We’re nearing the end of this glorious World Cup, which gives us time to look back and assess, to see who has benefitted the most from the tournament, and who have been the biggest losers.
1. TV ratings
The viewing figures for World Cup matches on US television continue to soar, reaching several new milestones including the USA-Portugal match being the most-watched soccer game in American history. In fact, it was the most watched non-football event ever screened on ESPN. Now that’s impressive.
Soccer is an extremely tribal sport, but one of the interesting aspects of this World Cup is how it has united fans in different ways. The clearest example of this is the glee many Americans have experienced from seeing the United States, Costa Rica and Mexico all making significant imprints on this tournament. Now, I’m not saying that USMNT fans were cheering for Mexico against Netherlands, but hopefully the strong performances by CONCACAF countries has silenced the doubters.
3. Free flowing, attacking soccer
Much like last season’s English Premier League season, where it was often a case of attack at every opportunity, this World Cup has been all about scoring goals. This is partially down to some dodgy defending, but it’s also been a result of coaches encouraging their players to attack, attack, attack instead of parking the bus for a draw. Whether or not this tournament is a one-off in that regard, we’ll have to see. But it’s wonderful to watch.
4. Last Call on ESPN
Often times discussion-based sports shows can seem a bit forced, even rehearsed on certain occasions, but ESPN has changed all of that with a new approach to soccer analysis, with their relaxed and informative Last Call show. It’s not only interesting to hear the opinions addressed, but to see their interactions with each other as well. It’s been a breath of fresh air.
5. Everton Football Club
I don’t think anyone is surprised by this at all, but Everton manager Roberto Martinez is as good a pundit as he is a manger. His work on ESPN’s 2010 World Cup coverage made many stand up and take notice, and the network’s decision to bring him back this time around was truly a no-brainer. I’d suspect he’s turning many Americans into fans of Everton, as well as the heroic goalkeeping by Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard for Team USA. It’s been a great summer for Everton, and they haven’t even kicked a ball yet.
6. USMNT fans at public venues
From an American perspective, this has to be one of the most exciting aspects of the tournament — seeing soccer fans coming out in force in places like Grant Park in Chicago, and Cowboy Stadium, as well as countless bars and pubs nationwide. The amount of passion shown by US fans this summer — in Brazil and the USA — has been extraordinary.
7. Goal-line technology
Video technology’s belated debut on the international stage is a welcome one, since all we ever want is to be completely sure of every goal-line decision. Well, unless you’re Jonathan Pearce. Now it’s time for the Bundesliga and MLS to get with the times and add the technology.