AFP/Getty Images
After Brazil
The World Cup Will Not Change the Status of American Soccer

But the United States may nevertheless come to play a greater role in the world of the sport.

Published on: July 3, 2014
Michael Mandelbaum is a member of the TAI editorial board and the Christian A. Herter Professor of American Foreign Policy at The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC. He is the author of, among other books, The Meaning of Sports: Why Americans Watch Baseball, Football, and Basketball and What They See When They Do (2004) and The Road to Global Prosperity (2014).
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  • BanObama

    The US should not spend money on this, we have to improve our education and healthcare.

    • michaelj68

      Actually the US hosting the World Cup would have low marginal costs especially compared to what Brazil has spent because all the infrastructure is in place. The NFL Owners have been very good at gouging the tax payer to pay for new stadiums. I believe at one time the most profitable World Cup was the one held in the US because no new infrastructure was needed and every stadium held at least 70,000 fans.

      • BanObama

        But the Government will obviously still spend some money. And for what? As the article above states, no one cares about this sport here. Besides, the amount of foreigners coming in to watch it would make a lot of people angry.

        • B-Sabre

          Besides, the amount of foreigners coming in to watch it would make a lot of people angry.
          If they come legally, why should it? They can come to the game and leave when it’s over, but their dollars will stay….

          • BanObama

            Many people dont see it that way.

          • B-Sabre

            Many people think that aliens built the pyramids in Egypt. Do have numbers on how many people are opposed to the issuance of tourist visas by the US Government?

          • BanObama

            Most people dont like foreigners period. No one will ask them “Are you a tourist or are you coming here to work?’

          • B-Sabre

            “Many….” “Most…” And no number to back it up.

            Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Know Nothing Party, v2.0.

        • Habbgun

          Nah…America has already hosted the Olympics and the World Cup. There is no outcry. Americans don’t hate foreign trade or immigrants.

          • BanObama

            haha

  • Andrew Allison

    There is one important area, overlooked above, in which the USA leads world soccer, namely female participation. The national team is ranked first in the world by FIFI (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_women's_national_soccer_team).

    • Corlyss

      Women are to professional sports as America is to chess: not worth mentioning. The fiction of Title IX is that girls programs given a lot of money will have the same or analogous impact on future earning capability as sports programs for boys do. It’s simply false.

  • brainpimp

    Sorry Michael, you are wrong. The scene I was part of in Oklahoma City simply could not have happened 10 years ago. The popularity of the sport is growing in the US.

    As to the World cup in the US. bonus if it does but not a problem if it doesn’t.

    You screwed the pooch on this one.

  • Pete

    Out of national pride, I watched the USA vs. Belgium. Boring!

    Soccer might stand a chance if they changed the rules to jazz it up.

    • BanObama

      No one enjoys this sport.

      • fucking idiot
        • BanObama

          This map is probably wrong. Number one sport in South Africa is rugby.

          • GodisanAmerican

            what about curling? or Nascar

          • Corlyss

            You have to like Chess or Go to like curling. I love it myself. Wish I had readier access to regular broadcasts somewhere besides youtube.

          • Alan Deans

            No, you’re wrong. Rugby may well be the preference of the minority white S.Africans but native black S.Aficans favour football. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sport_in_South_Africa

          • BanObama

            Yeah, I know what wikipedia says. And wikipedia is not very reliable. Ask a South African and then you will understand.

    • Loader2000

      People in most other countries view baseball the way we view soccer (with the obvious exceptions of Japan, Venezuela and Cuba). They have a point, though baseball is boring for different reasons and both sports can be interesting if you really know a whole lot about the different strategies and strengths of the different players.

    • Loader2000

      However, the big advantage that soccer has over other sports is that it can be played anywhere, anytime with no special equipment. Any kid in a third world country can bundle up a ball of rags and play soccer in the street. I saw kids doing that in Ecuador all the time. Any other sport requires either large spaces and/or special equipment (you can’t play volleyball or baseball or football or basket ball with a rolled up bunch of rags). That reason and that reason alone is why soccer is the most popular sport in the world.

      • BanObama

        Are you aware that baseball is the number one sport in Cuba and Venezuela?

        • Corlyss

          Do the Japanese play soccer like they play baseball? I don’t know. I’m just asking.

          • BanObama

            I don’t know, I don’t follow baseball.

        • GodisanAmerican

          at least in cuba, soccer is getting more popular.

  • Habbgun

    Why leave out hockey which the USA excels in? We never hear that hockey will overtake America the way soccer enthusiasts promise us that soccer will be triumphant and yet America is hockey royalty. In the first class of countries!!

    Sorry but the fact that a sport that the USA excels in but often gets left out when discussing American sports only shows how far soccer is behind. How many world class hockey players has the United States produced? How many world class soccer players? No comparison.

  • Curious Mayhem

    Defeated by Belgium? Pathetic ^-^

    Anyway, my takeaway is that the US will have more impact on the World Cup than vice versa. Maybe our sportscasters will find a whole new audience for their gab.

