Five reasons why soccer will eventually surpass football in the US – #5: Americans love a winner

Part five in a series.

As Americans continue to succeed in the global game, expect fans to jump on the bandwagon.

Back to my original thesis, noted in part one: Americans love a winner, and the more success we achieve on the global stage, the more fans here are going to latch on.

…soccer might well have a bright future as a spectator sport in the US if we become an international power. That’s right. If our national team were one of the world’s top five sides, I assure you – I guarantee you – American consumers would fight for a front-row seat on the bandwagon. We’ve been told we ought to like soccer because everybody else does for all these years (and what do we hate worse than being told what we ought to do?), and meanwhile we’ve struggled to even qualify for the World Cup. We’ve gotten our knickers dusted on a regular basis by third-rate countries like freakin’ Brazil. And you want to tell me that if all of a sudden we were dominating the sport the way we dominate basketball that people wouldn’t be lining up for tickets and merchandise?

We’re already seeing more and more American players succeeding internationally (and not just goalies, either), with several Yanks playing key roles in England (Eric Lichaj, Geoff Cameron, Tim Howard, Maurice Edu), Germany (Tim Chandler, Fabien Johnson, Steve Cherundolo, Danny Williams, Jermaine Jones), Spain (Oguchi Onyewu), Italy (Michael Bradley) and Holland, where Jozy Altidore was leading the league in scoring up until recently.

Meanwhile, the most accomplished field player the nation has ever produced, Clint Dempsey, is starting for Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premiership (which is currently engaged in Europa League competition).

Dempsey finished fourth on the FWA Footballer of the Year list behind winner Robin van Persie and Manchester United pair Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes, who came in second and third, respectively. Dempsey became the first American to reach the milestone of fifty goals in the Premier League, with a free-kick against Sunderland in the last home game of the season.

On 7 June 2012, Dempsey was voted the Fulham ‘Player of the Season’ by fans for the second straight season.

The national team has endured some growing pains since the arrival of new coach Jurgen Klinsmann, but they have talent and he has a proven knack for getting the most of the players at his disposal. Nothing is guaranteed, but it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see the US advance past the round of 16 in the next World Cup, and winning an elimination match would be a massive tipping point moment for American soccer.

In sum, then, soccer is posed for massive, sustained growth in the US at the same time our current alpha spectator sport is being eroded from the ground up by incredibly complex problems that suggest no obvious solutions. No one is predicting that football is going to go away for good, but it’s hard to see how it can maintain its status in the face of the dynamics described in the first two installments of this series.

While I love football (despite not being very good at it when I played as a youth), I’ve also come to understand the passion attending world football culture. Last year’s Champions League run by Chelsea FC was one of the most blindingly exciting things I have ever experienced in all my years of sports, and all those young people investing themselves in the supporters clubs are onto something. It’s more than a group of folks in matching shirts getting together to watch games, it’s genuine community.

I look forward to the coming years and the growth of “proper football” in the United States. And I hope that dedicated fans of American football will understand that this isn’t an either/or proposition: it’s okay to love them both.


  • the fatal flaw for Soccer in the U. S. is that any sport needs TV coverage to be successful.
    no time outs in Soccer leaves no place for commercials

  • I think a turning point has been reached with soccer in America, and whether or not David Beckham was single-handedly responsible for the game’s rise in popularity since his controversial move to the Los Angeles Galaxy six years ago will no doubt become clearer as time passes. Either way it happened during those half-dozen years and I’m fairly convinced the momentum will continue to grow until the USA has a respectable world-class league of its own.
    Where my opinions differ however center on the issue of soccer’s very real glass ceiling in this country. As I’ve mentioned before the big TV companies in the United States have got very fat, lazy and complacent with their add-saturated coverage of the sports that have seemingly sold their souls and tinkered with their rules until advertisements regularly hit the screen every few minutes. I therefore imagine there is little enthusiasm within their corporate boardrooms for a game that has the audacity to kick off and ignore their needs for 45 plus minutes at a time. Sure there are those ever present and extremely annoying linear billboards that surround just about every pitch these days, but I doubt if they present as tempting an advertising opportunity as a good old fashioned 30 second add.
    In fact, we should get a little glimpse of the future when NBC takes hold of the Premier League license and begins broadcasting next season’s games. How their coverage differes from the way the Fox Soccer Channel’s current arrangement should offer some real clues. At the moment Fox thinks it’s quite OK to ‘lift’ the pitch up at random moments and slip an add along the bottom of the screen – annoying but at least we see the game. What if NBC cut the coverage and slip in an add? What will THAT do for the beautiful game?
    Well, I won’t know, because at that point I will no longer be watching.
    I say; overall the prognosis certainly looks good for the game in the USA and will no doubt claim ever expanding market shares that reflect the local demographic. But whether it will ever eclipse a game that currently packs bars by the score in each and every American community… well, I have my doubts.
    Perhaps as I foreigner in a foreign land I have a different perspective but everything I see and hear tells me that an entire generation, or two, will have to die out before they give up their beloved grid iron (whatever that means).
    Sadly for me I don’t have a generation or two in me to wait it out.
    An excellent series of articles though, a good read… and I hope I’m wrong and you are right!

  • No way NBC coverage cuts into the game. The template for how soccer is broadcast is well established by FOX and ESPN, and NBC was dying to get its hands on the Prem. I’m actually pretty optimistic – there will be more games on and the network doing it clearly values the game.

  • sorry about that – ha! Please delete the above, I won’t do it again! (I’m still pretty new to all this)

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