Soccer. For us in the US, it’s one of those sports. Sure, almost everyone knows what it is, and a lot reading this played it in some form as a youngster, But being realistic, it’s following at a professional level is not nearly that of other big name sports like American Style Football, Hockey, Basketball, and you can throw in a few others as well.
Now, I’m not writing that there is NO following here in the states. There obviously is. But it’s not nearly the level it is in other countries. Several countries around the world treat their soccer teams like Gods. Their games are big events. But here, Soccer is treated like a side attraction most times, carried on TV networks wanting to carry “live sports” but not being able to carry those sports that make buckets of money more.
Why is that?
With the World Cup going on now, you would think EVERYONE would be into it. The games are being carried on TV Live. People who don’t follow the sport know there is something going on and the United States has a team in it. But by and large, that is roughly it. The person on the street has no idea who is facing who, and don’t even know who they are. News organizations have a field day doing the “basics of the World Cup” type stories going around, and it seems like every World Cup, men’s and women’s, there is a spike in the interest of Soccer, but then it dies away before the next event takes over and we start the whole thing again.
Why do we keep doing this? Because we weren’t raised on it.
It’s weird to think, but it is true. A lot of sports “catch on” because it is there for generations. Baseball is considered “America’s pastime” because of the image of parents bringing their kids to the ballpark. People grew up watching the game and know the rules and the players. Same goes for Basketball. Same for Hockey. Hell, Pro wrestling has that same following. It brings us all back to another time.
Soccer has tried that, several times. But most people’s memories of soccer aren’t going to the big game and watching the home team win. Most Americans remember kicking around a soccer ball in a playground or part of a school team. Not much more than that.
And there is the other problem. Business leaders who toss buckets of money at things like this don’t seem to get it. Leagues start, big money players are signed. Fans may attend, but it’s not creating the tradition or the memories that help create a real following. If you don’t have that, there isn’t much you can do. Slick marketing and cool team names and logos help, but if there isn’t that connection to the black and white ball that you kick around, it’s never going to be more than a once and a while thing that makes money while the novelty is good, and then goes out of business soon after.
And if there is no money in it, of course, it’s not going to catch on either. Who wants to follow a sport where most guys you see are having a hard time in life and aren’t the rich billionaires you see in England and South America?
And that is another point, USA Soccer just isn’t that successful on a world stage. A lot of it does have to do with the past points. It is not the lifestyle that it can be for a lot of the world. Some people just don’t want to cheer for a team that isn’t going anywhere. Underdogedness only goes so far. There is a point where it’s the team doesn’t have a great shot at being successful and then there is a point where people believe a team WON’T win anything at all. Americans do not want to cheer losers. So why bother cheering at all? The United States isn’t good at it, so who cares? That’s the type of thinking we see on Olympic media coverage every other year. So why would it stop there? American media will hop on when the team wins, not when they are slugging it out just to not embarrass themselves. Just how it appears to be.
But no matter what, if you like it, Cheer on! Get into the World Cup and cheer for whatever country you want!