  • Ryan8541

    It isn’t the lack of scoring or ties that will continue to put Americans off the game of Soccer, those watching can see the level of play and number of chances, both of which are exciting. Hockey can be low scoring and Baseball can be boring to the uninitiated. What will limit American interest are the “dives,” acting out for nonexistent fouls, the fake agony, dramatic writhing on the ground and crying out for the referee’s sympathy while the game goes on around a downed player…these are both a significant part of the game of Soccer, and not something that many in a nation that traditionally rewards hustle, playing hurt, taking one for the team and true grit on the field of play, will attach themselves to wholeheartedly.
    Soccer rewards behavior (mom…he hit me!!) that most kids are encouraged to leave behind in middle school, and there are very few repercussions. If done right, it can basically win a game.
    Football, Hockey, Baseball, Basketball, even Tennis all celebrate toughness on the field in different ways, and that’s why Americans love, and respect, the best or even just the grittiest players in these sports. Kids don’t fantasize about writhing on the ground grabbing an ankle – they want to be Kirk Gibson rounding the bases with the game winner on a leg that barely works.

    • Corlyss

      “Baseball can be boring to the uninitiated.”
      It’s boring to the initiated too. I spent several years reading about the game and watching it live and on tv and trying to understand the fascination. Minor league teams are more fun to watch, but not that much. A couple of months ago some professional sports writer opined after a 4 hr game ended 1-0 that viewership and patronage of the game were not increasing as they should to keep pace with demographics, and one reason is the interminability of games like the marathon 1-0 game. Those things are not fun. People want to see scoring. The AFL had sense enough to realize that and made sure that their rules allowed plays that facilitated high-scoring games. That accounted for the rapid rise in AFL popularity that threatened the NFL, which eventually led to the merger. Baseball needs to get with it and stop living on nostalgia for the prowess of players long dead.

      • GodisanAmerican

        if Baseball is boring, try Cricket aka baseball on valium.

        • Corlyss

          LOL You know, that game comes up so often in BBC mystery shows that I decided to try to read the wiki entry and learn a little about the game to see why they thought so much of it. I didn’t make it out of the introduction.

          • GodisanAmerican

            I suffered my young life living through the society which becomes standstill when a test match comes around (Test Match: 6 days with 3rd day as rest! Yes, test match is played 9-5 in white pants and white shirts with breaks for lunch and tea. Then on the sixth day, the game can be a draw unless both teams can complete 2 innings). The game is so bad that even Indians are good at it. Why bring up Indians? Well, look at their gold medal tally in Olympics. The number is usually around 0.

          • Corlyss

            Admittedly the Indians’ strengths lie in other fields of endeavor than sports, even oddball sports like cricket. The only reason they adopted the game to the extent they have is the same reason the Japanese got so good at baseball: conqueror envy. What I don’t understand is the Pakis love it too. Dish went nuts a couple of years ago advertising a match between the two subcontinental nations. Go figure.

          • GodisanAmerican

            By Indians, I mean indian subcontinent; india, pakistan, bangladesh, sri lanka
            (just as the term american around the world include Canadians, much to the displeasure of the Canadians).
            BTW. Pakis is a pejorative term.

  • Jarid Conde

    Average attendance (2012): NFL 67,358 MLB 30,334 MLS (Major League Soccer) 18,733 NHL 17,455 NBA 17,273… So a small domestic soccer league in the US with 2/3 the teams as the other leagues, an average salary of only $160,000 (NFL $1.9m NHL $2.4m NBA $5.15m MLB $3.2m) is drawing more fans per game than two of the top four sports leagues in the US… but soccer isn’t making any headway in this country? This article is untruthful as it is nonfactual.

    http://www.theguardian.com/football/2014/mar/12/mls-soccer-nfl-nba-mlb-nhl-epl-business

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1290390-nba-and-nhl-get-the-boot-mls-is-the-3rd-most-attended-sports-league-in-america

    • Corlyss

      “soccer isn’t making any headway in this country?”
      No, it isn’t. Take out the Latino fans, and you got nothing.

      • GodisanAmerican

        So, Latinos are not real americans?

        • Corlyss

          I’d love to know how you arrived at that non sequitur, but it has nothing to do with whether they are Americans, although we know very well that 11-12 million are not. However, I’d be willing to bet that a large number of those 11-12 million are huge soccer fans and probably make up the bulk of the patrons at games in the southwest.

          • GodisanAmerican

            No. Most of the 11-12 millions usually wait around parking lots of Home Depots waiting to paid below minimum wage for “jobs american won’t do”.
            If you hate football then you hate football. I hate golf and people who watch or play golf. that’s it . Nothing wrong or right about it. But why are so busy commenting on it? Something irks you. May be something foreign?
            It’s not as if it going to be replace NFL (I try to watch couple of big games every year. But less than 20 mins of actions extended to 3 hours by commercials. And too much waiting around by large number of huge men coached by large number of obese coaches with huge headsets….), Basketball (too much scoring!), Golf (would be interesting if they also show players doing some inside trading), NHL (better than boxing or MMA).
            I have nothing against American Grid Irons. How can I since it seems it’s Jesus’s favorite game.
            Cheers.

