Look, I will be honest. I had World Cup fever too. And if you really must know, I might even watch the final game. Assuming it doesn’t come on before noon o’clock on a Saturday morning. But the more I watched it, and the more I though about it after our loss, it’s become evident that Soccer will never, and I emphasize never become a main stream sport in the United States – given it’s current structure at least.
So for your pleasure and entertainment, 5 reasons why Soccer will always Suck in the States.
1.) Poor officiating – For those of you who didn’t watch the world cup, let me recap some of the things most people will be talking about around the water cooler. The United States beat Slovenia 3-2, only to tie them 2-2 because a referee wiped off a completely legitimate goal. Then, the United States had to rely on Landon Donovan’s last minute heroics to defeat Algeria because a referee wiped off a completely legitimate goal. Also, England lost a momentum changing goal due to a referee wiping off a completely legitimate goal. Lest you think it was all ref’s taking goals away, they also gave Argentina a game changing goal against Mexico that was completely illegitimate.
American’s will never get behind a game where the outcome can directly be changed by a referee interfering. Sure, we love the NFL (tuck rule,) and the NBA (Tim Donaghy,) but the end result is rarely completely affected by a referee. In soccer, the referees can literally change the reality of what happened. If an official says a ball didn’t go into a net, when it clearly did, so what? You can do nothing about it. In such a low scoring game like soccer, one goal wiped away often means a different result in the game. In the NBA and the NFL, each team has plenty of chances to correct a bad decision.
Plain and simple, America won’t get behind a game that could obviously be fixed against us. And any time we lose, it’s fixed against us.
2.) The best athletes don’t play the game. In America the hierarchy of professional sports goes something like this… NFL, NBA, MLB, MLH, Cheerleading, Rifle, Competitive Eating, Magic the Gathering, then Soccer. We literally have better athletes competing in Golf than we do Soccer. As many people have stated before me (from Bill Simmons to Matt Jones,) if America had its best athletes growing up playing Soccer, we would have changed the name of the sport years ago.
3.) Every four years, Soccer fever catches the nation. Again, I admit that I really enjoyed watching this World Cup. And I would honestly consider watching more of the sport. But how am I supposed to go about doing that? There simply isn’t enough exposure, outside of the world cup, for the sport to gain a following in the States. From what I have been told, the EuroLeague is what you have to watch if you want to see good ‘futbol.’ When is the last time you stumbled across a EuroLeague match on cable television? Even the most well liked Team USA players are never on American Television because they play in Europe. If you get a man addicted to cigarettes, you don’t feed the addiction by taking it away for four years. You flood the market until he demands more. Lack of exposure = lack of caring.
4.) In a similar vein to the previous two points, there isn’t enough star power in the game of Soccer. In basketball, you have huge names like LeBron, Wade, and John Wall that can completely revive a dying franchise just by playing for them. In Football, you have quarterbacks hosting SNL. In Baseball, you have Steven Strasburg. In every major American sport, the addition of one key player can make a team exciting to watch. This is not the case in Soccer. The LA Galaxy added David Beckham, and they still sucked. Team USA’s biggest star this year (and arguably the past two world cups,) was Landon Donovan, and do you know how many points he scored? Three! He scored three points. That is less than Daniel Orton’s average coming off the bench last year. And he is supposed to be what sells soccer to the United States? Give me a break.
5.) Bottom Line? The United States loves to root for a winner. Look at the Olympics, where the United States falls in love with Michael Phelps every four years. Or perhaps a better example, the US Hockey team last year. I have never really cared about Hockey before, but I sure wanted to see the good old US of A tackle our neighbors to the north. The ones that took the game way more seriously than us. Why? Because as Americans, we’re used to winning, and conversely, we hate losing. If the men’s Soccer team had gone on an improbable run this year and won the World Cup, the game may have caught on in the States. Most likely, it would have taken sustained success at the international level. But without a winning team to get behind, most of the United States will just turn to the NBA draft, where even the losers become winners.
Listen, I loved the excitement the world cup brought just as much as the next KSR writer. But the fact of the matter is, few of us will care until another four years from now. The sport just isn’t built for America, and America isn’t built for the sport. There is nothing wrong with that, that’s just the way it is. Once every four years I will wake up at 8 in the morning to go to the bar to drink and yell once or twice every two hours. But will it ever be more than a one night stand here? Not a chance.