If you follow sports, you’ve probably heard this debate more times than you would like. You know, the one about whether or not soccer will ever truly secure a place in the mainstream of American sports.
A few years ago, both sides of the dispute had legitimate components that could be argued without much concrete evidence.
“Soccer is the world’s most popular sport, the U.S. is bound to jump on the bandwagon eventually,” versus “America is the only country that does not need soccer simply because it has everything else a fan could want: endless variety.”
Though neither argument truly scratched the surface of the conundrum, one side can now officially be deemed the winner.
The time has finally come to where soccer has successfully begun to captivate America, and it really seems like it is here to stay.
Understandably, it’s the European game—the English Premier League and the UEFA Champions League, in particular—that has entranced audiences over the last few years. In pitting the best teams against each other, the most dramatic, most entertaining and most eye-catching affairs are those that transpire overseas rather than domestically in the mediocre MLS.
In accordance, following the 2012 European Championships (the most notable international soccer tournament behind the World Cup), broadcasted exclusively on ESPN in the U.S., soccer cemented it’s significance in the States by claiming second place in viewership rankings for the “age 12-24” demographic. Pretty impressive considering the NFL, the most popular sport in the U.S. today, was first.
Logically, one might assume that in attracting young audiences now, the sport will only continue to expand as time goes on. By doing so, that same generation may pass along the excitement to the next, and so on.
But even with these statistics, it’s easy to see that some American sport purists still haven’t bought in to the world’s most treasured competitive contest.
Their reason? Transparent counter-arguments like “what kind of game ends in a tie after 90 minutes,” or “these players must be so weak to crumble in agony after marginal contact.”
All of this in order to back their heinous views of how “un-American” soccer is, or how it is “unworthy of being called a sport.”
Do I sound bitter? If I do, it’s because I am.
Nine times out of 10, I’ll give something I don’t like a try. But for people who simply bash soccer because it wasn’t born and bred in America, it’s a legitimate challenge for me not to say something.
The suggestion that our country is “too good for soccer” doesn’t hold any weight with me, nor does it make any real sense. Convince me that pastimes like NASCAR, lacrosse or even modern day baseball are leaps and bounds ahead of soccer, and then maybe I’ll get off my high horse.
Last year, I wrote a column pertaining to how hopeful I was that soccer would surpass some sort of meaningful threshold in American sports culture, allowing it to make a statement as to how valuable, enjoyable and unique the game it is.
Well, it’s a year later, and with some of the most recent Nielsen ratings unveiled, it’s safe to say soccer has taken another big step towards finding a permanent home in the U.S.
Will it stay? I think yes. Will it remain progressive in its ability to entice viewers? Hopefully.
But most importantly, it has made a tremendous start. That’s no longer opinion, the subject of legitimate conjecture, or even semi-disprovable. It is fact.
And that fact makes me, along with tens of thousands of other soccer fans in this country very, very pleased.
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