Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy doesn't care for soccer. In a June 22 column (which as Deadspin points out, sounds awfully similar to other columns he's written stretching back 20 years), Shaughnessy writes, "I choose to ignore the World Cup on television... when the World Cup is over, soccer will be over for most of us. We will go back to football, baseball, basketball, and hockey. And we will not feel guilty about it." This sentiment isn't uncommon. John Feinstein has indicated that American interest in the World Cup is ultimately fleeting, and Kayla Epstein The Guardian chided that "Americans can't even stop working to watch their team play in the World Cup." It should of course be noted that nobody in the UK has had to skip work to watch England play in the World Cup's knockout stages, because The Three Lions finished dead last in their group... but I digress. Ann Coulter threw some shade too, but whatever.
There's a good chance that you'll encounter many people who will argue that America is not a soccer country. There's several reasons why I think this assertion is outdated and erroneous, so I compiled a list of simple retorts that you can provide to any person who endorses that simple-minded and incorrect premise.
We're Really Good at Soccer, and We're Getting Better
Here's a brief list of countries that have not advanced to the knockout stage at both the 2010 and 2014 World Cups:
And the list goes on and on. Now this isn't to say that we're a superior soccer nation to any of those listed above, but it should highlight the significance of the fact that the United States has advanced to the knockout stage in two straight World Cups (and three of the past four, overall). Beyond that, the United States finished at the top of CONCACAF during qualifying, a region which had three of its four entrants advance past the group stage. The notion that U.S. soccer's success is but a flash in the pan overlooks the fact that there are many countries who would gladly boast the international success that this squad has enjoyed in the last 8 years.
Soccer haters are stuck in another generation
Dan Shaughnessy is 60-years-old. In 1974, when he was about 21-years-old, there were roughly 103,000 youth soccer players nationwide. In a sports-obsessed nation, that truly is a negligible number, so it's not unfair to understand why soccer wasn't on his (or anyone else's) radar at that time. By 1995, one year after Shaugnessy wrote his first anti-World Cup column, there were more than 2.3 million youth soccer players nationwide (today that number has ballooned to over 3 million). It's no coincidence that America's soccer renaissance happens to be occurring at the same time that the members of the '90s youth soccer boom are coming of age.
Most of the people in the video below appear to be in their twenties. Do they look like they're going to stop following soccer anytime soon?
United States fans bought the second-most World Cup tickets... during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa
The United States bought the second-most tickets (behind Brazil) of any nation participating in the 2014 World Cup. Of course, this number might be dismissed because of the States' relatively close proximity to South America. But what can't be dismissed is the fact that the United States also bought the second-most tickets of any country that participated in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. This is a peculiar trend for a country that doesn't take the sport seriously, right?
Viewership numbers point towards an upward trend, not a flash in the pan
As sports media blog Awful Announcing indicated on June 21, World Cup viewership is up 26 percent since 2010 and 116 percent compared to 2006. The USA/Germany match alone pulled in 18.2 million viewers for ESPN, making it the most watched World Cup broadcast ever on the network. By comparison, the 2013 World Series averaged 14.9 million viewers, and the 2013-14 NBA Finals averaged 15.5 million viewers. I guess America isn't a baseball or basketball nation either, huh?
Soccer interest isn't completely based around the World Cup
European soccer has taken a stranglehold of Millenials (ugh, that term) and doesn't seem to show any signs of letting go. Last fall, NBC paid a whopping $250 million for EPL broadcasting rights. And as David Keyes of Al Jazeera America notes, "it’s often easier to find soccer games on TV in the U.S. than it is in Europe." But the MLS is seemingly on the precipice of catching on as well. Just this morning hundreds of Orlando City SC fans gathered at the airport to greet their newest player, Brazilian star Kaká:
The Seattle Sounders are averaging 44,000 fans per home game and attendance (as well a fan interest) for the whole league has only increased since the last World Cup. In 2015, NYCFC, a joint venture between Manchester
United City and the New York Yankees (SO LIKEABLE!), will begin play. But perhaps most compellingly, Americans aged 12-24 claim professional soccer as their second favorite sport (Hispanics in the same demographic claim it as their favorite sport).
So by all means, continue to claim that the USA doesn't have serious interest in soccer. It won't take long for your chides to be drowned out by loud, youthful USA chants.