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Soccer Catching On In US

Posted By Bennett Snyder On Jul 22 2010 @ 2:54 pm In Soccer | 10 Comments

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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