After a month of World Cup action, facing this week’s matchless void was like stumbling out of a bar and into the blinding sunlight. And if the USMNT’s addictive run was your first taste of the sport then you may be feeling like Lindsay Lohan sitting poolside at the Château Marmont right now – despondent and wondering “what now?”
Thankfully, there’s never been a better time to be a soccer fan. Here are six ways how you can keep that World Cup high going:
1. Watch Major League Soccer:
Is the quality of play anywhere near that of the top European leagues? Absolutely not. But that excuse doesn’t cut it. After all, college football is our second-most watched sport and March Madness is one of our biggest sporting events. Finding the next USMNT star is easy thanks to extensive coverage on ESPN, NBC, and MLS Live. With 19 teams mostly playing in beautifully intimate soccer specific stadiums, you’re probably not far from being able to experience soccer up close and in person. Like baseball, you’ll enjoy the sublime thrill of drinking beer and eating a hot dog outside on a sultry summer night, but unlike baseball you’ll be watching an exciting sport in a loud atmosphere that won’t take four hours to finish.
To learn more about MLS, check out World Soccer Talk’s primer.
2. Watch European Soccer:
England’s Premier League is the de facto choice for American fans if only because of our shared language. And compared to our cross-pond brethren, we’re spoiled as every single match is available through NBC’s Live Extra app. WatchEspn offers Holland’s Eredivisie, the incubator of near-world conquering Dutch talent and Portugal’s Primeira Liga, whose clubs consistently appear in the latter stages of the Champions League and Europa League. beIn Sport offers a trifecta of top European leagues in Spain’s La Liga, home of the Latin world’s brightest stars, France’s Ligue 1, producer of some of the Premier League’s silkiest strikers in history from Eric Cantona to Thierry Henry and Didier Drogba, and Italy’s historically dominant Serie A. If you’d like to actually see actual Englishmen playing soccer, try beIN Sport’s Championship coverage. Germany’s Bundesliga offers the chance to see most of the world champions playing in fervent and festive fan atmospheres. But to catch the Teutonic tussles, you’ll need the increasingly hard-to-find Gol TV.
Many of Europe’s elite clubs will be playing all over America this summer, highlighted by Bayern Munich match against the MLS’ best in Portland on August 6.
World Soccer Talk has a full schedule of summer friendlies available here.
3. Read a Book:
Soccer is a fast-paced sport whose finest moments pass in a flash. The best soccer writing allow us to revel in glorious times gone by or wallow in the low ones while illuminating aspects of the game we never thought of. Arthur Hopcraft’s “The Football Man” collects his 1960s ruminations on the English game. Jonathan Wilson delivers an entertaining and edifying introduction to soccer tactics in “Inverting the Pyramid.” “Soccernomics,” by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski, challenges many popularly-held notions about the sport. Nick Hornby’s “Fever Pitch” eloquently expresses the irrationality of being a sports fan.
4. Watch a Movie:
There are enough soccer-themed classics in every genre to fill the shelves of a shuttered Blockbuster Video. “Mike Bassett: Football Manager” is a hilarious look at a gaffer’s life. Your soccer-hating significant other will warm to a young Colin Firth in the adaptation of Nick Hornby’s “Fever Pitch.” The acrobatic Stephen Chow delivers stupefying stunts in the family-friendly action movie “Shaolin Soccer.” “Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait” is an intense and intellectual film that pairs Mogwai’s moody music with footage of the legend from a random 2006 Real Madrid match. No list would be complete without the John Huston-helmed “Escape to Victory.” Comedy, drama, bromance, action, suspense, history, Michael Caine, Sly Stallone, Pele, and Bobby Moore, this one truly has it all.
Here’s a list of 20 crowd-pleasers to get your soccer film festival started.
5. Wear a Shirt:
The NHL has some of the finest-looking logos in sports, but wearing their bulky and heavy jerseys in public will make you look like Kevin Smith. Baseball jerseys are almost as bulky, which, conversely to the sport’s nature, makes them uncomfortable to wear in the summer. The NBA knows that you can’t wear one of its jerseys without awkwardly pairing it with an undershirt, which is why they pushed those unpopular sleeved jerseys on their players last season. As for NFL jerseys, repeat after me, “I’m not a number…” Most soccer shirts are works of understated beauty by simply combining a T-shirt’s wearability with bright colors and your chosen badge of honor.
There’s no better place to begin your collection than at World Soccer Shop.
6. Play the Sport:
More and more kids are playing the beautiful game thanks to organizations like AYSO, but it’s just as important that adults get out there too. These days we’re more likely to bump into our friends in a Bed, Bath & Beyond parking lot or under enemy fire playing “Call of Duty.” Most sports are hard to play the older you get. Good luck finding a football league. Basketball is great until years of jumping up and down on concrete leaves you with a Deron Williams-esque vertical and a concussion from 19-year olds down at the park rejecting your lay-up off your forehead. Between paying for ice time and gear, you’ll need a second mortgage to play hockey. And softball is about as good a workout as sitting at your desk sweating out TPS reports.
Soccer is perfect for adults because you can get a decent game going with as little as four people and next to no equipment besides cleats and shirts for goalposts. All that running on grass provides a great workout without ravaging your joints. So get off your bumpy couch, America, and get onto a bumpy pitch.