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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.