So why did this particular World Cup galvanize America? How is it that we seemingly put to rest the long-standing question of whether soccer has arrived in the US? The early excitement of the tournament and the incredible displays of attacking soccer coupled with several stunning finishes certainly helped. The success of the U.S. in the early games also generated widespread interest for the casual American fan. However, unlike any other sport, a soccer match tells a story. Sometimes the story can be incredibly boring, 0-0 affairs like Dutch/Argentina semifinal reveal this sad fact. Other games produce horror books that we can’t put down, e.g. Brazil v. Germany.Some games are gut wrenching dramas that leave us wanting more as was the case in Manaus where we watched the pulsating draw between Portugal and the United States. Soccer always plays itself out like this, but to experience the incredible highs and lows in a story you have to invest yourself from the very start.
Through ESPN’s incredible coverage, the entire nation bought into the World Cup from the very beginning. Will the momentum continue? Will more Americans watch the EPL or MLS for that matter? yes, it is undeniable. It won’t be sea change, but the numbers and the economics indicate that our nation is moving that way (more to come on that later). Finally, a nation’s soccer team, unlike any other sport I know, takes on the collective zeitgeist of a country. The Italians play it best, but only do it when they have to. The Americans will fight you to the death, regardless of the odds. The Brazilians will play with emotion whether it benefits them or not. It is no coincidence that Americans are falling for soccer, we love reality shows and soccer is easily the best running sports reality show on television.
Now that the country has bought in, US Soccer must figure out how our players can access the top leagues in the world. It is no secret that Americans own several of the top clubs in Europe: Roma, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal (partial ownership), and Aston Villa to name a few. It is incumbent on these American owners to bring American players on the roster. Failure to do so misses the chance to build the sport here in the US and achieve a significant return on investment. For instance, how rich of a commodity is Tim Howard now? Won’t Everton make a small fortune marketing Howard based on his World Cup performance? I would bet so.
Not only are Americans good enough, they are also grossly undervalued in the world market. Much like World War I and II, it will take an army of Americans to fly overseas and prove their worth to Europeans. On a much less skillful and more personal level, whenever I play pick up overseas I am usually picked last as soon as they figure out I am American. It might have something to do with how crap I am, but more than likely my global playing partners are biased and think I will suck. Let’s just hope that after Timmy’s performance they won’t stick me in goal next time. I can think of no better way to put our nation’s finest footballers in the best leagues than by infiltrating the economic ranks of the best teams and force feeding Americana on the English, Spanish and Italians- consider this the new Marshall Plan for American Soccer.
Filed under: Future of American soccer |