How American Soccer Fans Are Smarter Than Average Americans


I’ve lost track of the number of times Americans ask me where I’m from, and I mention Wales — only to hear the next follow-up question, which is “Where is Wales? Is that part of England?”

While most US residents get an F in geography (not just from me, but from many scholars), I’ve found that soccer fans living in the United States are far smarter than average Americans for the following reasons:

  1. Time difference wizards. Ask an average American on the street how many hours ahead the United Kingdom is, or what time it is in France, Germany or Italy, and you’ll be met with a look of gaze and puzzlement. Soccer fans, meanwhile, have been trained to become experts on knowing all sorts of differences in time zones around the US and the world.
  2. Smarter in geography. As scholars of world football, American soccer fans are more likely to know the difference between Wales and New South Wales, as well as the knowing the existence of places like Kazan (as in Rubin Kazan) and Andorra.
  3. Better cultured. Ask most Americans to describe how cultures are different in, say, England compared to the United States, and many may find it difficult to go into a lot of detail. Thanks to the popularity of the Premier League, most American soccer fans will be able to talk intelligently about different cities in the country as well as which areas of the country are more economically depressed, and so on.
  4. More fluent with different pronunciations. American soccer fans who routinely watch continental football or the Champions League are a lot more likely to know how to pronounce the names of foreign cities such as Sevilla (as in the Spanish version of Seville), Fiorentina (as in the Italian translation of Florence) and so on.

I don’t mean to be condescending in the above article, so I apologize if it comes across that way. But I think it’s important to realize that while we all love the beautiful game, we are at the same time (whether we realize it or not) learning more about different cultures and countries, which is enriching our lives with a lot more knowledge (whether we’re Americans, Brits or residents of other countries).

72 thoughts on “How American Soccer Fans Are Smarter Than Average Americans”

  1. As an American soccer (well, I call it football, but still…) fan, may I say thank you for the recognition and I agree with you 100%! 😉

  2. great post. i agree 100% as well. one little bit was off though. Firenze is the actual translation for Florence, not Fiorentina. maybe Roma might be a better example there seeing that Roma is Rome in Italian.

        1. I was in “Florence” and, in the area, they call it: “Firenze”. That is the Italian (Italiano) word for “Florence”, as English-speaking people call it. By the way, I’m from the U.S. (“American”, as some Europeans call us, but that is inaccurate because even Mexicans are “American”, as are Brazilians. To what part of America are you referring?)

    1. Hah, the author presumes to be erudite in things international, and then flubs one of his few examples. Priceless.

      Funny, in most of the world, soccer fans are the dregs of society.

      Trying a little too hard to compensate?

    1. mate im from wales its not south scotland its west of england and east of ireand its the county inbeetween

      1. Aha, Jack, I see the problem.

        Try refreshing the web page making sure the sense-of-humour settings have been turned on.

  3. You’re 100% right!!

    As someone who lives for European football, I find myself actually THINKING about the pronunciation of certain names, cities, etc. in & from different areas.

    We’re definitely more interested in other cultures & how those cultures directly relate to sport, music, local economies & even beer!

    Great observations.

  4. Are we just patting ourselves on the back with this article?

    A little lacking on the hard hitting journalism or in-depth commentary and insight. Just my humble opinion.

    1. I could not agree more with this criticism. This article is the type of fluff that needs to be replaced with more in-depth analysis on this site.

      1. Really!?!? It is a blog. Not the Guardian or the Times.

        Blogs are for observation and dialog not “hard hitting journalism” or “in-depth analysis”.

        This is anecdotal observation intended to to promote conversation. A blog is the ideal space for it.

        Most of the articles on this site are an amalgamation of insight gathered form other sources (footy pundits, papers/websites, match commentary and books) combined with some personal insight or experience. And I am fine with that. I like that if I read the articles with care I can confidently guess what websites,reporters, books and pundits the author respects.

        1. Indeed. In fact, I’m at work right now and am planning to show this post to one of my co-workers who is starting to get more into the world game just based off my recommendations and chatter about the weekend’s of games that I talk about with him.

          The other day, we actually called up a map of the UK and Europe and spent 45 minutes talking about the history of certain countries and I showed him where each club’s home city is in England.

