We soccer fans have heard it time and time again: “Soccer will NEVER be popular in the United States.” Never is quite the strong statement. Certainly, there must be some solid, irrefutable evidence to support this widespread assumption. Undoubtedly, the top google search for “Top 10 reasons why soccer will never be popular in the United States” would provide, well, the top answer and the top reasons! It turns out that the top google nod goes to Stacey Mickles for her July 2010 article featured on bleacherreport.com. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/418967-top-10-reasons-why-soccer-will-never-be-popular-in-the-us
Ms. Mickles sure does know her soccer…or does she? Let’s pick apart her logic to see just how smart this sports expert is.
1.“Quick name another player on the US team OTHER than Landon Donovan. Can’t name another one? Neither can I. Unlike the NBA, NFL, Or MLB, there aren’t a lot of superstars in American soccer, and that’s a problem for a sport trying to build its reputation here in the States.”
Clint Demsey? Perhaps you’ve met Bob Bradley’s son Michael. Howard, Onyewu, Beasley? Surely you’ve never heard of Adu or Altidore. They’re too young. Don’t worry—Eric Wynalda, Brian McBride, and Kasey Keller never existed either.
2. “It’s hard to get excited about a sport that, unlike most sports, has its major tournament once every four years.”
Truer words were never spoken. I’d rather have “major” tournaments contested every year too. That would really help add value, really make them “major”. The more, the major. Plus, last time I checked, the World Basketball Championships were staged every four years too. Oh, you must be talking about baseball. Which “major” tournament? The Baseball World Cup held every year, or the World Baseball Classic? Which one is more important? Where are the MLB players on the roster for this “major” tournament, and I’m sorry, but if it was so “major” wouldn’t we send more than a group of amateur players? Was this tournament on TV or in the newspaper? I guess I missed it. Please let me know when the Football World Cup is on, and I’ll be sure to follow my NFL favorites more closely.
3. “Despite being around for years, Major League Soccer has not caught fire with most Americans. A lot of it has to do with not having a lot of franchises around the country and again a lack of any known stars other than Donovan and David Beckham.”
Yup, there is no team in Florida. That’s a shame. How about Los Angeles to Colorado to New York? Houston to Chicago to Seattle to Toronto? Will any of these do? If not, hold on tight because Portland, Vancouver, and Montreal are on the way. Not only does the MLS have the United States covered, but we’re keeping Canadians content too. If Major League Soccer has not caught fire with Americans, then neither has the NBA in New York, where the Red Bulls averaged 42.1% more fans than the Nets; or in Philadelphia, where a measly Union expansion team recorded 35.4% more fans in attendance than the 76ers. Yes, even the LA Lakers were outdone by the LA Galaxy by 11.5% in the attendance category. Pity no one likes us.
4. “Despite having a decent showing in this year’s World Cup, the United States has NEVER won the darn thing. It’s hard to get into a sport when your country hasn’t been really good at it. Americans LOVE winners, and soccer in this country would have been helped tremendously had the US won the World Cup this year.”
Win, win, win. Money, money, money. Peace, love, and happiness. There are a lot of things that Americans love, but we don’t have. If we only loved what we were good at, we’d be pollution, debt, and crime aficionados. From 1984-2005, Cuba won every Baseball World Cup. Was that fun to watch? Did the anticipation kill you? Sure, then the United States won in 2007 and 2009, but what did that DO for the MLB and American baseball besides introduce more steroids perhaps. Andrew Shue once said, “A good balance of winning and losing is important. If you just win all the time, you won’t get anything out of it; having some tough losses can be really important.” But really, Vince Lombardi had it right. “We didn’t lose the game; we just ran out of time.”
5. “Soccer’s biggest problem is it has to compete with sports that are already established here like American Football, baseball, basketball, and even hockey. While most of the world loves soccer and it’s the world’s number one sport, most Americans are turning their attention to the NFL and college football which starts in six weeks not to mention MLB, which goes on until October, and NBA training camps that open soon as well. Ask the NHL how hard it is to compete for attention for their sport.”
PROBLEM? Does anyone see a problem here? To each his own. It’s not like we’re asking the Houston Dynamo to share its field with the Houston Astros, nor do the Dynamo depend upon the Rockets for uniforms and equipment. Soccer minds its own business. The only competition we’re worried about lines up on the other side of the field. Ask the NHL. Ask the Chicago Blackhawks who its biggest competition was en route to clinching the Stanley Cup. I bet you hear “Philadelphia Flyers” and not “MLB”. Bigger doesn’t mean better. We prefer our fans loyal, so it really doesn’t matter how many other sports are out there. Go ahead baseball. Play your 162+ “meaningful” games. Soccer’s not stopping you.
