Why Soccer Remains on Sidelines in the USA
You know, it seems like for as long as I’ve been alive, I’ve been hearing about how soccer is eventually going to catch on in America if we just wait a little bit longer. I first started hearing such conversations when I was a kid. Apparently, the US National Team, led by some guy with bushy red hair, advanced to the Round of 16 in the World Cup, and this was something we were all going to be very proud of.
Per usual, nothing happened, and American football just kept on being way more awesome, so we all forgot about the rest of the world’s silly little game for a bit longer. Every few years, someone would show up and try to sell us on it once again, and the cycle just repeated itself over and over. Even David Beckham showed up in the MLS for a little while.
After the inspired 2014 World Cup run – in which we still kinda sucked, but just less than usual – it seemed like soccer might finally be catching on. Everywhere you went, people were wearing those goofy “Where’s Waldo” scarves and copying the European soccer chants. You could feel the momentum building.
So how did our national soccer team build off their successful performance? Well, first they fired the manager that had built our best team in ages. And then, they proceeded to not even qualify for the World Cup, losing their spot to the powerhouse nation of Peru.
Any progress that was made in 2014 was a complete waste. By the time another World Cup rolls around, nobody will even remember why we ever cared about soccer for that brief moment to begin with. But this all got me thinking: what is it about this one sport that turns Americans off so much?
I think I’ve figured it out. After reading every article about soccer in America, watching numerous highlight videos of the best players in the sport’s history, and calling a close friend of mine that played the game at a high level growing up, I’ve finally found the answer: soccer stinks!
Go ahead, run around the field with your little shin pads and your frosted tips, and have fun kicking that stupid ball. It’s never going to happen; we are never buying in. Here are all of the reasons why stupid soccer is still standing on the sidelines to this day.
The “Football” Lecture
I’ll tell you right now – this point was made first for a reason, and it’s because it really grinds my gears. Hey, every soccer fan in the entire world, why don’t you tell me again how soccer is the real “football” because it’s the one you play with your feet! “And you don’t even use your feet in American football! HUR HUR HUR!”
Everyone who has ever forced somebody to have that hacky conversation with you is personally responsible for soccer never garnering mainstream attention in the United States. We are all purposely avoiding the sport just to spite you. Soccer gaining popularity would only lead to more of your ilk being created, and that’s not something we can risk these days.
By the way, I don’t care what appendages they use in American football. It’s such a great sport; it doesn’t matter what they call themselves or whether the name makes any sense. So please stop sharing your witty observational humor with everyone, you mollusks.
We Have Better Stuff Already
Look, I get why the rest of the world loves soccer so much; they don’t have anything else to compete with it. But from our perspective, all of the meaningful non-soccer sports leagues are here, all of the best movies are made here, and we’ve got top-tier television coming out of our ears these days. When would I ever take time out of any of those things to watch some soccer?!
Meanwhile, have you ever watched an average foreign television show? It’s shocking how bad the production values are in some countries to this day. It’s no wonder that if your entertainment television still looks like it was filmed on VHS in the ‘80s, you’d be enamored with people kicking a ball around all day.
Yet another reason that soccer doesn’t stand a chance in this country – the athletes are all embarrassing drama queens. If there’s one thing Americans tend to appreciate, it’s authenticity. If they think you’re being yourself, they’ll put up with almost anything. But if they feel like they’re being deceived, Americans will want to destroy you.
That’s why Charlie Sheen has been allowed to participate in all of his shenanigans and keep his career, but Pee-Wee Herman lost everything. So when a sport has about fifty instances per match of athletes pretending to have been gravely wounded, only to see them get up and start jogging like nothing is wrong seconds later, it’s no surprise when people get a bad taste in their mouth.
Even when they’re not feigning injury with humiliating theatrics, everything they do in soccer is over-embellished. When they argue with the ref, they get all animated and intense. When they score a goal, they sprint around haphazardly, slide on their knees, and over-celebrate. They even all take their shirts off immediately after the game so they can trade with each other as a sign of respect. How about a handshake?
Our Best Athletes Play Other Sports
If the United States were ever going to embrace soccer fully, it would be because our top athletes stopped playing football and basketball and started kicking a ball around instead. Until that happens, American attention will continue to be focused on the sports that the top athletes play. If you talk LeBron James into playing soccer, fine, I’ll tune in.
When you look at some of these international teams from other countries, their roster consists of the top eleven athletes in their entire nation. All of their top talents are guided towards soccer. While they’re doing that, our top athletes spread out. Some play basketball, others play football, and then you’ve got boxing, the UFC, and baseball; there are too many options for any one team to monopolize all of our best athletes.
So, of course, other countries love watching soccer. When they watch their team, they’re seeing the best of what their culture has to offer. When we watch our team, it’s just a bunch of scrubs that weren’t tall enough for basketball or big and fast enough for football.
And by the way, these other countries better be thrilled that our top guys choose other sports, because our most gifted athletes are far superior to their best talents. If LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook, Cam Newton, and DeAndre Hopkins had all decided to dedicate their lives to soccer at a young age, we’d be destroying those scrub countries at “football” the way we do at everything else.
The last time I got really engrossed in anything soccer-related was in 2006 when I watched the entire World Cup. Back then, I was really enjoying the Italian part of my heritage, and so I made myself care about Italy’s progress in the tournament. Every time I watched, they won, which eventually resulted in them winning the entire World Cup.
So what stands out the most about the 2006 World Cup? Is there a particular moment or goal that I can see vividly in my mind? Nope! Because 2006 was the year FIFA decided to reveal something called “magic spray” to the world.
