Why America Should Fall in Love with Soccer (Again)

The Beautiful Game. To quote the Brazilian legend Ronaldinho, “I learned all about life with a ball at my feet.”

Soccer is the world’s game. The devotion to this amazing sport is felt around the world as the top five leagues play for 10 months of the year. Soccer is woven into culture and ingrained into our way of life. This love and passion that flares whenever matchdays occur culminates during rivalries, title challenges, and the intermittent games between international giants of football.

 

“Soccer is what makes me able to get through the day.” – Matt Williams (‘19)

 

Outreach of English soccer has enthralled me for the past six years of my life. American soccer, while entertaining enough, isn’t the same as the massive lifestyle of European soccer. The continuous, heart-pounding games that make or break a season occur all the time through various competitions. Soccer teams play each other in their respective nations, fighting for the league title and position in rankings, while crossing over to create some of the most enticing club soccer in the World. People from London who follow soccer divide themselves between multiple clubs, such as Arsenal, Chelsea, and Tottenham. These teams would play each other in the Premier League, and internationally fight against powerhouses like Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Juventus.

Apart from European soccer, every four years, the world comes together to watch the month long competition known as the World Cup. As much as nations are divided with club soccer, when the World Cup occurs, countries are united for nations to celebrate the beautiful game at its finest moment. The games from summer 2018 created a vastly different, and more exciting World Cup than the one usually presented. Major teams like the United States, Netherlands, Italy, and Chile didn’t make it into the World Cup, and traditional title contenders like Spain, Argentina, and 2014 World Cup Champions, Germany, all out by the 1st knockout round, with many of them boasting teams similar to that in years prior. Without the usual teams, the games were more exciting and the competition as a whole was more surprising. The most prominent example of this being Croatia, who, with a population of roughly 4 million people, yielded the smallest team to be in a World Cup final since Uruguay in 1950. The Croats made their amazing journey beating Nigeria, Argentia, Iceland, Denmark, Russia, and England before losing to France in the end.

 

“It’s kinda like asking me what does breathing mean. Soccer was in my wedding vows, that every four years there’s a World Cup and I will be watching it.” – Akan Ekanem – OR Boys Soccer Coach

 

According to Nielsen and Bloomberg data, without the US competing, 44% of the nation watched the 2018 World Cup in comparison to 2014. Overall, they seemed unenthusiastic during this event, and much of the hype I saw surrounding the games was online from other countries. The interesting thing is that the number of people who watched the World Cup increased from the year before. Even though, half of last years US viewers returned, in an Instagram post by 433, a soccer statistics and news group, over 3.9 billion people watched the World Cup, absolutely overshadowing the quoted 160 million people who watched last year’s Super Bowl. With the roughly 4 billion viewers, this event would be the most watched sporting competition on par with the Olympics.

As shown, the number of people that follow soccer is rising; apart from the fact that other sports are becoming less favored, the ability to watch soccer is becoming more and more accessible to Americans. European soccer is shown on Fox Sports, CBS, NBC Sports, and ESPN, giving international fans access to the sport.

 

“Basketball isn’t necessarily a global sport, neither is American football or baseball, but soccer is truly the world’s sport.” – Sam Belanger (‘19)

 

On the one hand, US soccer is not at the same level as the European giants. The competitions that occur for the American-based teams are limited to the leagues they reside in, making the season fairly stale. Contrastly, European soccer has multiple competitions between international club teams to entice their fans to follow the teams throughout the year, and the varying levels and opponents create a way of life that many diehards follow. On the other hand, US soccer is rising in popularity. In a Gallup poll released in January, 7% of Americans named soccer as their favorite sport. In regards to the 4% who favored it in 2014, the number is on the rise. Additionally, American Football, Basketball, and Baseball have all dropped from 39%-37%, 12%-11%, and 13%-9% respectively. To further back the idea of a transition, of those polled 55 years or older, only 1% liked soccer the most. Compare this to the 18-34 year old age group, in which 11% favored soccer.

Americans are falling in love with soccer again, slowly. This game for the United States is only getting more and more in depth with Major League Soccer becoming more prominent, and European soccer reaching out to draw people in. From August to May the top five leagues in the world are playing some of the best soccer in the world. During the regular season of the Champions League, a competition between all of the best teams that only provides more excitement for the viewers. The other major reason to get into soccer now is the announcement of the hosts of the 2026 World Cup. The competition is expanding, and there will now be 80 games played, of which 60 will be held in the US. So, with the best soccer competition in the world being played in America in 4 years, now is the time to follow the World’s Game.

 

Written by Quinn Wilson