          Spot on with the article!

        2. It wasn’t long ago that the Gaffer solicited feedback on the site. I just gave it to him.

          I couldn’t give two sh*ts about what you expect to see on a blog site. And unless you are an editor/owner of this site, my post was not directed at you. So, next time, feel free to ignore it.

          1. The Guvnah, where I work, they have these things called breaks built into our schedule. Sometimes, we are even allowed to have lunch too!

            YourMom, just as you want to offer your feedback, so do I, and so I did. I dont think I even referenced your post at all. That’s fine if you dont care about what I expect to see on a blog site, but I’m pretty sure I’m entitled to my own opinion.

  5. Also you can point out that England, Great Britian and the United Kingdom are each different. England being one of four countries that make up Great Britian along with Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. Where as the United Kingdom includes Great Britian along with other areas such as the Falkland Islands.

        1. fetch is right, kyle. Great Britain is an island of which Northern Ireland is not a part. The UK is a nation comprised of England, Wales, Scotland, N.I., and outlying territories.

    1. UK-Great Britain-England
      -Northern Ireland

      The falklands isles are a group of small islands on the opposite hemisphere located off of the coast of Argentina under the UK’s control, other territories include the British virgin islands and South Georgia etc.

  6. I loved the blog entry, especially the map. That is a classic and I would love to know where it came from.

    Having a degree in geography and having spent a year living and traveling in Europe, I am well aware of the cultural differences on both sides of the Atlantic. It was (probably still is) comical to watch BBC news and the first 3 stories they lead off with pertain to the USA or some dumb pop star getting pinched for drugs.

    In defense to those that feel hurt by your truthful comments, I find that many Brits (Europeans in gerneral) associate places in America with NFL teams. For example, there truly is no good reason to be able to identify Jacksonville, Fl on a map. Its not a big-time tourist attraction like the “Big Apple” and it doesnt have any natural wonders like the Arizona’s Grand Canyon. However, people know of the Jaguars and can claim it as a place they’ve seen, heard, or mentioned.

    Soccer fans are a bit smarter. We know how to set alarm clocks and wake up at stupid o’clock in the morning to watch our team play in International matches. The really smart ones also create clever excuses to tell the boss when we stay home to watch mid-day or early morning matches.

  7. While I agree almost 100% with this and acknowledge that geography is far from the America’s strong suit, I think Europeans are equally bad about American geography. I can’t even count the number for times I’ve had European friends who think they will sight-see from coast to coast by car in a week. Just not possible…

  8. I think you must understand that the average American may not care where places are and the names of places in other countries because they have things to do than learn the rest of the world. And some may never leave the USA because they dont want to. Its not just a soccer fan that knows other parts of the world. If somebody wants to learn other parts of the world they will, simple as that…

    1. i think that’s blatantly wrong from the start. Even an American would need to know start times for events like the Olympics and so on when they are in another country just so they can see sporting events. Then again, having just watched Transformers 2 on DVD, it appears the American makers (Michael Bay, et al.) of the film believe that there are no time zones so the weather/time is the same in New York, Germany, and Egypt at the same time.

      I love the comment though that average American may have better things to do than learn about world geography. Riiiight.

      1. Nothap’n, average Americans DO have better things to do than learn about world geography…

        -We have to watch Jerry Springer
        -Feed the children in Africa
        -Solve the terroism problem in the world
        -Invade oil-producing countries
        -Negotiate peace amongst hostile neighbor-nations (Israel-Middle East)
        -Protect France from Germany (although I doubt the US would make that mistake again)
        -Diffuse Ireland v. N. Ireland hostility
        -Chase Japanese whaling vessels
        -Boost our own economy (and the world’s)
        -Try to muffle Sarah Palin
        -Cure Cancer
        -Cure Aids
        -Film more episodes of “The Deadliest Catch”

  9. I don’t think I am smarter than the average American because I follow soccer. I think I follow soccer because I am smarter than the average American.

    Soccer in America is mostly is a passion of the bourgeoisie. It is a game played an supported by the educated, middle-class. As such it dovetails nicely with an interest or awareness of the world around us.

