RIP the 'U.S. soccer boom'
by Matt Traub
Jun 24, 2014 8:15 PM EDT
When the TV ratings came out for the U.S.-Portugal draw, with over 24 million households tuned in and countless thousands, maybe millions, watching at community events throughout the country, also came a tide of predictable stories.
"Soccer has gone mainstream … Soccer has arrived as a major sport in the U.S. … soccer has gone beyond the hipsters game of choice … "
The easiest way to get drunk during the World Cup is to do shots every time one of those phrases is mentioned.
The problem with every process story done about American soccer fandom, or soccer viewing numbers, is that it is based around something "finally happening." Fact is, soccer in the United States does not need that type of eureka moment. And even if the U.S. loses to Germany on Thursday and does not advance out of group play, that will in no way, shape or form stop the rise of soccer in this country.
(Sunday game analysis break: hate the final goal, hate the way the U.S. defense switched off on watching late runners, but that was a brilliant cross from Ronaldo in injury time. In my preview, I mentioned that you can't give a star like him a couple yards of space. DeMarcus Beasley did; now, he's not at fault if you want to pin it on one guy, because that would be Geoff Cameron. OK, respect to the cross over).
Soccer became ingrained in the culture of the United States way before this World Cup, and even before the 2010 competition in South Africa. More than a generation know the game beyond just that which they played as kids in a Saturday youth league, and therefore do not have the anti-soccer attitudes of the past.
MLS has improved tremendously through strategic placement of expansion franchises, spending "big money" for U.S. stars that are known beyond the soccer community and even international stars who retain name cache and on-field skills. It has further improved by having involved, savvy owners who have used their own soccer-specific, right-sized stadiums to create a feeling of exclusivity and by owning their own stadiums, increasing revenue streams.
This is why you see more club teams from Europe coming over in the preseason. Teams know they will face good competition for their preseason buildups, practice at quality facilities and get a boost from reaching out to an increasingly large fan base. The quality and breadth of choices of European leagues available on U.S. television now further integrates the U.S. soccer fan into the world fan (disclaimer: for all the positives that MLS has done in the past several years, its TV ratings are still woeful).
It’s time to retire the phrase “soccer boom.” The game arrived a while ago and for those who refuse to accept it … it’s their loss, not soccer’s.