After Great Gains During World Cup, Hard Part Begins Again For American Soccer Fans

It’s been such a great ride, this World Cup. We still have two matches left to consume, but the TV ratings have been through the roof, and the buzz for soccer has never been stronger around the United States.

Now comes the hard part. The battle begins anew very shortly.

If we want to see this country become a soccer nation, it’s not going to happen with a bunch of one-off articles in Forbes or the New York Post. It’s not going to happen with World Cup TV commercials like the one from Kia that claims that soccer only matters once every four years. And I also don’t believe it moves forward when sites like Deadspin segregate soccer into a completely separate entity called Screamer. How does that break down the walls?

The truth is, I’m not sure how it’s going to happen.

I had a debate recently with a soccer reporter about this. Sometimes I unfairly target the media with this notion that they conveniently carve out soccer into this niche box, never to commingle with the popular sports of the time. He had a point in this. It’s poor business to give soccer any more than it deserves. If you’re running a site tied to sponsors, are you really going to stick your neck out and potentially lose viewers or readers — especially when you have big contracts with the Big 4 Sports? I’d have to say, “No” is the realistic (and unfortunate) answer.

So it seems that it comes down to us, the soccer-loving public.

One thing is certain for soccer lovers in America. During the World Cup, we’re united behind the Red, White, and Blue. During the remaining 3 years and 10+ months, we’re anywhere in the continuum from non-World Cup apathy to hardcore European soccer fans to hardcore American soccer fans, and everything in between.

We have to engage on how to bring this all together more often. Typically we get caught up in the angst of roster rules and salary caps and promotion/relegation. Those are important topics, but they are also stumbling blocks on the road to getting soccer off of Page 6 of the Sports Section (if it’s in there at all).

The fractures in this soccer universe are real, but they are also conditioned. For instance, the fact I use “soccer” grates at certain people from the get-go. I call it football as well, but these are semantics. It’s the same sport.

I can’t sit here and make a European soccer lover like Major League Soccer. Conversely, a person who thinks the world of MLS isn’t going to agree that implementation of the FIFA guidances on League and FA structure is the way to go.

Instead we need to be together in fighting the ever-surging wave of soccer apathy, and the narratives that the old guard in the media cling to even today. This mentality slowly erodes, but it still seems very present in society today.

How do we hasten this process? That’s an answer that’s unclear, but my gut says that we have to work through the divisive nature of the American soccer landscape. Clearly we will have to do the hard work because the mainstream media will not carry this torch without proof it will fly with the masses.

So keep talking about soccer to your friends. Keep supporting leagues, whether it be the EPL, MLS, or other – especially on television. Reconsider supporting your local team, given the fact the US is expansive and you may not have one.

It’s easy to get complacent with this, but we need to renew our energy towards influencing the norm. We’re in an unfortunate climate where revenue and TV ratings dictate the narrative. How can you do your part to facilitate the rise of soccer in America? It’s something we’ll likely be asking ourselves for many years to come.

8 thoughts on “After Great Gains During World Cup, Hard Part Begins Again For American Soccer Fans”

  1. I’m a big soccer fan Earl, but I have to ask: why do we need to create a soccer nation? We have had MLS for almost 20 years now so it’s nothing new, and of course the overseas leagues have been there for over 100 years. I see these kind of articles frequently, and can’t see the benefit of constantly barraging friends/family with soccer-related news.

    Is it to promote the sport? MLS and the cable networks have been shoving it down our throats now for the past few years to mixed results. People who love to drink and wear scarves are natural fit. But who else, and why? We have a lot of pro sports, and people will naturally gravitate to the sport that fits their interests fairly easy. Many are put off by the low scoring (like hockey), and for that reason alone won’t entertain the idea of watching. I can see their side. Now I do talk about motion/pace/etc. when they say that, but it usually won’t change their mind on the subject.

    I guess I don’t want to walk into Walmart to see Manchester United stuff staring me in the face the whole time I’m shopping. I like the fact that soccer isn’t present on McDonald’s fries containers every week, or on Cheverolet ads (though the time might be coming!). I’m not one of the people who want to keep it a “secret”, but I also don’t want it bastardized or “Americanized” anymore than it already has been here. I don’t need cheerleaders at every game. I cringe thinking about Hollywood celebs getting their dirty paws on it.

    I know I’ll catch flak for this post, and I rushed a response as I don’t have time to flesh out all of my feelings on the subject, but while I like the camaraderie that soccer brings, I also like being able to enjoy the status quo. I also think that the MLS/Foreign debate is a very important one that directly impacts soccer here. It needs to be fixed for us to move forward.

