The World Cup is the best thing in the world and the worst thing in the world for American soccer fans.
It’s the best thing because it gives these fans an opportunity to participate in the biggest and most-watched sporting event on the planet.
It’s the worst thing because it gives soccer haters an opportunity to deride the sport as openly as possible.
I suppose it really is soccer’s fault. I mean, how annoying it must be that one sport dominated the summer’s news cycle? Didn’t these people know that LeBron James was deciding where he wanted to play basketball?
Constantly, amid happy stories about the U.S. team becoming “the comeback kids,” there were the naysayers who constantly bleated that America is a football country gosh dern it, not a soccer country, and we need to quit pretending otherwise.
And yet, no one ever argues that America can’t be a basketball country, baseball country or hockey country.
The problem is, these pessimists keep trying the phrase the argument as an all-or-nothing venture. America has to either love soccer or hate it, but the fact of the matter is, America has been warming to soccer for a while now.
Just simply look at the coverage provided this year. I remember in 2002, coverage of the World Cup was relegated to ESPN 2. I didn’t have that channel, so I ended up watching the entire thing on Univision, and listening to the announcer scream, “goal” for upwards of three minutes at a time.
This time around, games were covered on ABC as well as ESPN.
Americans also showed they care enough about soccer to tune in in record numbers to watch the U.S. take on Algeria and Ghana.
Americans didn’t even need to be on the field for folks to tune in back home. A total of 24.3 million viewers watched the final in which Spain defeated Holland.
To put that number in perspective, 18 million people watched game 6 of the NBA finals.
America may never be a “soccer” country, but that’s never been a plausible scenario. America is merely becoming warmer to a sport the rest of the world is obsessed with.