The Other Kind of Football


Will Barker, Opinion Editor

For a few short weeks in the summer every four years, the U.S. becomes a soccer nation. And every four years Americans are disappointed by the early elimination of the national team. When this happens many fans blame the sport itself. The final whistle blows with only a handful of goals (or less) on the scoresheet, NFL fans in sports bars across the country can be heard grumbling about the stupidity of soccer and how few points are scored. Although during the tournament it seems like Americans genuinely enjoy the sport, after the World Cup Americans’ interest seems to disappear. Even with Major League soccer (yes that’s a thing) and a multitude of European leagues taking place every year American support for soccer is miniscule compared to basketball football and hockey. However in the years to come that could change.

In the past the reason why European soccer has not gained popularity in America is that games are not broadcast on major sports networks, however in 2013 NBC secured the rights for broadcasting Barclays Premier league and are airing every game this season at acceptable hours of the day. It is crazy to think that with as much time as Americans spend watching Honey Boo Boo that they will not take some interest in soccer if it is put up on a screen in front of their faces. Recently NBC hired Jason Sudeikis, an American actor and comedian to play an NFL player who had moved to playing soccer in England stating comically:

“Football’s football no matter where you play it”.

NBC is pushing the Premier League on Americans and clearly it is working. On the last weekend of August an average of 917,000 Americans tuned in for a game between Chelsea, a top ranked english club, and Everton, where the USA’s favorite bald headed goalkeeper Tim Howard plays.

Outside of viewership support for soccer can be found in the clothes kids wear and the video games they play. Walking the halls of City High it is clear that more kids are interested in the sport than ever before, it is hard to walk from class to class without seeing a Messi jersey or Real Madrid jacket.

With American support for soccer growing, there is only one more large step that needs to be taken; Major League Soccer needs to get better. Since the league was established in 1993 it has had a hard time competing with 90 year old, more established European leagues like Spain’s La Liga. Because of its young age, it has no tradition of skilled players joining, so even though the US has talented players, most of them play for European teams. MLS needs to get better at scouting American talent, and creating a competitive enough league that successful American players stay for longer than a few years.

While baseball and football may stay on top as America’s most popular sports, soccer is gaining on them. America certainly has the skill base to create a competitive league and a successful national team. Soccer has nowhere to go but up in this country, and who knows? Maybe in twenty years, the United States national team will be holding their very first world cup trophy above their heads.