Juergen Klinsmann

U.S. national team Coach Juergen Klinsmann leads a training session in Germany on March 3. Klinsmann is looking forward to the tough challenge he team is expected to face in the World Cup. (Boris Roessler / EPA / March 3, 2014)

The U.S. won't play its first game in this summer's World Cup for seven weeks. But, predictably, Juergen Klinsmann is already impatient.

"It is an exciting time," the U.S. national soccer team coach said over breakfast. "It finally gets down to what really matters. The tournament itself."

That also means there is still much to do and precious little time left to do it.

So when Klinsmann speaks the words rush out, with adverbs tumbling into the wrong places and sentences forming without pronouns. Part of that is because Klinsmann thinks in his native German but often speaks in one of four other languages.

Then again, skip a pronoun here or there over the course of the day and who knows how much time you'll save. And now, as the World Cup nears, time is of the essence.

"The clock ticks," Klinsmann said. "We're getting closer so you zoom in. You monitor all the guys that you have out there. You talk to the coaches, you talk to the people who go to the games.

"I think we are very well prepared now. Still have to work on a couple of ends."

The first is selecting a preliminary World Cup roster of the 30 players who will be invited to the U.S. training camp at Stanford next month. That roster will be trimmed further in early June, to the 23 who will represent the U.S. in Brazil.

There, Klinsmann's squad will face the toughest test an American team has endured in a World Cup. Not only is the field the deepest in tournament history, but the U.S. was drawn into a four-nation group for opening-round play that includes Germany and Portugal, two of the top three teams in the world according to FIFA rankings, plus Ghana, which eliminated the U.S. in the last two World Cup tournaments.

The U.S. will travel nearly 9,000 miles in the 11-day group stage, more than any other team, and the climates will range from the humidity of the Amazon to the tropical rains of the Atlantic coast.

Klinsmann, predictably, is looking forward to the challenge.

"You need timelines. And deadlines are always a good thing," he said earlier this year. "You see the light at the end of the tunnel. We know now a bit better what Brazil is about.

"I think it's just more excitement growing."

Juergen Klinsmann was 8 the first time he played organized soccer. And the sport was still so baffling to him, when he left the bench to play in the final 10 minutes of that first game, he paused in front of the coach and asked him to explain, one last time, what "offside" meant.

After six months and countless hours spent kicking a ball against a garage door, the boy, no longer a novice, scored 16 goals in a 40-minute game.

The anecdote speaks volumes about Klinsmann's approach to the game that has become his livelihood. Even at a young age he understood the sport was as cerebral as it was physical and was one that would reward practice and repetition as much as it would size and speed.

After 40 years, that approach hasn't changed. Klinsmann, one of the best strikers ever, won a World Cup as a player, took Germany to a third-place finish in the World Cup as a coach and last year guided the U.S. national team to 16 victories and a .761 winning percentage, both the best marks in its history.

Yet, if any of that has given him reason to pause, it has been a very short pause. The son of a baker, Klinsmann worked long, hot hours alongside his father to help out in the family's business. And his work ethic hasn't ebbed.

"When you see your father work 14-, 16-hour shifts a day, you develop that sense of 'you've got to just work for what you want to achieve.' Our region, where we are from, that's just in the DNA," said Klinsmann, who was born and raised near Stuttgart. "For me it was just normal to be doing two things, three things. Going to school, working and training.

"It was fulfilling to me. It's just the way I knew it."