    1. It seems like a natural desire, to see something you love flourish. It’s not quite there yet. Maybe it will be someday.

  2. It has only been a great WC during the group stage of the tournament. The elimination rounds have -for the most part- been woeful!

    The biggest losers are us! The viewing public, who invest so much emotion into this tournament and have to put up with cynical defensive, diving, cheating, unsportsmanlike conduct from teams (particularly in the knockout stages) that FIFA does nothing about.

    Teams line up to sing their anthems, act all patriotic, and then bunker 10 men in front of their goals and cross their fingers for penalty kicks. It’s an absolute disgrace! This isn’t sport. This is a farce! No other sport puts up with this nonsense. It seems the collective IQ of football is incapable of solving this decay.

    It goes against all the values of what Sport -as a concept- is about. Sport is about taking risks, proving yourself, honour. There is no honour in many of these matches. The importance of a football match is now inversely proportional to the actual excitement level of the match because the sport rewards cynicism and negative play. The players and managers are making fools of all of us, the viewers and the overlords of the game (as well as many commentators) do not organize to end this garbage.

    One advantage of seeing the Women’s WorldCcup with the men’s cup next year will be that the public will see 10 times more sportsmanship in the women’s game (much less diving, cheating, negative football) and it may embarass the men into actually playing with honor.

    The thing is that simply enforcing rules already in the books could penalize the negative play: start calling all that defensive fouling in the box on corner kicks and free kicks; allow replays and a challenge system (say, 2 or 3 per match) so players don’t feel they have to dive to get fouls called; create an index to reward positive play -instead of penalty kicks- to send teams through to the next round during the elimination stages; give zero points for a Nil-Nil match so teams don’t start matches with 1 point already in the bag.

    Do something…..!!

    1. Well said, Jon B.! What is World Cup soccer’s best offensive game plan for most teams? Repeated melodramatic unmanly flops to draw penalty kicks, which epitomizes the apparently-not-ironically-named “beautiful game” as it sadly gets results, as well as speaks of the paucity of integrity of soccer-worshiping counties (fair play anyone?) compared to us beneath contempt ‘uninformed’ U.S. fans who calls ’em as they sees ’em, “Look daddy, the emperor has no clothes.” So, to sum up: Diving (cheating) rewarded, even tacitly encouraged. Hard play quelled. No real American can accept this.

  3. Part of the problem for the US men’s team is that the public and mainstream sports media only pays attention once every four years.

    The readers on this site are, like me, watching the Gold Cup every two years and all of the USA World Cup qualifiers. Mainstream American sports media and average American sports fans just don’t get excited about the Gold Cup or the qualifiers unless the USA is playing Mexico.

    I’m hoping that the 2016 Copa America tournament to be held in the US is a big ratings, attendance, and financial success. The potential to see the USA play meaningful games against Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile or any of the other South American teams gets me, and I suspect the average American sports fan, much more excited than seeing USA vs any of the CONCACAF nations despite the fact those nations have quality teams.

    If the 2016 Copa America is a success my hope is that we will see a joint North & South America Copa America tournament every 4 years. This scenario will give American sports fans a big tournament to follow every 2 years assuming the US men’s team continues to qualify for the World Cup.

  4. Simply by watching as much of the game on tv no matter what league it is will continue to grow the game. We who care about the game love almost any March for many league or competition. Getting the general public to follow the players from the WC teams in league action can be critical. MLS needs to push seeing the people who made the WC interesting live in your own city.

  5. Here are two truths about Soccer and sports in general in the USA:

    1) American fans care more about US Men pro sports. Women’s pro sports, not so much. (eg WNBA, NWSL).

    2) Americans will always root for the national team.

    Only way to make soccer more popular in the USA is if USMNT does well in international tournaments that matter (meaning, NOT the Gold Cup).

    USWomensNT becoming champions doesnt move the needle.

  6. Here’s three ways to create a US “Soccer Awakening”

    1) shortcut method: have an american superstar goal scorer playing in the best teams in europe (RMA, FCB, Chelsea, ManUnited, Juventus). american goalkeepers and defenders dont count.

    2) Make it to the SemiFinals in the next world cup in 2018.

    3) MERGE both CONCACAF and CONMEBOL. if FIBA Americas basketball can do it, why not in FIFA? at least now, USA has a chance at doing something meaningful in a relevant tournament every 2 years (world cup and America’s Gold Cup) instead of 4 yrs (only World cup)

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