by Louise Baker
Football, or soccer, as the Americans know it, is the most popular sport in the world. Yet, the United States, one of the largest countries in the world, has never embraced it. The excitement generated by the recent World Cup has left many wondering why. In an attempt to answer that question, we have compiled five of the top reasons that Americans never got into soccer.
5. Availability, Familiarity, and Stigma
Some argue that the game is neither available nor familiar to the Americans, but this is not entirely true. The U.S. integrated soccer programs into their public education system in the 1970s. In fact, soccer is so popular at the youth level that is often the sport of choice for parents, and it even surpasses participation in baseball in those age groups. However, this has given soccer an odd image in the country, one where it is associated more with a childís game like kickball than it is with one suited for adults, such as baseball or American football.
4. America’s Top Athletes
One aspect to this stigma is that there are few larger-than-life reinforcements, which is important to children and even influences parents to a degree. The young baseball player has the MLB, and the young basketball player has the NBA. Perhaps Landon Donovan is the closest the country has ever had to such a figure, but even he does not achieve a level of exposure that would allow him to influence in the manner that a Kobe Bryant or David Wright does.
3. America’s Dads
The popularity of soccer in the U.S. is in many ways a chicken or the egg scenario. Sport is a male-oriented business, and men are very much their father’s sons. The current U.S. power generation grew up with fathers that had little to no exposure to soccer. Will this current generation impart their soccer experiences to their sons? If they do, then we may witness an incremental change in attitude through the generations.
2. Competition and the Almighty Marketing Dollar
TV exposure is the first step if there is any chance that Americans will one day embrace soccer. Many Americans currently have to jump through hoops just to watch it. ESPN is making a difference because it sees soccer as an untapped revenue opportunity. However, the bottom line is this: Americans possess a finite number of dollars to funnel into sports. Soccer has to compete with the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and a host of niche sports. Advertisers recognize this just as well as we do.
1. A Sport-Oriented Cultural Divide
Some argue that soccer is too slow for the American viewer, or that there is not enough scoring. We think that this is an oversimplification of what alienates the American sport enthusiast. To Americans, the offside rules in soccer seems intentionally designed to suppress scoring and the pace of the game. The fact that there is clock time hidden to all but the judges infuriates Americans, and they feel it robs them of a quintessential sport moment. Then, there is the flopping. Americans flop in their own sports. However, the way in which the international soccer culture embraces it, is what puzzles them.
The answer to why Americans never got into soccer is a complex one. It also has deep roots. It is certainly something that can change over time, in part due to Internet-powered globalization, but it will be a long and slow process.
Louise Baker is a soccer fan who wishes the sport would be more widely appreciated in North America. She currently writes about online degrees for Zen College Life. Her, most recent post was on becoming a dental assistant.