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US Soccer: Where's the love?

Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy - British Council
 This article was generously provided to ClubFootball by the British Council, which operates in China as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy.


Despite the USA's unqualified success at the recent World Cup, Hal Cohen ponders whether soccer can become a regular part of the American sporting diet.
If the World Cup is a global party, America would have been the guy who came by himself. The guy standing alone in a dim corner, sheepishly looking around, contemplating why he'd bother to come in the first place. Yet as the festivities kicked off, this guy decided to have fun while he was there. Intoxicated from drinking up way more success than normal, he became a figure of attention as he stumbled around, lampshade on head.
The cup now well in hindsight, the morning-after questions of any good bash still linger: do we remember what happened and what does everyone else remember about us?
By advancing to the quarterfinals this past June, US soccer made their best showing ever in World Cup play leaving the rest of the world little choice but to begrudgingly acknowledge us as a legitimate player on the international soccer circuit. Whether anyone at home has is still up for debate.
With a feast of athletics here year round, even the strong showing in Japan and Korea still has soccer fighting for a place in the public consciousness of American sports fans.
The subtleties of 'the beautiful game' still, for the most part, go unnoticed in the land that gave birth to David Lee Roth and monster truck rallies.
For soccer to be more than a quadrennial curiosity, it must bring something unique to the table - and that happens to be its greatest potential attraction.
Using Rocky IV (Sylvester Stallone boxing movie where he fights a Russian soldier) as precedence, nothing gets America riled up like heated athletic competition against a foreign nation. The Olympics no longer provides this fix and until the World Series actually lives up to its name, there is a void of international competition that soccer or even international bass fishing could fill.
But it will take international matches against world powers to rope in more interest. To think Major League Soccer will take off is borderline delusional. Americans are used to the world's finest athletes gravitating to our shores to play in our professional leagues. For an American fan to watch MLS action is for a Brit to watch English collegiate basketball over the NBA.
The enthusiasm for US soccer can't accurately be assessed until we host a big, international friendly. Yet the next time America is in the midst of international fete, at least the cool kids of FIFA High School won't mind being seen with us.


Hal Cohen, July 2002


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