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Soccer Catching On In US

As I sat among the 44 thousand other fans at the soccer friendly between the Philadelphia Union and Manchester United, I thought to myself, I really think soccer might have finally caught on here in America. Yes, it was right after the World Cup so the soccer fever is high, and yes, it was Man United, the biggest soccer club in the world, but there was something else, something different that told me this is a new era. It wasn’t just Man U fans and Philly Union fans, there were countless number of jerseys. Mostly Wayne Rooney, and a lot of Cristiano Ronaldo jerseys, but Kaka, Robben, Ronaldinho, Robinho, Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard, Fabregas, Roberto Carlos, Zidane, Cantona, and Beckham were all represented.

This wide spectrum of player and club jerseys being worn, all in a relatively small place, tells me that soccer is ready to catch. People complain that it’s too slow and not enough happens. This couldn’t be further from the truth, but you need to go in with the baseball mindset not a football mindset. I’m a huge baseball fan, and partial season ticket holder but not a ton of action happens in baseball, yet it still has a huge fan base and is great to watch. I mean, if people can sit around and watch cars go around in a circle 500 times, or a few out of shape men walk and swing a club a few times for 8 hours,  then they can watch this.

There are three main problems preventing this from being a huge sport here, and in all honesty preventing the US from becoming a soccer powerhouse. Number one is the local domestic league, MLS, is lackluster. It’s like watching the WNBA, a considerable talent gap between the Premiere League in England and La Liga in Spain. People want to see the LeBron-Wade-Kobes of the soccer world, and they are over there, not here. So if they are over there, then show them here! ESPN shows about one game a week, and that isn’t enough to get people interested. It doesn’t help that the time difference makes the prime time games there about 11 o’clock in the morning here. Fox Soccer Channel is the closest thing we have, but you need to pay extra for it on most cable subscribers. If ESPN could make a channel dedicated for soccer it would really take off, or at least have ESPN 8 show enough soccer games to quench the fans thirst. The last and probably biggest hurdle is since all the stars are there, which means the games are more enjoyable, it leaves no home team to root for. People here in America tend to root for the team where you’re from. Without that being possible, it is hard to really get too intense about going all out for a team that is across the Atlantic. What I tend to do is like individual players for their brilliance of play and stick with the team they are on. Each person probably does their own thing, but it was very nice to see that the beautiful game is really starting to catch on here.

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Recently graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism. I have been a sports fan since before I could speak. While every kids dream of making it to the professional level didn't work out for me, I still have a strong desire to be around sports 24/7. I was born and live in Philadelphia, but spent most of my life in central New Jersey, so this tri-state area of NJ/NY/PA is my forte. If you have any questions you would like to ask just email me, no matter which sport, because i follow them all except golf and nascar.

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In response to “Soccer Catching On In US”

  1. Christopher Rowe Jul 24 20101:41 pm


    Bennett, I like this a lot and I agree. Lack of exposure for America’s “casual fan” plus a lack of identifiability (local teams to root for) and knowing we have a second-class product (MLS) are all impediments. I’d been thinking of writing such an article but you have provided more insight.

    My question to you would be… what are the solutions? If expansion Philly Union vs. Man U. brings out a crowd, it tells you that the fans are hungry for an excellent game (which this was). Now… we have millions of soccer leagues for youths in the U.S…. how do we get those kids to play soccer AND football AND baseball AND swimming AND basketball? OR how do we attract the talent playing in Europe to the U.S. without having to overpay for Beckham?

    Soccer should eclipse the audience currently watching NASCAR (500 left turns) or golf (snnoze) or Professional Arm Wrestling or crappy Wrestling but we can’t find it on TV, don’t have a local team and don’t have superstars! How do we get there?

    I’d be interested to read your next article on the solutions. THAT is what will either change the landscape of American “soccer” or leave it in relative obnscurity.

  2. Stephanie Geosits Jul 26 201010:19 am


    Great article, Bennett. I also think that capitalizing on the immigrant communities’ interest in soccer is key for USA Soccer to develop. I’m not sure how much is done in terms of multilingual marketing in various ethnic communities but it would be great to include an already strong fan base into the mix.

  3. Bennett Snyder Jul 26 201010:15 pm


    Yea I agree with what you said Stephanie, but the problem is keeping the talent here to play for US soccer instead of greener pastures. For example, in high school we played against Guiseppe Rossi’s team, and although he was born and lived in NJ his whole life, he went to the Italian National team, knowing they were better. Luckily karma caught up to him and Italy didn’t even make it out of group play while the US did.

