It’s a global phenomenon but why hasn’t the United States embraced it the way they do baseball, basketball, hockey and even the American version of football?
It certainly has become a popular sport with younger children and their parents over that last few decades. Saturday and Sunday trips in the spring and the early fall have certainly garnered a new genre of parent, the soccer parent. These aren’t just day trips, some of these include travel to surrounding cities or local municipalities for a day even weekend long tournaments. Certainly compared to other youth activities, soccer lends itself to camaraderie amongst parents. It attracts the fandom for professional teams nationwide, the question still begs, why aren’t we more interested in the sport the way men and women are in other countries?
Multiple cities across the U.S. have franchised teams in Major League Soccer that have gained the attention of Americans but haven’t captured the spirit and intensity of the way we feel about, let’s say, our National Football League teams. Why?
Speed of Play
The game is 90 minutes, two 45 minute halves that normally includes extra time that the lead official typically determines at full-time (90 minutes). That seems like a short amount of time for a game that’s taking over the world at the moment with the World Cup being played in Russia. That ninety minutes only yields scoring that can be counted on one hand in most cases. That’s right, 4-5 goals between two clubs is all that is relinquished in that time.
As Americans, we are accustomed to exciting and plentiful scoring in our sports, as we are a nation of immediate gratification and require that. In no way am I suggesting that a sport that has been around since the mid 19th century be altered or changed to appease Americans so they’ll adore it the way they do in other countries. The excitement just isn’t there, therefore some of us will never be attracted to the sport that consumes many of folk globally.
Lack of Flare
There is typically only a few names that could stand out to a casual fan of the sport that would warrant a weekly engagement in front of the flat screen. Names like Beckham (retired), Neymar, Ronaldo, Agüero and Suarez to name a few could get certain fans excited of angry depending on the location. Even the most casual fan of the NFL, NBA or NHL could name at least one player from most teams.
Most of these players who are recognizable globally make millions of dollars and you rarely hear of them outside of the playing season, which is seemingly year round.
The standings and scoring are a confusing aspect of this sport and typically only the rabid fan can understand. Americans like simple “dumbed down” standings. Example: New York Team has 10 wins and no losses therefore is at the top. Chicago Team has 8 wins and 2 losses and is in second place. It seems that soccer standings and their playoffs has even the most mediocre team playing for a piece of hardware.
Maybe a more prevalent social media presence can persuade American fans to embrace the sport?
Maybe more American born players that are playing in those youth leagues with rise above most and provide a spark that we crave as Americans?
Maybe other professional sports athletes can drive up viewers/fans?
I absolutely hate that soccer isn’t more popular in this country. We’re missing the boat.
— Michael Young (@MikeyY626) July 7, 2018
Soccer has certainly captured the hearts and minds of a large number of Americans during the World Cup but the ability to sustain that level enthusiasm is somewhat of a puzzle that cannot be solved.
FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) has certainly done its part by selecting cities worldwide to host the World Cup every four years. The current host (Russia) has set aside it’s differences with the rest of the world to host a magnificent tournament that will be unmatched, until the next World Cup.
Every year soccer gains popularity and every year soccer gains fans. I just hope in my lifetime I see a sport like this be as popular to me as professional hockey and football.