7 Ways that World Cup 2010 Will Change America

NEW YORK - JUNE 26: Ariel Mard (C) watches the televised 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa match between USA and Ghana at Jack Demsey's bar on June 26, 2010 in New York City. The United States team was defeated 2-1 by Ghana in overtime, eliminating them from the tournament. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

One of the things about the World Cup is that it puts the sport into perspective. With 64 games in one month, it’s easy to get a cross-section of where a country is. How well it’s doing relative to the other teams in the tournament. What the level of officiating is. And what improvements are necessary. FIFA, and most countries, know where they stand after a World Cup ends. And they know what work is ahead of them.

But if we take a second to consider what impact that the 2010 World Cup already has and will continue to have over the next 12 months, it’s quite awe-inspiring. Soccer finally got the respect it deserved. Record breaking TV numbers. More media exposure than ever before. Everyone and their grandmother seemed to be following the World Cup or at least aware that the tournament was on. Very few dinosaur sports journalists bashing the sport. The biggest meme of the summer? Vuvuzelas – which got everyone talking about the World Cup. Now comes the challenging part. keeping the momentum going after the World Cup ends.

Here are my thoughts on 7 ways that the 2010 World Cup will change America:

  1. More Americans will play in Europe. And those Americans who are already there have a big opportunity to move up the ladder to bigger clubs that they’re at now. There’s been transfer speculation that Liverpool and AC Milan are interested in signing Clint Dempsey. Landon Donovan could leapfrog from Everton to Manchester City, Chelsea or another Premier League club. Meanwhile, back in the States, foreign scouts will be on high alert looking at Major League Soccer and USSF Division 2 for the next big thing.
  2. When the bidding for the US TV rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup begins, expect some serious competition. During the 2010 World Cup, ESPN has shown how high TV ratings can be. And, if the United States team does even better in the future by hiring someone like Jurgen Klinsmann as coach, expect the TV ratings to go through the roof. The one TV network that could outbid ESPN is Comcast-NBC Universal especially if they don’t want ESPN to get the crown jewels of sport – both the Summer Olympic Games and World Cup.
  3. Premier League TV ratings in the United States will climb marginally. While the Premier League is definitely not the only game in town when it comes to soccer on US television, it sometimes feels like that way with TV viewing audiences of more than 500,000 for the top EPL games shown at 4:30am PT on a Saturday morning. With more Premier League games expected to be televised on ESPN this coming season than ever before, ratings can only increase especially with the familiar voices of Ian Darke, Martin Tyler, Efan Ekoku and others forming a perfect bridge from the World Cup to the start of the Premier League season.
  4. Bundesliga interest will increase. German soccer has always had a special place in the heart of many Americans after the successful TV show from the late 70s and early 80s named Soccer Made In Germany. But with the Bundesliga stars and Germany team being so impressive in World Cup 2010, especially with incredible players such as Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira, expect TV ratings (and online viewing numbers) to increase on both ESPN3.com and GolTV.
  5. Expect more bars and restaurants to show an interest in soccer. One of the big revelations for many people nationwide has been the success that bars and restaurants have had during the World Cup with venues packed with passionate soccer fans. When business owners see that type of reaction and dollars during a recession, it definitely opens people’s eyes to the relatively untapped commercial aspect of the game stateside. Beginning with the 2010-2011 European seasons, expect to see more bars and restaurants becoming soccer friendly in the United States.
  6. Twitter adoption will continue to skyrocket among soccer fans. Twitter’s Biz Stone and his staff got a wakeup call at how popular the World Cup is worldwide after Twitter crashed on numerous occasions from the surge of World Cup traffic. The tournament was definitely a hot topic on tech shows and websites, and deservedly so. But now that the World Cup is almost over, expect soccer fans to use Twitter more often than before during the 2010-11 Premier League season, for starters.
  7. More major advertisers interested in sponsoring sport during years between World Cup tournaments. With those TV ratings, how could advertisers possibly ignore soccer anymore?

The success of ESPN’s coverage of the 2010 World Cup has long-term effects that will long outlive the tournament itself. ESPN has raised the bar several levels so much so that Fox Soccer Channel has to invest some serious money into its production and talent in order to come even close to the quality that ESPN has shown. Whatever happens between now and the World Cup Final on July 11, we’ll remember ESPN’s World Cup coverage fondly for many years to come.

ESPN’s Executive Vice President for Content John Skipper deserves a knighthood. If Skipper was English, he would be in the running to get a MBE medal for the way he put his neck on the line by spending more money on the 2010 World Cup than any other sporting event in ESPN history. He put his reputation on the line by fully getting behind soccer, and his perseverance as well as the hard work of his ESPN team has paid off in a major way. And World Cup 2010 is just the beginning. ESPN has rights to the 2014 tournament too. Expect even bigger and better things in the future from ESPN beginning with the 2012 European Championship which may be the best Euros we’ve ever experienced stateside in terms of coverage.

Speaking of soccer and TV coverage, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and, to a lesser extent, Bolton Wanderers couldn’t have picked a better time to play their preseason friendlies in America. All four teams will be here beginning next week to play friendlies across the country.

When you think about it, it’s incredible what changes will come as a result of just one tournament that’s played over the course of one month. An entire season can be played and it doesn’t have the impact that a one-month tournament has. And that’s just another one of many reasons why the World Cup is so influential both inside and outside of the sport of soccer.

24 thoughts on “7 Ways that World Cup 2010 Will Change America”

  1. Not to get all Bill Simmons-y here, but the fact that all the games are broadcast in HD has helped a lot for bringing in casual viewers. As it stands now, for most of us the only games we can see in HD are the ESPN EPL and La Liga games (which are never promoted at all). I think that one thing you missed from your list is the inclusion of FSC HD into more cable lineups thus broadening the reach of HD soccer from Europe. This of course would require more HD production in England, Germany, Spain, etc. in order to have any benefit over here but I imagine they will move to 100% HD production soon.

