Soccer has arrived in America- Just Capitulate Grandpa
The 2014 World Cup is over. With the event finally in a timezone friendly country, people in America flocked to watch the games like never before. This of course is only icing on the cake when it comes to the ascension of soccer in America over the past 20 years. Even the optimists wouldn't have guessed how it's popularity would grow since the 1994 World Cup had Americans scratching their heads on this sport the rest of the world calls football. Headlines at the time screamed the game would never take hold. Traditional sports fans clung to the big three. Soccer would only become a "niche sport" at best they said.
Then 2010 arrived and ratings for the World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands were higher than the deciding game of the World Series between the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants. How could that be? Soccer getting over nine million more viewers than America's game?!? It wasn't even the US National team?
Time changes everything they say, and when it comes to soccer, there is no turning back. The headlines are out there, the crowds are deafening, and the ratings prove it out. Soccer is here to stay.
Here are just some of the reasons why things have changed, and why the sport will only continue to grow exponentially going forward.
Young Demographic. Let's face it, younger generations have embraced soccer unlike their parents and grandparents before them. Watch a game on the TV and you rarely see anyone over the age of 35 in the stands. It seems the cutoff Today is generally mid-life crisis time. Older and you most likely still think dissing soccer is a badge of honor that will get you accepted into the good old boys club. The only problem is that good old boys club now consists of that guy with the beer belly and receding hairline that is standing in the corner wearing the ridiculous fashion camo shirt. Hating soccer these days is akin to parents hating rock and roll in the 50s'. It just makes the current generation love it more.
Not to mention... Changing Demographics. The USA is getting more diverse. By the year 2043 minorities will be the majority in the United States. A large percentage of that minority population traces their roots to Hispanic nationalities where the sport has no parallel. Everywhere else in Central and South America soccer is THE only true sport. These groups will skew the popularity of the game in the US just as much as the younger generational shift.
Participation. It is quickly becoming the most played sport in America. It appeals to boys and girls alike and never have there been more youth in America calling the game their own. As a matter of fact, the United States has more kids playing the sport than any other country in the world at 20 million! Take a drive any weekend in Spring or Fall and you will see soccer Tournaments that draw literally thousands of players to participate. Leagues are played year round- indoor and out- and continue to grow.
Two hours. A soccer game is two 45 minute halves with a fifteen or twenty minute halftime. Even adding in stoppage time of five minutes per half you still have a game that lasts less than two hours. Time is at a premium in Today's world. Considering other sports have total action time of only 15 minutes or less spread out over three and half hours, soccer gets you the most bang for the buck for time spent viewing.
and luckily.. No Commercials! There is no feasible way to keep a game live and not miss anything in order to squeeze in commercials. Sucks for advertisers, but is great for the spectator. The rules of the game would have to be changed, which soccer purists would not allow. You sit down to watch a game and you are not bombarded with ads urging you to buy junk you don't want or need. In other words, you don't have to sacrifice time watching what you don't want.
which helps with...Attention Span. We live in an age of ADD. Kids are playing on their phones while watching TV and eating dinner. They need constant stimulation. Soccer provides almost non-stop action. Besides halftime, there are no commercials, no timeouts and no breaks. Look down to your phone and you may miss the winning goal. The game makes it hard to look away.
The world is smaller. With the advent of the internet, news is instantly transmitted across the globe in a matter of seconds. For anyone who wants to follow a sport, they can now sit at their computer and watch a live game streamed across the world for free with a few simple clicks of a mouse. With the amount of matches being played in countless countries and leagues, it is just as easy to watch these matches as a game right down the street.
..and soccer is the only world sport. Lets face it, there is no other sport that is played everywhere in the world. From the far East to America, in both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. There is no other sport that even compares in participation and breadth of fan base. It is played with as much zest and energy in the cold of Norway as it is in the heat of Egypt. It is unparalleled in popularity and the only true measuring stick of a nations athletic prowess.
Who is your favorite current USA Player?
Low Scoring. Yes, you read it right. One of the things that makes soccer so exciting is the fact it is a low scoring game. Every goal in soccer is like a touchdown on 4th and goal with two minutes left in an NFL game or a grand slam in baseball. Scoring is at a premium and it almost happens every minute. The gasps are frequent, the chances numerous, but the glory is rare yet oh so sweet when it comes.
which means... Constant suspense. Because scoring is at a premium the spectator is always on the edge of their seat. The fast pace and transition allows for a goal to be scored with little to no advance notice. Rarely are games blowouts because the scoring is low. Control of the game can change in a matter of seconds so there is rarely a time you feel out of the game when you are down, or safe when you are up.
The MLS. Don't think Major League Soccer is a popular spectator sport in America? Ever been to the Pacific Northwest or hear of the Seattle Sounders? Try and get a ticket for one of their games, all of which have sold out for almost five years straight. Over 66,000 fans flocked to a regular season game with the Portland Timers even back in 2012. Overall attendance for the MLS has surpassed NBA Basketball and NHL Hockey. The Sounders outdraw almost every Major League Baseball team in the USA, including the New York Yankees. There are currently 19 teams in the League with expansion up to 23 in the next few years.
Real Athletes. While some soccer players may seem supernatural on the pitch, they are essentially all regular guys. Steroid use is not rampant so it is uncommon to see that juiced up guy whose body is inflated to ridiculous unattainable proportions. Thankfully also, obesity is not an advantage as it comically is in other major sports. Eating 12 cheeseburgers to "beef up" (pun intended) is not considered training. True athletic ability, intelligence and speed are the only factors that matter. Oh ya, and conditioning is essential, as it should be. and finally....
Nationalistic Loyalty. Soccer brings along something that most other sports cannot, which is nationalistic loyalty. It is about your country being able to claim superiority over another. Not your town or state, but your COUNTRY. How often do you belt out the national anthem at a regular sporting event? I dare you not to when your team is wearing a United States flag on their jersey against a team like Russia, Germany, or Iran. Sure, hockey, basketball and baseball have international competitions, but the games are not comparatively widespread. Hockey for example is rarely played anywhere in the Southern Hemisphere.
So make sure to support.. the USA National Team. Just look at the current USA national team roster and find a group of cooler professional athletes. How about the toughness of Clint Dempsey? In 2014 he took a kick to the face which BROKE his nose and he played the rest of the game with cotton to keep the blood back. What about Timmy Howard, a guy who many consider one of the best goalkeepers in the world. From the speed of Jozy Altidore to the playing style of Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman, these guys are fun to watch. They represent the Stars and Stripes around the world, playing matches against countries where crowds swell to over 100 thousand people. Some stadiums fence off the fields in order to keep spectators off and avoid riots. How much courage does it take to play a game in front of a frenzied crowd that may torch the stadium and attack your team if you win?
and..the other USA National Team. Yes, that "other" team that has already won THREE World Cups since the Woman's version was started in 1991. Make no mistake, these women are true athletes that play the game with as much heart and soul as their male counterparts. Abby Wambach has scored 167 international goals. To put this into perspective Pele, one of the greatest soccer players of all time, has 77. The American male with the most is Landon Donovan at 57. I would be remiss if I also didn't mention the fact the current roster of players are the classiest group of athletes I have ever seen assembled on one team.
So next time you hear that stereotypical old fat guy railing about how much he hates soccer and it is just a fad, just chalk it up to good old jealousy. The world is passing the old guard by and the Geritol takers don't like it. Soccer is here to stay and will continue to get bigger and bigger every year. Americans will adopt the sport as one of their own. It's already happening, just capitulate!