12. Ensuing qualifiers began March 4, 2000 (Trinidad and Tobago/Netherlands Antilles in Port of Spain, and Honduras/Nicaragua in San Pedro Sula).
Korea/Japan 2002: Final, June 30. Ensuing qualifiers began September 6, 2003 (Argentina/Chile in Buenos Aires, Ecuador/Venezuela in Quito, and Peru/Paraguay in Lima).
Germany 2006: Final, July 9. Ensuing qualifiers began August 25, 2007 (Tahiti/New Caledonia and Fiji/Tuvalu, both in Apia, Samoa).
South Africa 2010: Final, July 11. Ensuing qualifiers began June 15, 2011 (Montserrat/Belize in Couva, Trinidad and Tobago).
Germany 2014's final is- well, was, now- June 13. The gap between finale and qualifiers, originally three years, has shrunk to one, and there are not currently signs that the shrinking has stopped. The date has not been decided, nor have the teams involved. But before too long, somewhere, the trophy Germany has just laid claim to will be declared up for grabs once again.
When I close out Olympics coverage, I sign it off with 'see you in (next host city), two years hence.' But I can't do that with soccer. Because soccer never sleeps. All I could possibly have said was 'see you in Seattle later tonight', but I was already too late for that.
So see you in Milwaukee, three days hence. It's a long road to Moscow.