*honk! honk!* Move over, where comes the US Soccer bandwagon. I make no apologies over my anti-American sentiment as it relates to the US Men’s National Team. Even with their 1-1-1 record in Group G of the 2014 World Cup, losing to Germany 1-0 in the final group stage match, the US backed into the second round. The US didn’t play very well against Germany, but went into the game knowing the pressure was on Portugal to win their match versus Ghana and overcome a 4 goal differential. So even with Portugal defeating Ghana, 2-1 and the US losing, goal difference favored the US, who end up facing the winner of Group H, Belgium.
Portugal sealed their own fate in the previous two games versus Germany losing big, 4-0. This put Portugal in a must win situation for games against the US and Ghana. More importantly they would need to score and score some more. As it played out, Portugal didn’t take the US serious enough and came up short on a few big opportunities in front of the net and the US went on to grab a 3-2 victory on a late header.
So while fans across the United States took the day off and suddenly “BELIEVE,” the fact remains this hype will subside before the end of the World Cup on July 13. Much like I have seen while living in the Bay Area, the number of people who suddenly become “fans” when the team is winning is short lived. No stronger case than that of the NoCal Battery Chuck (Jim Rome reset from back in the day, see Battery Chuck) a.k.a. San Francisco Giants. It was amazing, like Muslims pilgrimage to Mecca, suddenly AT&T Park is selling out and EVERYONE is a Giants fan (not to insult a few of my friends who are Giants fans, I have a few specific individuals in mind).
In 2012 over 3 million kids were involved in youth soccer in the US, granted that figure has been on the decline since 2008, but soccer is still one of the most popular youth sports. Yet in a county of nearly 314 million, the sport can’t hold the interest of individuals based on a Harris Poll taken in January, 2014. It comes as no surprise that the NFL dominates America, which is has for the past 30 years. “One in ten Americans (10%) says soccer (men’s and/or women’s) is a sport they follow, putting it on the same ground as men’s tennis (with 10% following that as well). This is relatively small when compared to the half of Americans who follow pro football (51%), the nearly four in ten following baseball (37%) or the three in ten who follow men’s college football (30%)” (source).
Yet every 4 years when the World Cup rolls around a combined third of those polled (34%) pointed to at least one of a variety of social influences (such as friends or a significant other wanting to watch), putting it on even footing with supporting Team USA (35%)” (source). That screams bandwagon in my opinion, while others will say it’s patriotism.
I choose not to watch American soccer, because it’s not good caliber of soccer (others will argue with that point). I prefer professional league in England, Spain and Italy, where talent is superior and the games/leagues are more competitive. Sure, the US has a few stars; Tim Howard of Everton and to some degree Clint Dempsey, formerly of Fulham and Tottenham. Beyond that, I don’t put much into the make up of the national team. I had a chance to watch Michael Bradley for parts of 2 years at AS Roma and his play was not on par with players in his position; Daniele De Rossi, Miralem Pjanić, Radja Nainggolan, Kevan Strootman and Alessandro Florenzi.
So America, enjoy your run in the 2014 World Cup! It, like the competition will come to an end. Luckily it only rolls around every 4 years. Thankfully for many it’s a slow time for sports. No NBA. No NHL. No NFL. Only the MLB and NASCAR to fill the void left by your favorite American sports. For true football fans, we just need to wait until early August before English football returns to the pitch, but Serie A is getting a late start this year. Football will return to the world stage in Russia for 2018, by that time I don’t believe much will change in the US. No one will pay attention the qualification, the US will make the tournament and sentiment towards the team will increase again for 30 days.