    This is an idea explored in “How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization” by Franklin Foer

  10. I used to think it was an American issue, now after living abroad, I’ve realized it’s just a person to person issue. Does every teenager in the UK know all about EU geography? Asia? I see your point, I really do. But to think that only uneducated Americans would ask you if Wales is part of England is being just as bad as them. Go to bum-fuck middle of nowhere places anywhere in Europe and you’ll find bigger idiots than the ones portrayed in a Michael Moore film.

    Just an opinion from a guy that’s spoiled enough to have seen and lived all over the world but wont exactly hold it against anyone who hasn’t.

  11. I think it is just that following international soccer simply broadens one’s exposure to the rest of the world. Your “average” American who just follows NFL and doesn’t travel internationally (we get very little vacation time in the US compared to the rest of the world) doesn’t get this exposure.

    There are other ways to get this international exposure…I play a MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) game, where I am interacting with people from all around the globe…and it does open your eyes to other cultures and people.




      1. Don’t get me started on paid vacations. The United States is one of the few western countries in the world where paid vacation is not a right. Also, even though most companies give two weeks of vacations to employees as part of their benefits, I came across some sad statistics a few weeks ago that said that a large percentage of Americans don’t take those two weeks.

        I couldn’t find the report, but here’s one from about 5 years ago that says that 47% of American executives surveyed wouldn’t use all of their vacation days due to job pressures:

        For those of you in the corporate world, you’ll understand why. At one of my previous jobs, my boss told me and my fellow managers that she would never grant her employees to take more than a few days of vacation at a time. And that she said that she would prefer us to take long weekends instead.

        The bottom line is that we need to take the vacation days we get and travel more so we can take in more experiences (whether it’s in the US or abroad).

        The Gaffer

        1. Although I havent had a boss tell me how to take vacation time, I am cognizant of workplace pressures and deadlines.

          I’ve been a contractor and had unpaid vacations so I know the full value of PTO. Your boss telling you how to take vacation that you’ve earned… kind of explains the causes for violence in the workplace.

          The problem with taking advantage of vacation is the fact that our “dollar” is next to useless outside of North America. I’d love to go back over to Ireland for $499 including hotel and rental car, but the conversion rate for food, trinkets, and metro transport kills the deal.

          Americans dont travel abroad because we cant afford to. Whether its work or the conversion rate, 8+ hour plane flights arent very attractive. Not to mention we’ve got better water parks, amusement parks, and natural beauty in our own country.

          Not trying to be nationalistic, but EuroDisney BLOWS.

          BTW, I’ve never met a person from Europe that couldnt point out Orlando on a map of the US.

          1. YEAH because thats a land mark name another city and i would be clue less and euro disney does blow because its in france duuuh

  12. This may have been addressed above, but I don’t think the correlation between more impressive geographical knowledge and EPL fandom is causal in nature. American’s who are into the Premier league are 1. Socio-economically better off, 2. Better educated, and 3. almost by default interested in foreign cultures. So yes, the fact that I now follow the Premier League means I know where Portsmouth is, but for the most part my Football fandom doesn’t drive my curiosity about the world, my curiosity about the world led me to Football.

  13. I think champions League is great for understanding some Eastern European geography.

    And don’t forget to explain the difference between being English and being British.

    my 2p for the day

  14. As an Irishman who now lives in America and considers himself American, I am growing tired of you Brits and your ignorant America bashing. Honestly, this is the most ignorant piece of garbage article I have read.

    1. Trust an Irishman to right something bad about brits. anywhere how is this igonrant or america bashing, as many have commented americans who watch soccer are usually more aware and knowlegable about the outside world. Also i do believe one of the reason why hooliganism isn’t a problem for american soccer is because middle class people are the majority of the spectators while in europe practically everyone watches it and noitice the link football clubs like Leeds United, West Ham, Cardiff, Millwall ect have terrible problems with hooliganism and noitice this they are placed in some of the poorest places in the country like Leeds, South London ect while clubs like Arsenal are placed in rich areas of england like north london and suffer practically no hooliganism, i’d bet $100 that there won’t be a pitch invasion/rushing the field at arsenal anytime soon. I definatley believe there is a link between the ecenomic situation the area a club is based in and the amount of football related violence that the clubs fans are involved in.

