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USA fans in a World Cup qualifier against Jamaica
There has been a major war in American sports; battled in chat rooms, high schools and bars across the country. On one side are American football fans and on the other American “football” or soccer fans.
And, while there may never be an end to the ridicule that either group has for the other, it is silly to argue which is the better or truer sport. There is room enough in our nation of over 300 million people for both, and there already exist countless folks who choose to follow both the American and international versions of football.
However, one thing is in soccer’s favor, which even ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning discussed heavily in an episode I randomly caught last week. That is, while the NFL hierarchy struggles with the limited market for gridiron football and its difficulty in expanding outward to other nations where other sports are historically more popular and deeply embedded, soccer is already globally significant.
Although the Super Bowl is clearly the most watched sporting event in the United States on a yearly basis, the international soccer equivalent, the FIFA World Cup Final, was watched by over 700 million people in 2010. If that seems a bit unfair because of the differentiation between domestic and international competition, the UEFA Champions League Final, which is the continental European version of the Super Bowl, outperformed the NFL's chief game for the first time in 2009, bringing in three million more viewers and staying ahead in the proceeding seasons.
That is not meant to insult American football in any sense. It is the simply reality of the situation outside of the US. The world loves soccer. Every nation has its own domestic league, continental club competitions, continental national team tournaments and worldwide club and national team competitions.
For example, in the US, we have the MLS (domestic), whose best teams compete in the CONCACAF Champions League (continental), with the champions playing in the Club World Cup Final (global). Our national team competes for the Gold Cup (continental) to feature in the Confederation’s Cup (a mini-World Cup), and then goes through a qualification process every four years for the FIFA World Cup.
That means a lot of soccer available to watch at all times.