The US Men’s World Cup run may be over, but that doesn’t mean soccer will fall off the sports radar screen here in the US. Taking a contrary view to a recent Wall St. Journal piece on the inevitable US “soccer letdown” and even to the more hopeful Freakonomics podcast, here are 5 reasons why soccer will grow in popularity in the US:
1. Soccer is a global sport. Who better to embrace it than the US, a nation of immigrants and multinational individuals. We can cheer not only for our national team but those of our homelands, in my case, Italy. Or we can — and do — cheer for the teams of our temporarily adopted homes, places where we’ve lived briefly or for many years. If Hong Kong had a national team, I’d be a supporter, since I lived much of my early adult years there and it’s my children’s birthplace.
2. Soccer is intense, captivating, and exciting. Those who say it’s too slow or boring to be popular here don’t know what they’re talking about. You want excitement? How about Tim Howard’s amazing 16 saves. The final two minutes of a soccer game can be more intense than the 9th inning with two outs and the bases loaded. Take it from a lifelong Red Sox fan, what happens in the 9th inning can change the course of history. (As an aside, a 2010 Wall St. Journal study found that the average NFL game has a meager 11 minutes of action)
3. While there will always be individual star players, soccer is a team sport. No single player can carry a team for 90 minutes every game, and it’d be tough to build a franchise around a single player. The best teams depend on every player, not on a key player.
4. Some naysayers point to the “flops” as evidence that soccer players are too soft or that the game is not tough enough. Soft?! The level of conditioning necessary to run almost continuously for a full game is astounding. The precision, timing, and agility needed to play soccer are remarkable.
5. While the current World Cup is for men’s teams, let’s not forget the success of US women’s soccer. The US Women’s Team has won two World Cups — yes, 2! Players like Mia Hamm, Cindy Parlow Cone (who’s also Dragonwing girlgear‘s spokesperson) , Abby Wambach, Heather O’Reilly, Alex Morgan, and Brandi Chastain are role models for girls at all levels. Attendance at women’s professional soccer league games is solid and growing, with sell-out crowds a regular occurrence for many teams.