  15. Most American football fans who simply watch the Premier League still don’t know about the world beyond English speaking countries, and they mis pronounce the names of many Southern European and Latino players the way British presenters do.

    It’s those fans who actually do follow Serie A, La Liga, the Argentina League, the K-League, the J-League, etc that have broadened their horizons.

    It’s also striking that the educated elite in the UK doesn’t necessarily take to football the way the working class does.

    Those in Britain who actually know American geography or something about American culture besides the stereotypes pout forward by the Jerry Springers, etc tend to be less driven by football. They may support a a local club or Man U, but they aren’t per se the passionate fans we associate with English Football.

    The typical English football supporter has a number of misconceptions about the states that are equally if not even more frustrating to the misconceptions and ignorance most Americans who watch the NFL or College Football have towards the rest of the world.

    I’ve often theorized that you can often tell a person’s political leanings, geographic home and world view in the US based on whether they are most passionate about American Throwball, Basketball or Baseball.

    I suppose often times the same is true of football in the UK. It is certainly not a Tory sport.

  16. I hate to stereotype but I must say the American football fans I have spoken to seem a lot more educated and aware of the world around them as opposed to a lot of Americans who think nothing exists outside of America.

    American football fans are probably middle or high class too I take it? Either way like I said most of the fans I’ve spoken to of the sport are well educated on more than sports and football players internationally.

  17. Add this to the mix… with very few exceptions, there are no super stadiums in Europe (including the UK.)

    For example:
    Old Trafford seats 76,212
    Twickenham seats 82,000
    Camp Nou 98,772

    Ben Hill Griffin Stadium seats 88,548
    Neyland Stadium seats 102,037
    Big House seats 106,201
    Cowboys Stadium seats 105,121

    Eduaction has nothing to do with willingess to attend and spend money on tickets.

    1. Many college football stadia you point out with those high capacity figures have terracing. The only thing is american still sit on the terracing whereas in the UK they never did and, hence the problems with it. Those 100,000+ stadia in places like Ohio st., Notre Dame, etc. are not all seater like they have to be in the UK.

      1. @RedMD

        Not sure where you’re getting your information about American stadiums. Those figures do not include any kind of standing. They’re all for numbered seats. Terracing hasn’t been common in Americsn college or pro sports for at least 60 years.

  18. Some excellent observations!

    As an American who spent part of his youth in Cambridge, let me add a couple of things. When I was asked where I was from in the U.S. (Kentucky) I would get a blank stare as the person searched their geographic memory, then without fail, they would say, “Kentucky Fried Chicken!” Some enterprising people would try to follow up as to where it was. Usually the guess was “somewhere near Canada.”

    While we’re at it, I’ve always needed to get this off my chest – I did not start the Vietnam War! It wasn’t me! Go harass the girl from South Africa!

    And, my favorite English mispronunciation has to be “Don Quixote.” To this day I can’t think of Cervantes without thinking of an antidote to quicksand.

  19. Quick random question? Where is Africa on the map? And what do they stand for on it?

    Or am I confused and the map purposely leaves them out?

  20. “I don’t think I am smarter than the average American because I follow soccer. I think I follow soccer because I am smarter than the average American. Soccer in America is mostly is a passion of the bourgeoisie. It is a game played an supported by the educated, middle-class. As such it dovetails nicely with an interest or awareness of the world around us.”

    Touche, Zola. With the exception of the use of the word “bourgeoisie” I completeley concur with your comment.

  21. I agree with you in some respects. Most soccer/football fans enjoyed the game and sought out the best display of it. In that process we discovered new places and regions that we were unaware of. As our passion has grown so has our knowledge of different places. Why is this? Well in my opinion we as fans in the US have to be inquisitive to first search out the best soccer on the planet then to understand the teams, locations, cultures etc. Then as our interest expands and we view World Cups, Euro’s and Champions League off shoots our inquisitive minds drive us to understand where they are from…..driving the geographic knowledge.

