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.