Changing attitudes spell success for soccer in America

By Gretchen Keller

(Katherine Mayo / Daily Collegian)

“In America, soccer is something you pick your 10-year-old daughter up from.” This quote from the political commentator John Oliver demonstrates the resistance to the world’s most popular game that runs deep in our American roots. It’s simple but true; as Americans, we prefer to play, drive and watch things we thought of ourselves. Some may argue that soccer is a slow and uneventful game, with players practically walking to the ball at some points. My father never grew up watching soccer, simply because it was on the other side of the world. “Why should I care?” he commented. But this viewpoint overlooks the game’s rich culture. These apathetic onlookers are unaware of the heritage and pride that many of these teams and fans possess. The players. The coaches. The city the game is being played in. Put together, these factors contribute to grueling rivalries in nearly every soccer tournament and league across the globe. Soccer may not be as popular in America as it is in the rest of the world, but that doesn’t mean that it never will be.

The 2014 FIFA World Cup previewed the United States’ potential for breaking into the world of soccer. Placed in the toughest group of competitors, the American national team shocked the world by holding their ground against Ghana and emerging victorious with a two to one finish. Our next match against Portugal, known for having one of the world’s best players, Cristiano Ronaldo, resulted in a shocking outcome. The U.S., predicted to lose the match terribly, surprised everyone and went on to tie the Portuguese. United States goalkeeper Tim Howard was proclaimed “Captain America” for the incredible saves and late-stage heroics he pulled off. America’s World Cup run ended with a narrow loss to Germany, who later advanced to win the tournament.

So if America really isn’t that bad at soccer, why does everyone still think we are? It’s simple—our teams lack star power. We don’t have any famous players like Lionel Messi, Neymar de Silva Santos or Bastian Schweinsteiger. Even in the United States, it’s hard to go anywhere and not see at least one Argentina, Real Madrid or Arsenal jersey. Until the U.S. team replicates their level of celebrity, we won’t see the same effects. Across the globe, soccer has a special way of uniting people under one stadium. If you’re a soccer fan, you are part of a team alongside players of all nationalities and origins. National competition becomes global.

As demographics in America continue to change, millennials and members of Generation X alike have been drawn into the world of soccer. As access to foreign leagues, games and stats increases with the use of smartphones, soccer has become increasingly available to American youth. The popularity of the video game FIFA has contributed to the growing intense attitude toward soccer among video game players. Regardless of what team you root for, FIFA allows people to interact firsthand with foreign players. As the language of soccer evolves, it speaks to more people of all ages. As Americans, where we choose to run with this beautiful game of rich history and passion is up to us.

Gretchen Keller is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]