On July 24, 2009 in Baltimore, Maryland over 71,000 fans packaged themselves like cheap sardines into M&T Bank Stadium to watch a soccer game. I will allow you to digest that for a moment. In the United States of America, the place where soccer is supposedly irrelevant, 71,000+ Americans (and probably some other nationalities) watched soccer.
Furthermore, in a span of less than 10 days, over 335 thousand people watched six soccer games. Again, this is in America.
This can only mean one thing: Americans actually like soccer.
The games that drew such large crowds were between some of the most well-known and well-respected soccer teams in the world. This leads me to another conclusion.
Americans like soccer, but they like soccer played well.
American like to watch the best teams go at it: teams like Inter Milan or Chelsea. Generally, Americans are very educated about the beautiful game and they know that the best teams are overseas. This repels many potential American soccer fans.
Also, It is hard to watch the best leagues play without some special sports TV package or a fuzzy live stream on the Internet. However recently, even ESPN has realized America's "like affair" with soccer and are showing several Premier League games this season.
The perception of American soccer being horrible is one that is hard to break. It is one of, if not the biggest, reason that Americans turn a blind eye to soccer. Would Americans watch the NBA if the Spanish league was better. Or the NHL if the Russian League was better? This is also a big reason that seasoned soccer fans fail to support US Soccer.
Just think, how many times have you met or known an avid soccer fan from America who loves watching the Premiership or La Primera and refuses to watch the MLS. How many friends do you have that wear Brazilian Kaka jerseys or Portuguese Ronaldo jerseys, but refuse to wear an American Donovan or Dempsey jersey.
Fortunately, this perception is changing. Despite what many say to the contrary, USA's victory over Spain is one of the most important victories in USA's history. It not only was a big upset, but it forced old and new American fans to respect their own damn team.
It is now up to the US National team to build or destroy this new-found respect. The fault is not with the American public. We love our soccer. Most of our parents are foreign born. Our country is a melting pot of cultures. It is up to the American National Team to take this cultures and have them bear one flag. The American flag.
Let's hope they can do it.
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