  22. Your right american football fans have got a better knolage of europian citys and countrys beacause of football but that doesnt necssicerily make them smarter now does it, i am from Newown mid-wales and i follow football i do no most of my citys and countrys around europe than the average person was

    ps- some one write me an email if they`v heard or been to newtown in mid wales :L

    1. Jack, I’ve spent many a summer in Newtown. My mother’s side of the family is from Newtown and also lived in Berriew. Lovely part of the world. I miss it so much at times. Do you support the Robins down at Latham Park at all?

      The Gaffer

  23. What a piece of SMUG self satisfying garbage this post is!!!! Unlike you who has somehow managed to lump together all americans that dont like soccer as “Hilly billy, gun toting, redneck, ignoramus” I myself have met plenty of Brits on vacation and they seem to genuinly warm and pleasant people who like to have a good time, which is very similar to…Guess what…Americans!!!

    America is the most diverse country in the entire world. We have more Spanish speaking residents in the US than Spain has!!!! We have more black people in the US than Europe has Combined!!!!!!!

    As for geography not being our strong suit? well you are right it is not, in fact i teach geography in the US and because of how isolated the US is from other places, plus are longer workday, plus our lack of vacation time (Me not included) it is hard to travel outside the US. In fact just for me to get to another country (Canada) it would take me 6.5 hours by car, and if i wanted to go one country north id end up on the Arctic ocean. If I want to go to Mexico im 26 hours away and than add another 30 hours to the next country south which is guatemala. But than again being a dumb american i couldnt possibly get that?

    I want to like soccer, I really really do. But if SMUG eltist soccer jerk (who has to mock other sports) keeps writing junk like this on the internet than I think im going to stick with NASCAR, Shooting my Gun, and Chewing Tobacco in my trailor park.

    O yea if you want to make soccer a better sport, just enclose the playing field, pave over the field with concrete, add ice, put skates on players, and give them sticks. O wait the North Americans thankfully already thought of that!!!

  24. Yes, it probably is a red state vs blue state thing. Just as so many blue-staters disgust red-staters with their assumption that their accents make them smarter, many American (native and foreign ex-pat) soccer fans disgust most other fans with their self-congratulation and bashing the intelligence of everyone else.
    “I think I follow soccer because I am smarter than the average American.” Really, dude? I’m embarrassed for you. Classism and placism are just the socially acceptable stepsisters of racism. Knock it off before all of us get painted with your brush.

  25. Hi everone, just too let you know that I love fútbol (soccer) and today trying to get some information (google search) regarding this great and mass passionate game I got this article that after read all type of postings is kind of messy at some points & weird but interesting. Then, this is just a blog and I respect the Gaffer that wrote it & show us his point of view and with all respect to him and everybody that has a point & so do I, please, we must keep always in mind that this game/sport and any sport does not make people less or more smarter, educated or better than other, as some posts already stated that or some trying to state the opposite as the original one. People has opportunities, life-style self lerned or by parents education, family traditions and so and so…People that maybe never went out their countries, maybe an US Citizen or a Latin American dude or an African, etc., because of the money or other condition so being poor is a desgrace by itself but not all people that lives in that kind of condition are less human than a rich people and viceversa, then adding to that a person that doesn’t have the chance to be a world traveler has to be pointed as an ignorant? Thank you if up here you read my comment, have a great day and forgive my English, since I’m a former student of English for foreing people in Howar Communit Center, Columbia Maryland, and please support your favorite sport, your family and friends in the best way you could possible do.Chaocito!!!?

  26. hmm. What to think of this article. I would say…smug. Biased. Ignorant. Stuck up. Un-informed. Classifying. Judgemental. Trash. I’m sure I am missing something. And those of you who replied in agreement are just as bad. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves.

  27. Yes toota rhya, beside all those bad adjectives, what do you have to show us how is a good way to post or have manners, or good judgments? is funny do you know? how could somebody be so annoyed or disgusted by something but couldn’t express any possitive thoughts in regards of that!
    Cheers to ever1, special D Gaffer!

  28. HAVE A NICE DAY EVERY1…thnx 4 d new post DGaffer. maybe there is a reason on the way soccer fan/economic status…good idea 4 a thesis in social studies. c ya on Brazil 2014…

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