Traditionally, this has been a source of regret for some Americans, who see participation in the World Cup as a way to connect with the rest of the world in a way that doesn't involve a) war, b) oil, or c) McDonalds. For a long time, I shared this opinion, even though I have never been a sports enthusiast. Lately though, with global tensions brought on the Iraq War (and the special combination of hubris and incompetence brought on by the Bush administration,) I have concluded that it is a good thing that the World Cup gives the world something to think about other than its grievances with America.
Understand, I'm not engaging in America bashing. I am acknowledging that whatever our intentions are towards our fellow man, our actions--both right and wrong--often cause us to be resented even by our allies. Thus, the American low profile at the World Cup, I think, is a good thing. It gives the rest of the planet some breathing room and an opportunity to blow off steam in a safe, constructive way (unless you are a soccer hooligan).
*I have no idea what the proper name of the football world organization is. After all, I'm an American. :)