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.
After our first article took a look at how this World Cup will not be the adrenaline injection that soccer in the States may need to be a “major” sport here, this article will take items from this World Cup and point out how we can help soccer growth here in the U.S.A.
One: Accept the MLS and start supporting it instead of trying to change it into a European League before you can accept Major League Soccer. Stop begging for relegation as MLS clubs will never recoup the financial losses from dropping and semi-pro teams can never make the jump in terms of talent and money necessary to compete. The talent level is improving, but this league is still young in comparison to other leagues in the world…give them time. Yes, it is not like watching Real Madrid vs Bayern, but it is still professional soccer and it is still high-level competition.
Two: Continue to grow the game at any low-level/local-level that you can. In my area, more and more adult and youth leagues are cropping up and people are starting to enjoy the game even if they had never played before. Make sure that nobody ever feels disparaged because of their level of play or their particular body type, no matter what age level they play at. There is so much hate in this game from people pretending to be superior in terms of knowledge, skill, or any other related aspect of this game that is scares new people away from the game. Scanning twitter during the World Cup shows people getting skewered for the smallest misunderstanding involving the beautiful game…liking soccer does not make you a member of an “elite” social club that has a right to be hateful, it makes you someone that should be helping grow the understanding and love of the game.
Three: While it might feel wrong, stop bending to the unnecessary viewpoint that your soccer vernacular has to sound identical to an English commentator’s. It is o.k. to call it “soccer,” o.k. to call it a “field” instead of a “pitch,” o.k. to use American sports phrases to remark about a game, and (while some of the options out there are truly terrible) we do need some great American commentators in this game. It is natural to acclimate some of the vocabulary we hear while watching soccer, but to think that using those terms makes any difference would be lying to yourself. In order for the game to grow here, it has to feel like you are not selling a foreign product…have you ever seen a “buy local” sticker? Think of it in a similar way to people wanting to buy American products…
There are plenty of ways to continue growing soccer here in the United States, and we should just accept that there is not going to be a World Cup “miracle drug” that is going to make the sport explode overnight. Continuing to take small steps, not belittling people within/outside the sport, and creating a package that feels American will help the progress. Stop force feeding soccer and let it win people over the same way you were won over…success will come.