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Vancouver, Washington, United States
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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Why soccer will never be a popular sport in America

I was watching a recorded episode last week of Dateline NBC, and they had a short commentary about why soccer isn’t so popular in the US.  The guy was saying “well, the game needs a make-over in the US.  Maybe we need to have good guys play against bad guys, and pictures of pretty girls you’d later see in Play Boy magazine”.  This suddenly made a light bulb go off in my head which answered my own similar question about why soccer would never ever become popular in this country.  You see, soccer (properly known as football in the real world), from third division local clubs to national and international championships is all about politics.  It’s all about bad guys against good guys.  It’s all about right against wrong.  It’s all about the underdog facing the big guys.  The only problem is that in order to participate in the game and have your heart in it, you have to know a bit about politics (you know, who does what around the world and why they’re right or why they’re wrong).

I can still clearly remember the world cup in Mexico back in 1986 when Argentina beat England 1-0.  It was Argentina’s get back against their terrible military defeat in the Falklands four years earlier.  Thinking about it now and remembering the world’s reaction at the time, I think it would have been less disgraceful for the English to have lost the war rather than having lost the match.

I listened to this year’s matches on BBC 5 Live, and being mostly surrounded by people who are clueless about the game, I took refuge in the talk shows in England to vent, shout and put in my $19.95’s worth.  Having little faith in their own team (rightfully so), many people were calling in giving their support to the Germans instead who were among the favorites to win.  The discussion sometimes didn’t center around how terrible the home team was, but how terribly strange it is that people were calling in supporting the German team!  How terrible!  Of course no one can forget the 1936 world cup in Berlin and how Hitler used them – no one who knew that is – but you’d remember if you’re English (what! How did this make it into the Detroit Free press!  Must have been someone like me who came here from the old world)!!  

Americans have no sense of the world around them.  You can drive for thousands of miles without crossing a border, and hence people here have little contact with other cultures.  Watching a football game requires a sense of worldliness, a sense that you are part of a bigger world, that you are a subset of a bigger set.  Simply put, Americans do not think that way.  The world is its own big entity, and the United States, to most Americans, is a separate entity all together.


  1. I disagree. Soccer is never going to be popular in America simply because it isn't accesible enough. Look at it: where are the top Basketball coaches for high scool? At the Schools. Where are the top Football coaches for high school? At the Schools. Where are the top coaches for Soccer? At the Select clubs. This makes it unaccessable for many people because, hey. Most people can't afford 1000's of dollars every year for their kid to play soccer, let alone the driving time for the premier leagues. If I were on a Premier soccer team, every other week I would have to drive at least 3 hours just to get to the game, sometimes more than 5, depending on the team that I was playing. It's just not practical for the large majority of the population to play soccer at a high level.

  2. I agree with you -- the accessibility of the sport certainly makes it difficult for people to participate either as players or as spectators. The reason why all the other sports you listed are accessible is simply because there is a lot of money being put into them. If people's feelings change about soccer, someone will put up the funds to bring the instructors and playing fields to more accessible places.