Yesterday the United States was ousted from the World Cup ending a glorious 3 week run in the world's premiere tournament. Over the past month the country has been on a World Cup high. Everyone has been talking about it, everyone has been watching it and everyone was rooting for the United States. The country followed the words of U.S. Soccer's unofficial fan club's mantra "I believe that we will win". It was sad to see the Red, White and Blue lose.
Being born in Italy and still having roots and close ties to the homeland, soccer (futbol, calcio, etc...) especially the World Cup has always been viewed in my home. I enjoy the game and I truly love the international tournament. It's like a World War without the death and destruction. Now begs the obvious question. Can professional soccer take off in the United States? I would love to say yes but I am skeptical.
It is true that the ratings have increasingly gone up each World Cup in the United States. It is also true that the popularity of Major League Soccer (MLS) has increased and the league continues to expand. But that is just a viewership thing. ESPN paid $100 million to broadcast the last two World Cups and they did a masterful job in bringing attention to not only the World Cup but to the sport as well. They expanded their 30 for 30 series to include "Soccer Stories", which were documentaries about stories of past soccer news, whether it was glorious, tragic or unfortunate. It had me hooked.
The English Premier League, arguably the best league in the world is now being viewed in the United States and that may possibly help in bring more support for the sport. But it is not about watching the games, it's about becoming a fan. The MLS, although expanding, is still a second rate league. It does not have the star power or the financial backing as the European leagues do and that is where my skepticism comes in.
Americans have all the best professional leagues in the world with the exception of soccer. Americans do not attach themselves to something that is not the best and this is where this sport will struggle. United States Soccer and MLS must take notice and strike while the iron is hot. Although I have rooted for Italy for as long as I can remember, it would bring me much joy to see the United States hoist the World Cup trophy someday. Come on America, let's join the rest of world.
If you don't take it from me, ask my wife.