I usually try and avoid this kind of debate about why the US doesn’t embrace the sport of soccer. The thing is I’m not sure the sport isn’t being embraced.
I can still remember having to hunt for any coverage of the Cup in ’90. Yeah, I got to see all the games I most wanted to see that summer. But it wasn’t easy. When the US played Italy that summer the stadium in Rome was packed with Italian fans. When the showed the small contingent of US fans, it was a group of about 20 people who looked like they could have been the players’ parents. Fast forward to this summer when the US played Italy at the same stage, the stadium was packed with US fans. You could clearly hear the fans from this side of the Atlantic getting behind their team. In addition, ESPN has really given the competition a great deal of coverage. Yeah, it’s not been without complaints, but overall, the coverage is light years ahead of what we saw just 16 years ago.
Back to my original point, is the US embracing the sport. Well, it depends on what you mean by embrace. The 30 or 40 something crowd probably will never give the sport and the World Cup a second look…old habits etc. However, take a look at what demographic was spending their hard earned…err Financial Aid Checks on a trip to Germany this summer. It’s the 18-30 crowd. Those are mostly college age Americans cheering on the team. Think about it, a 20-year-old college student today was only 9 when MLS first started. He/She would have been 7 when the World Cup took place over here. All through their youth they’ve had MLS, EPL, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and several other leagues to watch every week on Fox Soccer Channel, GolTV and ESPN. Even though traditional media thumbs its collective noses at the sport, the kids today don’t really remember a time they didn’t have access to the internet and an infinite about of soccer coverage.
No, Sunday’s World Cup Final won’t see they type of Unofficial Holiday status the Super Bowl gets in this country…but it’s getting closer all the time. Look how far things have come in 16 years…at this pace, where will the sport be in another 16 years?