6. “I know a lot of people will dispute this, but let’s get real here; soccer is a very slow sport. What makes the NFL and NBA popular is there is always action during the game. With soccer, you might have to sit there for hours before someone scores; prime example, yesterday’s final.”
Funny, why would anyone dispute this? Maybe you should take this up with Michael Bradley who averaged 8.0 miles per game during the World Cup. Landon Donovan trailed right behind with 7.5 miles per game, and over 100 players eclipsed 6.2 miles each match. Let me do the match for you. Eight miles would equate to 140 times from endzone to endzone. Something tells me Reggie Bush and Randy Moss haven’t quite achieved this milestone. I bet some of the 400 lb. linemen have never run that far in one period, ever. Also, soccer is so slow. Sometimes I feel like it is basketball with six full timeouts and one 20-second timeout per half. What constitutes as action, commercial breaks? If action only occurs when a team scores, what are they doing for all of those other minutes?
7. “Although soccer is very popular with children, most American adults still aren’t that interested in the game.”
You’ve got one thing right. Over 14 million children play soccer, and ONLY 4.6 million adults play soccer. ONLY 24.3 million Americans were interested enough in soccer to tune into the 2010 World Cup Final, which didn’t feature a single American player! Tell me these were all 10-year-old recreational soccer players. In fact, this audience was greater than every single Major League Baseball game since 2004 and every single NCAA basketball game since 1999. I don’t think many Americans would watch the Netherlands vs. Spain in the World Basketball Championship match, and yes, the World Cup Final was on during mid-afternoon TV. It’s not like infomercials were its only competition.
8. “Although soccer has been around for hundreds of years, it’s kind of new to Americans. Countries from England to Brazil live and breathe with their version of football; we Americans have other sports that have been here longer that captured our attention first.”
Oneida, the first American soccer club, was formed in 1862. Is 158 years too fresh? Do you still have bread or milk from that date? If oldest implies best, then why aren’t we a sports culture obsessed with boxing, horse racing, and lacrosse or even marbles and buffalo hunting for that matter? Basketball is some 30 years younger than soccer in the United States. The X-Games is a teenage sport celebrating its 15th birthday, yet that doesn’t keep ESPN from airing it or a record-high 63 million viewers from watching it in 2002. Newsflash: America likes NEW. That’s why video games have a new edition each year, and by the time you by the latest phone, laptop, or iPod, a newer version is already poised to enter the market.
9. “You see players from different sports all over the television promoting their sport; you don’t see that with American soccer. Rarely do you see anyone in this country promote the sport.”
Of course, you’re looking in the wrong spot! Soccer players aren’t on TV “promoting the sport” aka their personal reputation and celebrity. Soccer’s superstars go to the fans and players. They support the sport by genuine ACTION, not words. They sign autographs after the game, meet and greet with fans, and host clinics in the community. If capturing the limelight on SportsCenter for steroid allegations, interview outbursts, and drug possession is how soccer players are supposed to promote their sport, we’re not interested! The reason you saw Terrell Owens out in public instead of Stuart Holden is because Holden was directing a cancer kids’ soccer tournament while Owens was being chased by police after a late-night bar squabble. What part of football was he promoting during this instance?
10.“Yes I know the World Cup was on ABC/ESPN this year, but unlike the other major sports, most of them have at least contracts with two or more different networks showing their games. ABC/ESPN is basically the same entity. The NFL has contracts with four major networks (NBC,Fox, ESPN and CBS). The NBA has two, Major League Baseball has two, not to mention individual teams who have their own networks and even hockey is being picked up again. Although soccer can be seen on ESPN and sometimes ABC, it’s rare that you see an MLS game or any soccer game really that’s not associated with World play, in prime time.”
Good news—You can only watch one channel at a time! Who cares how many channels a game is on as long as it’s on? Soccer players aren’t picky. We’ll wake up at 4 a.m. to watch a game. That’s true love. Better yet, we’ll go to the game because soccer isn’t all about money and fame, and you don’t have to break your piggy bank to attend a match. Or you could try just getting off the couch. There are pickup games going on everywhere. Soccer doesn’t need an umpire, shot clock, or hundreds of dollars’ worth of padding. Play yourself. Try it. You might actually like it!
FINAL SCORE: Mickles 10, Soccer 0
SPSL fans, as you can see, our sport is defeated and forever doomed. It’s amazing how much Americans know about soccer despite having never played it due to their well-justified hatred for the game. If it piques your curiosity, follow the link to the article http://bleacherreport.com/articles/418967-top-10-reasons-why-soccer-will-never-be-popular-in-the-us, click on the author’s name/profile, and I’ll leave it to you to decide how many soccer games she’s ever suited up for!