By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard
The USA is out of the 2014 World Cup. While their run was a success it seems that the American media still doesn’t get it. While they celebrate the efforts of the team, and in particular goalkeeper Tim Howard, they still ask the question, ‘will soccer ever be big in America?’
Very quickly on Team USA. Back to back appearances in the road of 16 is something to be proud of. While the argument can be made that the US should have gone deeper into the tournament it is clear that the team continues to get better each and every World Cup. Yes, Howard was amazing against Belgium but do not overlook the work done by Matt Besler, Jermaine Jones, Kyle Beckermann and Fabian Johnson. Add in youngsters like Julian Green and DeAndre Yedlin contributing like they did and things are looking up for the Gold Cup and the next round of World Cup qualifying not to mention 2018.
Yet from CBS to ESPN, media anchors and producers continue to bang the drum and remind people that soccer isn’t the NFL, but it’s big in the rest of the world. They also ask the question, ‘what will it take for soccer to be big in America?’ It already is folks.
How? Lets take some metrics. While we didn’t painstakingly go back and count how many live shots there were from Brazil or how many mentions of the World Cup or Team USA there were across all the media outlets, the fact is that there was a lot. Most of those mentions were positive too.
Then there are the ratings. Some 23 million Americans watched the USA v Belgium match on TV and online Tuesday afternoon. That doesn’t count group events like bars, offices, and the thousands that showed up at viewing parties like the one at Soldier Field.
Yet outlets and pundits continue to doubt. Keith Olbermann the other night on his show complained that American’s should use American terminology and not a traditional soccer vocabulary. He went as far as claiming that while Ian Darke is great, soccer will not be accepted in this country because there is not an American announcer. Guess Olbermann missed the 2006 World Cup when American fans rebelled against American announcer Dave O’Brien for his inexperience and poor performance.
Olbermann will get his wish though in the next World Cup when the broadcast rights switch over to Fox which will use Gus Johnson as their main announcer.
It is clear that soccer is making it in America. The viewership shows that. The media that is doubting it shows that. Is it the NFL? Of course not but nothing is. Not MLB, NBA or the NHL. Some telling signs to look for in the future include attendance and ratings of MLS games over the next few seasons. In part two we’ll dive into why the media and the non soccer community in general continue to ask these questions.