Sunday, July 17, 2011

Summer Soccer Blues

US Soccer has never been stronger. There has never been this much interest in soccer in the U.S... ever. You could also argue that it has never taken a bigger punch to the gut after the 2 heartbreaking losses in championship finals in 2011. The interest climbs up to a high point, and when the finals are done, only the cult like following the sport has here soldiers on and waits until another World Cup for the bandwagon to come alive again. This is a sad fact to me. Soccer is a glorious game, and should not be treated like this in the U.S. I can understand not having the interest during the MLS season, or even watching EPL games on ESPN2 at 7 AM on a Saturday, but try to maintain some interest please.

As I write this, the 2011 Herbalife World Football Challenge is going on in the U.S and Canada. It involves some of the world's best clubs... and yet is only a side dish to the hoardes of baseball games and lockout coverage. This is also troubling because ESPN covers soccer better than they do any other sport. Will anyone who has been in love with Abby Wambach or Alex Morgan want to go see some WPS in a college stadium with teams you have never heard of before? Sadly not. All the momentum from this stunning run from the USWNT will stop here, and women's soccer will not even be a footnote until 2015, and that is sad.

This goes for the men's game too. After the World Cup, did we see an amazing spike of popularity for MLS? In some places yes, but as a whole no. Did the same spike happen for European leagues? Nope. It will take another amazing run by a U.S team in order for soccer to regain a status like it had during the Women's World Cup. And this is not meant to downgrade all of the people who supported the women who wore the red, white, and blue so valiantly in Germany. It's meant to question our sports culture that unfortunately is stagnant and takes a shock to the system in order to change.

The sports culture in this country is a hard thing to break, I know, but adding a little soccer to your day can't hurt. The last 2 World Cups have shown us what true drama and tension are, and even though you can get that in all 4 major American sports... you can't get that same feeling that soccer brings.

Here is something to consider: the more the casual American sports fan cares about soccer, the more popular it will become in this country. The more popular the sport becomes, the more little kids will play the sport and grow up with it. That one kid who you would never expect to become a star could become the next Landon Donovan or Cobi Jones, but he may not have that chance to fulfill his dreams because soccer isn't as popular here. He'll try baseball or basketball instead. If you want the U.S to succeed more on the international stage for soccer, make the sport more popular at home.

All I ask is that you watch a little MLS, or some of the EPL, the World Football Challenge, and especially EURO 2012 and the U.S world cup qualifiers. It will make a world of difference to the health of the sport in this great country. I know soccer will never reach the European and South American levels of popularity here, but if the overall level can rise, you never know what could happen.

Just remember: South Florida and Texas have produced NHL players as of now. The U.S can produce a world cup winner if soccer just got a slight boost in popularity.

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