Why Americans should give a damn about soccer
Every sports bar across the world right now is packed to the brim as
soccer football fans gather to cheer their country on for the FIFA World Cup. Argentina's Lionel Messi came out of retirement for one last Cup. England's Harry Kane is shaping up to be the best player of the tournament so far. And Brazil's Neymar is making hilariously bad flops.
All while barely any Americans bother to check out the score. Admittedly, the U.S. Men's National Soccer Team didn't qualify this year but even when they did kick ass in 2014, Americans still don't care.
Even when our teams win championships, the response is a "meh" by most Americans.
There are several unjust reasons why most Americans don't bother with our soccer teams. The elephant in the room is our own version of football. Historically speaking, America has always favored its own version of football and relegating what (nearly) everyone else in the world calls football to just being called soccer.
The reason for that change in name goes back to when both sports were created. The first to get their rules codified and organized was then called "association football" which was given the shortened nickname by the Brits (the ones who essentially invented the sport) to just "soccer." The gridiron football played by Americans was just referred to as American football. It's just redundant to call it American football while in America. Kind of like that scene in Delta Farce with Mexican standoffs in Mexico.
Americans may not really care about soccer...but you know who does take the U.S. soccer teams seriously? Everyone else in the world. The U.S. team is beloved by many soccer fans around the world because they are one of the few teams that actively discourages flopping (when players make an extremely lousy attempt to get a foul for the other team by pretending they're hurt — seen in this video below. Watch it. It's brilliant.):
Sure, the stubbornness to give into the unsportsmanlike behavior may put the team at a disadvantage but it's a point of pride that the U.S. teams avoid doing it. According to The Atlantic, this flagrant attempt to get a free kick is what sours the entire sport for American viewers. But it's something American fans can at least point out in other teams and say "We are better than that."
There are many other examples of what the American teams do far better than anyone else that not too many Americans know about. For instance, the third ranked active male international player for goals is actually an American: Clint Dempsey. The other two players ahead of Dempsey are Ronaldo and Messi, who are both considered to modern-day legends in the sport.
Another player that Americans can proudly look up to is Tim Howard. In the 2014 World Cup, Howard made a World Cup record-number of saves against Belgium by stopping 15 attempts. He's also scored an unbelievable goal from the penalty area (which spans the entire field) in a Premiere League match. Everyone around the world lost their collective minds because of his breathtaking skill.
Plus I think his glorious beard/shaved head combo would fit well with our veteran audience. (Photo by Ray Terrill)
As fantastic as Howard and Dempsey are, their skills are outdone by the pure dominance of the Women's U.S. soccer team. Ever since the FIFA Women's World Cup's inaugural tournament in 1991, the United States has taken home the title three of the seven times. In the other four times, the US Women's team came in second once and third place three times. That's a 100 percent franchise championship appearance rate with a 42 percent title win rate. This level of a sport's dynasty is unheard of in any other sport.
USA! USA! USA!(Photo by Rachael C. King)
But shy of a potential for a London gridiron team, inclusion of a handful Canadian teams in the NBA and MLB, and plenty of American hockey teams in the Canadian NHL, Americans don't have a real presence in the sporting world outside of the Olympics.
Time and time again, the U.S. soccer teams have proven their worth on the world's sporting stage and we could prove our power with enough interest. Unlike any other U.S. sport franchise, you can't trade out players in the FIFA world series. Other athletes could be traded and the rosters of local teams change every season. Soccer players will represent their country for life.
This also bonds all U.S. fans. Regardless if you're from rural Kansas, urban Los Angeles, or a suburb outside of Boston, the U.S. national soccer teams' fans are all over. This gives us another great way to show up in the rest of the world.
If all of this doesn't excite you, the 2026 FIFA World Cup will be hosted by the United States with Canada and Mexico also hosting games. This is an awesome opportunity for many fans to watch the fun as seventeen American cities will host games; three cities from Canada and another three from Mexico will also host.