          • Corlyss

            “Something irks you.”

            That’s the right word. Too much time wasted on reporting on the WC on several news shows I listen to.

            But mostly I’m just tweaking the fans here. Just a bit of harmless ribbing.

  • Corlyss

    Football is America’s favorite game. If we loved a sport where games ended 1-0, baseball would be America’s favorite game. Soccer is a complete waste of time and space. Watching grass grow in a desert has more action and appeal.

    • BanObama

      But people love to watch golf and fishing on tv. The truth is that people can’t enjoy this sport because they dont like this sport. Quite simple.

      • Corlyss

        It’s de gustibus and all that. I was just ragging on the enthusiasts here, pulling their whiskers just a little.

    • GodisanAmerican

      You seem to be under the impression that the world cup represents the best soccer there is but in reality it’s exactly the opposite. The knockout stage of the WC has boring defensive 90 min 1-0 games or 120 mins of 0-0 followed by pas.
      You might have different opinion if you watch EPL or La Liga or the best Champions League.

      • Corlyss

        “You seem to be under the impression that the world cup represents the best soccer there is but in reality it’s exactly the opposite.”

        Not at all. I don’t care about the game at all. You couldn’t pay me enough to watch it, live or on tv. My alma mater decided in WW2 to give up its football team and switch to soccer, for manpower reasons, although the reasoning escapes me since both require 11 men. I saw one game there, and never went back.

  • John B

    Michael you miss two key points:
    1. Concussion impact on Football is going to be diminishing youth participation/
    2. Premier League has developed (and continues to) a significant following in the US

    • Corlyss

      “Concussion impact on Football is going to be diminishing youth participation”

      Not when all the facts are known about the prevalence of concussions among players. They’ll just add more protections. Right now all the emphasis is on concussions without context.

      • BanObama

        Only parents who hate their children would like to see them playing American football. The “context” is quite clear: as it happens in boxing, one just have to look at the older players to understand the harm that the sport does.

        • Corlyss

          You’re assuming facts not in evidence primarily because if there has been a longitudinal study across many age groups of players, it certainly is not being discussed in the hysterical rush to condemn a sport that has been on activist parents’ radar for some time, at least 30 years. Millions of boys have played football for over a century with little to no effect on their long term brain health. The fact that an unknown number of men later develop mental problems is anecdotal evidence of nothing more than correlation at this time. Without more study, it is IMPOSSIBLE to make definatve statements about causation. Neither you nor anyone else at this stage can say if individual predisposition met opportunistic conditions in the men who suffer mental problems. Considering the number of men who played the game many under much tougher regimes than that of today’s, and didn’t show any effects, it is a safe bet that the game play was NOT responsible for the problems suffered by a few. It will

  • ng175

    1. Soccer games have forty five minutes of uninterrupted play. I think there’s appeal in a game not larded with advertisements. In particular, the live experience of a soccer game beats football or basketball, which have become excruciating to witness in person, as there isn’t even a pretense that the point is to witness the sporting event itself (and I say this as a red-blooded American who will forever love playing these games).

    2. Mandelbaum may be wrong about player development. The beauty of soccer is that you don’t have to be bigger than your peers to excel. The sport may attract plenty of great athletes who happen to be under six feet. More importantly, MLS has instituted player development academies along international lines. At young ages the academies emphasize skill development over physical dominance, and technical training instead of playing tons of games. It’s too early to tell if this approach will bear fruit, but I am hopeful.

    • BanObama

      I went to a NBA match a couple months ago, and me and my girlfriend could not take it anymore when it reached to the last quarter. And we love the NBA. We never went to another game since then. We still don’t know what happened, but we are not going again. It was a borefest.

    • GodisanAmerican

      I have been to two Padre games ( vs Diamondbacks and vs Nationals, I think) from son’s league. We had great seats and we were bubbling with anticipation. We left both times half way. The spectators weren’t really spectating anything. They were busy getting a beer, hot dog, chatting about, of all things, difficulty finding a good soccer coach for their son or daughter but hardly any one was paying attention to the game.
      For Soccer games especially in England it is the opposite. There is singing and chanting to taunt the other team, jumping in unison etc. Quite an atmosphere.
      Americans may have a healthier attitude about their teams but (reasonable) tribalism in soccer does make the live games more enjoyable.

  • Charlyfox

    When will you ever learn America is a CONTINENT NOT A COUNTRY

  • FrancisChalk

    The US Team had a .375 winning percentage in the World Cup. The same as Buffalo did in the NFL last year and lower than ANY team in baseball this season. If US Soccer is getting better, I’d like to know by what standard.

  • Ro

    Being a non American it would be completely wrong for the USA to have “soccer” as its favourite sport. That would stop the rest of the World having fun at such things as the NFL ( a very poor version of Rugby ) where the last Super Bowl final got a 2% TV rating in comparison with the Premier League game that was shown in the UK that day or baseball , that was rejected as a sport in England in the 19th century. Also if “soccer” grows in popularity you might actually win the World Cup then you could laugh back at the rest of us. So please keep with those sports that don’t raise a blip on the global sporting radar.

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