The World Cup received a lot of media attention this summer, with many sports outlets (especially ESPN) touting that the sport of soccer would take off in popularity in the aftermath of the games. In fact, many of the ESPN personalities had me believing that soccer already was in a dramatic ascension in popularity in America, and that the World Cup was sure to push the sport over the top and allow it to gain the same attention as other, more traditional American sports do (like American football). Now that we near the end of summer and the World Cup becomes a water color memory with each week that passes, I’m not sure I have witnessed any change in popularity for soccer at all, ironically. I haven’t seen more games on tv, I haven’t heard more sports fans than usual talking about soccer, and I haven’t heard soccer talked about on sports radio.
Going back to the media hype for a moment, I listened to ESPN’s Colin Cowherd talk over and over again this summer about soccer ratings on the rise and how ESPN was only giving back to us as fans exactly what we were yearning for in more soccer. Cowherd spewed different figures and data to support his theory, and I remained open-minded to watch and see what, if anything, would happen after ESPN stopped showing the World Cup games. Unfortunately, I don’t think anything at all has changed.
Personally, I think soccer is a really great sport. The game involves a high level of skill, and is played on the world stage – something not many sports can claim. Still, there are multiple theories why soccer has yet to take off with American popularity on the professional level. Some feel the game doesn’t have enough scoring, others feel the level of professional play here in America is lacking, and still others feel there are not enough American born players for the average fan to connect. The reality is professional American football, baseball, basketball, and even college sports like football and basketball still trump soccer in this country, and the supposed tipping point from the World Cup does not seem to have really done much.
Conspiracy theorists will claim ESPN barked a lot about soccer simply for ratings, and there may be some truth to that. The World Cup games were certainly exciting and popular, but it appears that the buck stopped there with the average American sports fan and his/her affinity toward soccer.