Thursday, July 15, 2010
Why the World Cup Won't Help Soccer in the US
As many of you may know, on July 11th a little tournament called the World Cup wrapped up in South Africa. With over 1 billion viewers, this is the most popular event in the world. With increased ratings here in the US, there was speculation that soccer may finally be ready to take off. You know the last time that claim was made? 2006. And before that? 2002. What about before that? 1998. Every time the World Cup happens, everyone thinks, "This is it! Finally! The US will embrace the world's game and it will change the landscape of professional sports in this country!" I'm going to tell you why this will once again fail to happen.
Last night I attended a SuperLiga game between the New England Revolution and Pumas UNAM of the Mexican professional league. This is supposed to be a big deal. It wasn't. The fan turnout was minimal, as Sam's Army couldn't even fill their section. The majority of the stadium was closed off because otherwise it would appear embarrassingly barren. At least 40% of the fans at the game were donning the Pumas or Mexican national team jerseys. When you can't even draw enough fans to have the significant majority at a home game against a team from another country, how am I supposed to believe that this game is on the rise? Here are the major reasons why this year will be no different than any other World Cup year here in the States
Low Quality of Play
Watching the World Cup for a month and then being subjected to the MLS was like sipping on Patron for years and then being forced to funnel 3 PBR's. Painful, sickening, and ultimately depressing. There were so many bad passes I thought JaMarcus Russel was out there. The shots were rarely on net, and neither team could construct a strong attack. Revolution keeper Bobby Shuttleworth could not have done less as he watched a Pumas strike from outside the box ring off the crossbar. Here in the States we are used to watching the best of the best compete. Why pay to watch a low level of competition?
Lack of Connection to Teams
One of my buddies at the game said "I'd rather watch our old high school team play, because at least I'd know the kids and feel some sort of a connection." When our nation's best, our team's heroes, are off competing abroad, who are we left with? I can't blame them for going; there's more money, larger fan bases, and a stronger level of competition overseas. However, why would we watch soccer here, or care at all, if we didn't have the opportunity to watch our best players?
Too Many Choices
One of the benefits to living in the greatest country in the world is the freedoms which we are allowed. We have more opportunities here than most people can even dream of. We should be incredibly thankful for that, but it has hindered our relevance on the world stage in soccer. Many countries play soccer because it is easy to play, and it is so cheap. The low cost is an incentive to nations that don't have the capital to invest in basketball courts or hockey rinks. With so many choices of sports to play, our best and brightest young athletes choose games that are more financially sound than soccer. Why would any young teen choose the MLS when he could get a multi-million dollar deal from the NBA before his 20th birthday?
Once the hype has died down, this year will be no different than any other. Soccer is still waiting for it's big break here in the states, and I wouldn't hold my breath.