Remember how I was talking about soccer players over-embellishing every slight hint of contact, and how that drives me crazy? Well, now imagine a man clutching his ankle and writhing in pain, back and forth, back and forth, for several minutes. The replays seem to suggest that he barely bumped into another player, but he looks like he’s really hurt, so I wouldn’t want to be disrespectful and say otherwise.
Then, right about the time that everybody has reached their limit with his traumatic performance, a person in a tracksuit runs onto the field, sprays the ankle with something from an aerosol can, and the player gets up and starts playing again as if nothing happened. Then they start referring to it as the magic spray!
At the time, I was confused and thought maybe it was some kind of topical analgesic, but I highly doubt that now. I bet it was water. I think they invented this spray as a way to help players save face when they’ve been faking an injury for too long. Rather than just get up and admit he’s full of it, they come spritz him in the shin, and now he can jump right up like someone performed a miracle.
I’m not going to lie to you; I did pretty well for myself in high school. I was a lifeguard, dated a cheerleader, had a six-pack, and played on the basketball team. So it’s not like I was some awkward nerd that would sit in the corner and seethe with hatred for the cool kids.
However, I did always resent how much every girl in school loved the soccer players. The bottom line is that the average soccer player is just too damn handsome, and it’s off-putting. Why do so many potential Abercrombie models like jogging around with shin pads on so they can kick a ball?!
Tune into a soccer game at any level, and it will be the same. There must be some sort of correlation between facial symmetry and lousy taste in athletics. That’s the only way any of this makes any sense.
No Commercial Breaks
If you want to get to the bottom of the real reason soccer hasn’t caught on in America, just follow the money. If you watch an NFL football game, you see maybe eleven minutes of action interspersed between three straight hours of commercial breaks. Well, soccer doesn’t work that way. There are no timeouts, and the clock runs continuously for the entire game, besides halftime.
This makes it extra hard for them to force-feed us their consumerist sales pitches during the game as they prefer. Until soccer changes the entire sport to accommodate more commercials, I don’t see it taking off in the United States.
We Aren’t Already the Best at It
At this point, the United States is about eighty years behind when it comes to soccer development and skill. What’s the point of getting all interested in this sport now when we’ll never be the best in the world at it?
Americans like winning. We like tuning in to the Summer Olympics to watch our team of NBA players beat your little charity squad by sixty. We respect dominance, and there’s none of that to be found in soccer. Our players have no skill and lack the ability to capture the public’s imagination, while other teams have incredibly skilled players, but they roll around in the grass fake-crying too often for anyone to appreciate it.
At this point in American history, I’m pretty sure that as a culture, we’re only signing up for new sports or hobbies if we invent them, and thus start out as the best at whatever it is. We’re absolutely not going waste our time watching things our athletes are bad at.
Another possible reason soccer utterly fails to connect in the US is because besides being handsome, the players are relatively unremarkable as athletes. There’s nothing that’s done during a soccer match that’s as awe-inspiring as an incredible dunk in the NBA. We like seeing our athletes almost as superheroes.
How do you carry that same mindset over to soccer? They never do anything awe-inspiring that makes you wonder how that was possible. They just kinda jog. And when they’re not trotting, they kick the ball to each other a bunch, without any sense of urgency, and then occasionally put a shot on goal.
Watching a Cleveland Cavaliers game, I see LeBron do three or four things in the span of a half that bewilder and inspire me. I could watch every soccer game that’s ever been played, and I’ll never see anything like a LeBron dunk. At best, you can maybe see a bicycle kick, but that’s not even all that impressive.
The average fan in the US is drawn to extremes. They either want to be witnessing the highest levels of excellence or the lowest levels of trash. I’ll watch a guitar virtuoso with the same amusement that I’ll watch Celebrity Fit Club, but what I can’t tolerate is just middle-of-the-road jogging and kicking. Give me the best or give me the worst. Unfortunately, soccer only registers as “meh.”
The Rest of the World Cares Too Much
I remember in 2014, when our World Cup team was outperforming expectations, how Europeans were getting all giddy on Reddit about Americans liking their game now. I even remember hearing an English comedian’s podcast where he was all excited about our team. I don’t know; it feels like a trap.
Why does the rest of the world want us playing soccer so damn bad?! I’ve never given two seconds of thought to whether or not people in Turkey enjoy watching our version of football. I’m telling you all; this has some sinister motives behind it.
Whatever the case, the more the rest of the globe tries to sell us on the “beautiful game,” the more I’m going to enjoy not watching it. When you guys develop a 6’ 9” superhuman that can windmill dunk whenever he pleases, then I’ll be impressed. Until that day, enjoy beating up on our F-team, while all of our real athletes play cooler sports.
Soccer will always be on the sidelines when it comes to popularity in the United States. On any given day, we can watch the very best basketball, football, and baseball teams in the entire world. When you always have access to the highest levels of athletic performance, when are you ever going to choose to spend your time watching low-level soccer?
Furthermore, people enjoy watching the top performers that their nation has produced. In many countries, those top performers will be soccer players, so it makes sense that they enjoy it. But here, our most awe-inspiring athletes are spread out across many sports. Why would we want to tune in to a US National Team soccer game to see the six-thousandth best athletes we have to offer?
As I mentioned previously, there is nothing that soccer is doing wrong, necessarily. It’s just that the sport itself stinks. The players’ theatrics are embarrassing, the athleticism required to play seems unimpressive, and our fellow countrymen are terrible at it. You know what? I think I’m glad we didn’t qualify for the World Cup. If our best athletes ever decide to play soccer, maybe we should reconsider, but until then, I’m ready to disband the entire thing.