The past few months has seen a bonanza for the U.S. soccer fan. Never have we seen so much coverage of U.S. and World Cup soccer in all aspects of the media. National TV networks have covered selected games in South Africa. ESPN has shown all 62 World Cup games with hours of pre and post game information and interviews. National press around the country has had front page stories and sports sections have had center page information, stories, results and interviews. Even Nightly News on TV stations have given scores and tapes of goals being scored plus showing and commenting on the disputed decisions of game referees during a number of games. Statistics have been pouring forth in the press on a daily basis. The World Cup final between Spain and The Netherlands was seen by 15,545.000 viewers on ABC with an additional 8,821,000 million viewers watching on Spanish language coverage on Univision surpassing the USA vs Ghana game 14.9 million viewers as the most watched men’s soccer match in American history. The Mexico vs Argentina became the most watched program ever for a Spanish speaking network in the U.S. The Nielsen Co. estimated that nearly 9.4 million people watched on Univision as Argentina eliminated Mexico with 5.5 million people watching the game on ESPN.
Sports bars around the country have been packed with standing room only as they have shown World Cup games with long lines to gain admittance well before many opened. Police in Dallas closed the patio area of one sports bar, concerned that they could not control the number of people present. The sports bar also sold out of beer, so much was the demand as the winning team fans celebrated. All this interest on top of the FIFA announcement that American fans purchased more tickets for the South Africa games than any other country participating in the Championship.
This season the Major League Soccer has seen an increase in their attendances with new franchise soccer stadiums enjoying sellout crowds in New York, Seattle, Philadelphia and Toronto. So what will be the outcome of all this interest and support in the future for soccer here in USA? Certain sections of the media have adopted the usual doom and gloom stores.
“Only every four year interest”
“No goals – boring games”
“American Football “Yes” World Soccer “No”
All to be expected unfortunately as the too often insular attitude of some American sports writers prevails. But with over 300 million people in the U.S., many of them immigrants from soccer playing countries from around the world, soccer will succeed as a spectator sport. At present it is primarily a participation sport. With over 3 million young boy and girl soccer players registered with the USSF, more than baseball and American football players playing their sports.
Soccer can and will succeed in its own right and become a popular spectator sport. At this time it is the responsibility of all connected with soccer to produce entertaining and skillful games to attract its fans. The true soccer fan knows what is good soccer and what he or she wishes to watch. To succeed it is so important that all connected with the game, be it player, official or fan, support’s its local soccer whether it be professional, college, high school or youth soccer.
At present, especially in many youth programs it is too often a situation of “Kings and Kingdoms”. Keen and enthusiastic people kindly give up their time and make every effort for their local soccer association or team but do not wish to assist in the promotion or development of the game overall. They are the “Kings” of their soccer world and in some cases resent involvement of any other soccer organization and refuse to assist any other party. We need an attitude of “What can I do for our sport”. Here locally we have a Major League Soccer club, FC Dallas bringing the best of professional soccer including top International teams to Dallas. We have the Dr Pepper Dallas Cup bringing the very best of International and USA youth teams to compete for the famed “Boot and Ball” trophy. We have SMU, TWU, North Texas and UTD all bringing the best Men’s and Women’s college soccer to the metroplex. All levels of soccer available to our soccer fans and players throughout the area. The support from our local associations and soccer clubs is very much needed to assist in developing our players and fans of the future. Any young boy or girl player who wishes to develop their soccer abilities to the full have the opportunity to watch the very best players in action, noting their skills and attempting to copy their actions in their own play. How many young Americans after watching Kobe Bryant or Peyton Manning are out on the basketball court attempting moves and shots on the basketball net or throwing a football to a friend in their back garden. Watching and learning from the best of those sports.
The same opportunities are there for our local soccer population. With the support of local soccer associations and the many soccer teams in our area the local stadiums at all levels of the game can and should be filled. A full stadium of enthusiastic fans creates the atmosphere that one sees in soccer stadiums around the world making the game so much more enjoyable. The answer to the future success of soccer in the USA is at this moment in the hands of the soccer population of today.
“United We Succeed – Divided We Fail”