  2. I think HD is going to be huge in all this. If Fox Soccer can’t get a few of the major players (especially Direct TV and Comcast) to show its HD channel before the start of the new season, I think they’ll be leaving some potential new fans on the table.

    By the way, don’t think I’ve seen it mentioned here but Celtic and Sporting are playing a friendly at Fenway Park in Boston on July 25.

  3. Does fox soccer even have an HD channel? It does not exist on Directv. If they do have one then directv is missing out big time. Also, what are the chances that ESPN has broader coverage in the states this season versus last? Did they lock in anymore game times? Last year it was either the 7:30am game or the monday afternoon game. Will they get any of the 10:00am or later starts?

  4. Gaffer,

    Has ESPN announced their Euro 2012 commentary crew yet? Which company has the rights in England?

  5. I can’t but help hope that some American Fans will seek out the home grown game and start attending MLS and the USL/NASL games. Also, maybe ESPN, or other venue will start televising more American games.

    Mind you, I know a lot of fans of the European, Mexican or South American games believe that American Soccer is second rate soccer, and it certainly is compared to the top European Leagues. But if we don’t watch it, it won’t get the revenue it needs to get better.

    1. I would be more likely to support the MLS if there was a local side. Right now there are large areas of the country where you are pretty much out of luck…

      Granted I am not privy to their business model, but why no teams in the Southeast (since the contraction at least)?

      At some point you have to wonder, am I supporting an inferior product so it can get better, or am I rewarding them for providing an inferior product?

    2. I too hope that more fans come out in places like Houston, Columbus, and other places that have low attendance, but MLS attendance is already comparable or better than international leagues of a similar level. An average attendance of ~16,500 across the league is pretty good already. This isn’t to say I don’t hope attendance increases, just that I feel we should acknowledge that the MLS is doing fine drawing people.

      Television will be the key to future growth, just as it was for American Football, in my opinion. I know some people in the US disapproved of the ever-present coverage of the World Cup, but look what it did for getting people to tune in. Increased exposure is the key to the major growth many soccer fans here are hoping for.

  6. I will spend my time enjoying other interests I have outside of soccer & other sports. I am thinking about attending the NY Football Challenge.

  7. If we’re goign to talk about attendance, lets look at it across the board. What the MLS pulls in is decent, but compared to the larger sports (with the exception of hockey and NHL because they are typically played in smaller stadiums) they still have a long way to go.


    Soccer will never take off in this country if it continues to promote MLS. The product isn’t that great and you can’t expect the average fan to watch MLS when they know there is a better league out there. We’ve hit the high water mark for MLS in terms of viewership (maybe a spike after the WC, but by next year, it comes down). Promote the EPL, get people excitied about a Man Utd vs Man City game. If Donovan pulls up his skirt and decides to play for Man City type of team, you will certainly see ratings jump. Not only will fans turn in to see Donovan, but they will get hooked once they see what great style of play that is out there (and games that aren’t all played on fake grass)

    1. Considering the fact that MLS is an attempt at establishing a fifth major team sport in the United States, its not doing bad. Attendance is not only close to what the NHL and the NBA are drawing, but it is also comparable or better than most other soccer leagues out there. The MLS is nipping at the heels of the English League Championship and Brasileirão in terms of average attendance.

      In my opinion, the USA needs a vital domestic league if we want Soccer to thrive in this country. EPL and other foreign leagues will only get it so far. Many people need to have home town teams… or at least ones relatively near to them, to feel a part of the game. Going to see games, regularly will help inspire kids to stick with soccer. Now, I am not saying the MLS is perfect, but until something better comes along, we need to support it and work to make it better otherwise soccer in this country might die like it did in the early 20th century.


    1. Two points.

      1. Have you not yet learned that it is not polite to write in all caps? We are not Romans here inscribing on marble. Using all caps is more or less equivalent to shouting.

      2. Just a thought, but perhaps Celtic didn’t get mentioned because they are not an EPL team but a Scottish League team?

      Last thought, ex pats or no, it seems to me that Manchester United has a much higher profile in the States than Celtic… particularly amongst those who are not (yet!?) soccer fans.

  9. in your opinion maybe. manchester united only have a higher profile because they play in a highly over rated league. englands perfomance in the world cup proves that.

  10. also you say they have a much higher profile especialy with those who are not ‘soccer’ fans. well wot does that prove except man utd hav a bigger profile as a business. thats due to money and having american owners. nothing to do with football, history or being a way of life for the fans!

  11. if only you knew how the english fans ana media mock the american game and people. they mocked you throughout the world cup. as they mock most teams because they for some reason feel superior. if u guys knew how the american game and your team were perceived in the english media i have a feeling you wouldn’t think so highly of the english league or their teams.

  12. I could care less about how many English fans feel about the American Game. I enjoy both the MLS and the English Leagues. I hope one day that American MLS teams will be able to compete head to head with the best the EPL or any other top league can throw at us, but we aren’t here yet.

    Here is a clue TREV-BHOY, sports is a business. Any professional sports club that is going to be ultimately successful needs to be run like a business. That being said, I actually think Manchester United’s fame has a lot to do with David Beckham. Since the movie _Bend it Like Beckham_ came out while he was with Manchester United, and he later married a Spice Girl near the top of their popularity, it brought attention to Manchester United that it might have otherwise not received. Also, its run of success in the 90 and early 2000s probably attracted some success as well.

    As for the performance of the English in the World Cup, it really doesn’t prove much of any thing in and of itself about the EPL just like a poor showing in the Olympic Basketball tournament says very little about the NBA.

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