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After Historic FIFA World Cup, Now Is the Time to Redefine American Soccer

2014.07.14 Няма коментари
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Was this the best World Cup ever? If you ask American soccer fans, it might have been.

Without question we witnessed the most exciting group stage in recent memory, topped by some amazing late-game dramatics in the each of the knockout rounds.

Brazil’s undoing as the host nation in the semifinals may be the story of the entire tournament, eclipsed only by Germany’s deserved culmination as the best team in the world.

The 2014 World Cup was won by the best team, with a goal in the 113th minute that was, without question, one of the best of the tournament. Andre Schürrle took on two defenders down the left flank and put a perfect cross onto the near post for late-game substitute Mario Götze—seemingly forgotten after the group stage by Germany coach Jogi Löw—who chested the ball to a pitch-perfect volley that screamed across the goal into the far netting.

Germany are the champions, and none of us will ever forget the keyboard shortcut for an umlaut ever again.

Martin Rose/Getty Image/http://bleacherreport.com/

There was more interest in this World Cup than ever before in America, with ESPN and Univision breaking records for matches played not only by the United States, but throughout the entire tournament. Twitter routinely boasted those elaborate heat maps with tweets about each game, illustrating just how social the game of soccer—football or fútbol, perhaps to you—has become both around the world and in America.

And that’s where the rest of this will stay: America. Since the United States was knocked out by Belgium, people who tired of watching the World Cup found reason after reason to suggest the game will never „get big“ in this country. Seriously, it seems everyone and their governor was writing another epitaph for the beautiful game.

So before we, as Americans, collectively pack up our scarves and go back to calling matches games, boots cleats and draws ties, let’s spit out some truths about exactly where the game of soccer—football or fútbol—stands in this country.

By simple mathematics, the Brazil-Germany match averaged more than 12 million viewers, on a Tuesday afternoon in the summer, who watched a 7-1 World Cup blowout. And those ratings actually increasednear the end of the match, buoying to nearly 15 million viewers, which still does not include the record-breaking streaming numbers.

By comparison, ESPN’s 17 Monday Night Football games last season averaged 13.7 million viewers, per Richard Deitsch of SI.com.

Does nobody care about football, or just…football?

After spending half a column using the drop off in ratings to say the sport has not, in fact, „arrived in the United States to take its place as our fifth major professional team sport,“ Rendell flip-flops like the great politician he is, to explain that he does think the sport will grow in interest between now and the 2018 World Cup.

There, he is right. And if he, or anyone else who may pen the „see you in four years, soccer“ articles now that the World Cup is over cares to do, check the math. The numbers do not lie.

American soccer can surely be bigger than it is, but that doesn’t mean soccer in America isn’t pretty huge already.

Okay, that’s a sportswriter trope there, so let me explain the difference.

In order to talk about the growth of soccer in America, we need to stop looking at American soccer in the traditional sense of geographic borders.

We need, rather, to think about American soccer in the sense of television availability.

With ESPN, Univision, Fox, NBC and beIN Sports leading the way in terms of soccer coverage in this country, how we define „American“ soccer has to change from this point forward.

While the World Cup is the most watched soccer event on the planet because of the nationalism and unique format of the tournament taking place every four years, the best soccer on the planet in terms of quality on the field has to come at the club level, most notably in the highest levels of the UEFA Champions League.

Fox notwithstanding, the growth of European soccer in America overall has been up considerably over the last 10 years, and the television rights fights show that network executives expect that to increase as the sport begins to target a new generation of American fans.

Millions of Americans watched a tournament made up of 64 soccer matches to record television ratings this month. The United States only played in four of those matches.

American soccer is growing, if you take the time to properly define what American soccer really is.

More than 35000 fans watching the match United States vs Belgium World Cup on July 1, 2014 on Soldier Field in Chicago

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