    As for your question’s Chris; I wish I knew the solution to the problem. You mentioned trying to get kids to play all the different sports, and they do, but soccer is the least attractive so most of the top tier athletes quit that and instead go for Football and Basketball. Imagine if Reggie Bush, Chris Johnson, LeBron, etc etc played soccer instead of their sports, we would absolutely be a top power. As for the second part, I think we have to accept that MLS is where stars go to die. That, I don’t mind as much, I was excited to see Beckham, and now Henry, even though we might have over payed. If the MLS can keep attracting old superstars, while grooming their young talent it could very much work

    1. Christopher Rowe Jul 27 20106:49 am



      You make my point for me. Soccer is the least attractive U.S. high school sports option, despite the fsct that the best athletes can play very well. My point is that the ONLY way to retain talent in American professional soccer is to make the MLS MORE attractive than the European leagues. The NBA did it by attracting global talent despite what European Leagues offer…MLB did it in the 1960s and 1970s by attracting Carribean, Pan American and other international talent and the NFL has done it best of all. The CFL exists, the Arean League exists, the WLAF/NFL Europe has folded (along with the XFL), memories of the USFL may be brought up as the UFL plays… but the NFL has always drawn the best pool of talent IN SPITE of competition!

      So my point is that if you want to keep the talent in the U.S, a comparable, professional league must prosper, which has never happened in American soccer history. THAT would be the proverbial rub.

      1. Bennett Snyder Jul 27 20102:47 pm


        You did however name baseball, basketball, and football. Three sports that were invented in America, and the only way to make the big bucks is to play in America. Although European basketball can now pay a good amount and has become much better it still isn’t the NBA. However, soccer is the World’s sport and has leagues all over the world better than the American leagues, which isn’t the case in the other sports. The only way that this might work is if perhaps New York and LA become the absolute power houses, kind of like a Real Madrid and Barcelona situation, this might be the way to go. Superstars would be attracted to those cities and whenever those teams came to play it would sell out.

  4. Dan Rakusan Jul 27 201011:02 am


    MLS should adopt the same technology as the NHL did with the Fox puck… lol…

    Seriously, it’s just a matter of being patient. With the large immigrant population in the US, it’s only a matter of time until soccer develops into a top-level sport, and with the potential of hosting another World Cup, it might not take as long as you might think. It all boils down to exposure, and with the US side getting better internationally, exactly that is happening.

    As for retaining top-level athletes, this is definitely going to take time. The MLS needs to have a large enough talent pool to saturate teams with domestic players who could play in the top European leagues if there weren’t so many of them. Eventually market saturation of talent takes care of this problem, as there won’t be enough roster spots in Europe, thus making MLS a de-facto choice for American players.

    Canada has the same problem, even though soccer is the top-enrolled sport in the country (I’m not sure if this includes women playing). We simply haven’t grown the infrastructure of our domestic leagues to the point where we produce enough talent to be a world-class team… But, time will take care of that as well…

    1. Bennett Snyder Jul 27 20102:52 pm


      I do agree with your first comment, after this world cup and the US winning in the dramatic fashion it did, I think this could help turn people towards playing soccer.

      The problem is that not enough American players play in Europe vs the best, so most just play in the MLS and that kind of competition doesn’t make anyone better. They either need the two teams i mentioned in my other comment to become Juggernauts or hope the new era of American soccer players are exceptional to help make the MLS better overall.

      As for Canada, I’m not sure you guys will be a world class team anytime soon, unless a bunch of Steve Nash’s come to the rescue haha. You always can fall back on hockey however.

      1. Dan Rakusan Jul 27 20103:57 pm


        I am not Canadian, I just live in Canada. I am Czech, and aside from that prostitution incident that cost 6 players and our coach their position with the club, we were an elite country…lol

        As for Canada, it will take at least 12 years before they even qualify for the World Cup. It is my approximation that 12 years is the length of time it will take for some of the new, young breed of soccer players to get good enough to even remotely challenge for the honour of playing in the biggest tourney.

        USA doesn’t have the problem of a weak talent pool, based solely on population. I believe you’ll see great strides in the grass-roots of soccer in the USA very shortly. Many strides have already been taken, but in order to become a true contender, there are a few more steps to be taken.

        Realistically, the MLS is actually a good thing for American soccer, in the sense that the domestic players develop some sense of familiarity with one another. That breeds instant chemistry when it comes time to play international games. It’s the same way that the US under 18 hockey program benefits USA hockey. The difference of course is the age and calibre of the players, but like I said before, I believe it is simply a matter of time until the USA wins a World Cup. Maybe the same 12 years that it will take Canada to even qualify…

  5. Stephanie Geosits Jul 27 20104:24 pm


    As an American living in Canada it’s very interesting to see the differnces. While the soccer fan base in Canada is MUCH stronger (people climbing on street cars and bus shelters in Toronto, stopping traffic to celebrate Spain’s win), the development of the sport suffers because of weak school programs. Any kids who play soccer in Canada have to do so through club teams which are often expensive and require a lot of effort from the parents. Read: kids from economically disadvantaged communities don’t get to play at all, and other more popular sports (like hockey) get the rest of the kids whose families could afford it. In the US the school systems do pretty well in developing players but with a lack of opportunity at the higher levels, I think a lot of kids just give up on the sport.

  6. Robert McGlinchey Jul 28 201012:47 am


    I love Soccer-Although I usually find another country to pull for in the WC, this year it was nice to see the US do well.

    For the first time, it seemed people in the US actually cared.

    It appears the rise of Soccer is slowly coming in America.

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