Go into any Youtube video involving the game of European football or association soccer, and witness the barrage of comments on what the game should be called. The Europeans, typically from England tend to berate those “Yankees” for calling the beautiful game “soccer”, and not what everyone outside the U.S. and Canada as “football”. Well here in the states, there’s already a game we call football, and it seems it’s going to stay that way for a long time. Granted, it’s ironic how a sport where players mostly throw, catch, and carry a ball with their hands is dubbed football, but hey when you based the game off of rugby football, the creativeness for names was pushed aside. So, in North America, we call the sport where ball movement is done solely with feet “soccer”, a slang term for “association” football. And guess who came up with that? Europeans.*Facepalm
Unlike the rest of the world, soccer has been at the backseat of American sports for quite some time. Football, basketball, and baseball have led the most in driving American interest and still do. However, the popularity of soccer has risen significantly in recent years, as seen through up-ticked television views and stadium attendances to international matches and yes, the MLS. Major League Soccer has been growing tremendously with new teams, a new logo, and more internationally known stars, like Andrea Pirlo and Bastian Schweinsteiger. Now we aren’t die-hard fans yet (still some glaring reasons why), but the compassion for our league, men’s’ and women’s national teams is present and will only continue to flourish.
Well it’s not to say that Americans don’t embrace soccer at all, especially in recent years. World Cup matches that take place every four years, have more viewers than viewers of the Super Bowl, and soccer matches have higher average attendance per-game than NBA basketball and NHL hockey for several years.
Homer: Okay, epiphany, epiphany, epiphany. Ooh! Bananas are an excellent source of potassium!
[Homer gets slapped by the branches of surrounding trees]
Homer: Americans will never embrace soccer?
[Homer gets slapped twice and then lifted up]
But still other sports in the states are ahead in interest and passion. In response to that, some say that basketball, football, and especially baseball (America’s Pastime) originated and/or developed into the modern versions we know and love today in America. Other critiques of soccer point out the rewarding of flopping and the game’s nature to be low scoring. A match that ends in a 0-0 draw, with countless players diving and flailing their arms, trying to grab the attention of the refs leave a lasting impression towards outside viewers. They see a game that’s offensively-challenged and with officials that reward theatrics. When a game does happen to go into overtime, two 15-minute halves are played to determine the winner. If it remains tied still, the game is decided in a penalty shootout. This also infuriates watchers as not the overall play of a particular team over another decides the match winner, but rather the communal execution of one specific skill. There has been some suggestions to make soccer more appealing to Americans, like eliminating the offside rule (to fuel more offense) and not allowing penalties to decide games. But these remain merely as suggestions, as the current rules and regulations are widely accepted elsewhere and rarely, if ever, challenged.
Soccer is becoming more marketable in the United States. Fox generated $40 million from advertising in the 2015 Women’s World Cup, outperforming other top events like the NHL Stanley Cup and MLB World Series. More and more advertisers like Nike and McDonald’s’ are investing into improving youth facilities and training centers to facilitate and craft talent here in the US. Youth soccer participation has increased, as youth baseball participation decreased, with more kids becoming disinterested in the sport of baseball. Besides kids being more interested in soccer over baseball, soccer experienced an increase of participation due to being an alternative to the more physical, injury-provoking sport of American football. With the uprise of participation, more talent can develop into world-class status. Leagues like the MLS, NASL (2nd Division), ASL (3rd Division) have plenty of room for expansion and strive to acquire better soccer players to be more competitive with their European and South American league counterparts.
Soccer popularity in the US is growing at a phenomenal rate. Attendance to games, expansion of its home-based league, and youth participation show the sport’s potential to be as popular as baseball, football, and basketball. Once players of the sport play with respect and honor to the integrity of the game, the sport would achieve that feat in no time.