Now that the World Cup has wrapped up and “Soccer-mania” is starting to quiet down in the US, I got to thinking, “why do Americans like soccer as much as Cleveland likes LeBron right now”? It actually didn’t take that long to compile a list of reasons why we as Americans just don’t find the magic that the rest of the world sees in “the world’s most popular game”.
1). Soccer is SLOW
Let’s face it; about 80 of the 90 minutes in a match are spent maneuvering the ball around the pitch just to set up a shot on goal. After about 6 minutes of “flopping”, there are MAYBE 4 minutes of shots on goal that would actually score, compare this to basketball or football, where a good portion of the time is spent on exciting “action”. Soccer is like chess, it’s about setting up the ball so that you can find an opportunity to score, instead of rushing the goal with 6 men in an attempt to overpower the other side and force a goal. We are so used to the thrills of football and basketball, that we really don’t take time to sit back and “enjoy” the slower pace of soccer.
2). NO ONE Scores
I think a buddy of mine put it best. When you watch basketball, it’s pretty much a scoring orgy, I mean, there isn’t really a 45 second period where someone hasn’t made a basket or taken a really good shot. Not with soccer. Most good professional matches tend to end 1-0, 2-0, or 2-1. If anyone scores 3 goals or more, it’s basically a blow out, and 3-2 is considered a high scoring game. That comes out to a goal every 16 minutes more or less, and that’s a hell of a long time. And that’s not the worst of it. If a game goes 0-0 (and it isn’t the opening rounds of a big tournament) games run another 30 minutes. If no one scores in that amount of time, 120 minutes or more considering stoppage time, we finally get to some real scoring in penalty kicks. That’s a really long time to watch someone score.
3). American Soccer is GOD AWFUL
No, I don’t mean Team USA; we actually do pretty well, I’m talking about city teams here in the US. European and South American Club teams make US ones look like AYSO 9-10 Soccer. It’s sad. And to prove my point, just do the following. At some point go out and watch your home soccer team play. It’s a good experience, and can be a whole lot of fun. Then find a decent international game. It can be EPL (English Premier League), Italian Seria-A, French Ligue 1, etc. There is a world of difference, and you can see why when US teams play exhibitions with international club teams, they get destroyed.
4). No "Peles"
Martin Tyler, the announcer for a lot of international soccer matches, once commented during this World Cup that the US produces really good goal keepers. GREAT! But wouldn’t it be better if we had some really good strikers to call our own. America may have Tim Howard, Brad Friedel, and Marcus Hahnehmann (all of whom are goal-keepers), but we’ve never had a Beckham, a Zidane, a Messi, anyone who’s really taken charge of the scoring and really made a name for themselves by the way they’ve scored goals and handled the ball. Landon Donavon, the hero of the US-Algeria game is good, but not at the level to really stand out. The same applies for Alexi Lalas and Clint Dempsey; they are good, but not “amazing”. The one thing that can maybe change this “No Pele” situation is Jozy Altidore, an up and coming 20 year-old from New Jersey, could really be the first great American player to really make a name for himself both at home and around the world.
5). America: Where Good Players come to Retire
Remember when David Beckham came to the LA Galaxy? Did you know that Pele came to the New York Cosmos in the 70s? And as of July 14th, 2010, Thierry Henry is coming to the New York Red Bulls. YIKES. It’s sad to think that America is now the Florida of Soccer Stars. Ironically, really good American players leave the US to go play soccer in Europe. Donavon might be playing for Manchester City very soon, and considering they’ve paid close to $300 Million for new players, he may take it. Altidore plays for Villarreal in Spain, Hahnemann plays for Wolverhampton in England, and Dempsey plays for Fulham in England as well.
Nothing to me seems more “un-American” that getting tapped on the leg, and whining like a little girl for 2 minutes in an effort to get a foul called on the opposing team. And if you don’t get the foul, you just get up and act like nothing happened. Flopping honestly ruins the game of soccer and it makes the athletes look like they can’t take a hit. Unfortunately, its part of the game, and unless Americans somehow abandon the cornerstone of sports (no blood, no foul), flopping isn’t going to go over to well…
7). No AdvertisingHow many times during a World Cup match did you recall seeing an advertisement? Yeah, that’s right, never, and if you’re like me, you mute the TV during half-time because you don’t need some analysis of the game you just watched. Unlike hockey or basketball, where there are a lot of breaks during playtime to squeeze in a few ads, soccer is continuous play for 45 minutes. What does that mean to an advertiser? It means that they can’t sell you anything for 45 minutes. Name one other time while watching TV that you’ve been sitting there for 45 minutes and not seen a commercial. It’s impossible. Sports teams and the channels that carry the games make A LOT of money selling ad space. Without that crucial money, there is no incentive for ABC to carry a soccer game, even good ones like the UEFA Finals. The only reason ESPN and ABC carry the World Cup is because there would be an outcry if they didn’t and its probably the only time that more Americans than usual even notice soccer.