The ride is over. Belgium and a resurgent Lukaku have sent us packing. Record breaking crowds and record breaking numbers have given rise to the thought that this type of exposure is going to push soccer into contention with other American sports. However, there always has to be a voice of reason and a moment where you step back into reality once you float down from the clouds. This World Cup push will die before the Tim Howard memes do…and we should not be saddened by this, but we should take this as an opportunity to push the sport forward.
First, here are a few reasons why the 2014 World Cup will not be the fuel that pushes soccer into the upper echelons of American sport.
One: There is not a second act for fans to fall into after the World Cup Final. Sure, the MLS is improving and there are many of us (yes, “us”) that can easily say that we enjoy the MLS and that we are fans. However, going from the explosive group stage games and the heavyweight bouts that we see in the knockout rounds will mean that the MLS is an extremely watered down impersonation. Yes, the European leagues follow in late August, but the layoff of over a month will see the “new” fan-base retreating into preparing for NFL/NBA pre-season. While I am sure that the BPL and co. will gladly accept a few new fans, we are not going to see Chelsea vs Newcastle getting NFL-game ratings.
Two: Russia will not be anything like Brazil. The time difference between most of us viewing the World Cup is only one hour (or so), meaning that we barely have to alter our schedule to watch any of the games. You want to have a viewing party in 2018 for the U.S. games? Brace yourselves for watching footy before the sun comes up. The time difference between us and Russia means that all of the games will occur in the a.m….the EARLY a.m. Think that a 3 a.m. kick-off is going to pull in the numbers? Also, how many Americans will be willing to travel to the 2018 event? How difficult is it to justify going to Brazil in comparison to Russia? If you do not have a working DVR in 2018, you probably will not be watching.
Three: “THAT” soccer fan. The one that whines because soccer does not get the respect they believe it deserves, but then they treat it like an act of treason when someone says that they do not understand a few of the rules. Did anybody catch some of the flack that some bigger personalities were getting on Twitter when they made simple jokes about the World Cup or just talked about not understanding something? Instead of reaching out to them and taking the jokes in stride, the backlash was immediate and harsh. If soccer is going to grow, you have to make it accessible AND friendly. Accept that soccer might not be for everybody, but be willing and positive to offer information when someone gets tied up by the “offside” rule.
Four: Stop believing a hype machine, do your research, and know what is a “success” and what is a “failure.” You tell anybody that we are in a group with Ghana, Portugal, and Germany…then tell them that we made a decent showing but did not even make it out of the group, and those people would be proud of the USMNT. The team made it out of a group that nobody expected them to escape and took a team that 99% of viewers have as their “dark horse” to 120 minutes of football. There are a few small-sized failures and a few things that can be fixed, but this was a success…no two ways about it. It is hurting the growth of this sport to paint the USMNT at Brazil 2014 as having a weak showing…so stop it.
The Cup is not over. For anybody only concerned about how the USMNT does, (sadly) it is. There are steps to take. We are here to provide you with those steps. Check on the next “Post-World Cup Step” article as it tells about how to grow the sport effectively within the U.S. In the mean-time, realize that everybody jumping off the Brazil bandwagon is discounting the idea that the Brazilian national team now has a legitimate “cause.” You think trying to win it for a fallen teammate cannot overcome one player’s loss? Underestimate Brazil at your own peril…