July 8th, 2010
10:32 AM ET

After U.S. loss, do Americans still care about World Cup?

Americans packed bars to cheer on the U.S. team, but are these fans hooked on soccer?

Every four years in the United States the same question comes up - will the World Cup popularize pro soccer among the American masses?

This year the hype was palpable. The U.S. team came into the cup with high expectations. Commercials like Nike's ad grabbed us - full of stop-motion action telling us that we would write the future. How could you not get excited? Especially with the U.S. drawing England for its first match.

Casual fans packed bars, donning jerseys sporting red, white and blue, along with longtime enthusiasts. Oohs, aahs and hands slamming on desks and bartops quickly energized the masses as the U.S. came back to tie England.

But would Team USA finally pull through and make us a nation of soccer-crazy, goal-shouting enthusiasts? Maybe.

We were Twittering our fingers to death about controversial referee calls against Slovenia (just where is that?), screaming at the television and filming YouTube videos of our reactions to the blink-and-you-miss it moment.

We embraced the World Cup's sound of the year - the vuvuzela - sounding it like maniacs or downloading free phone apps in an attempt to get in on the action.

We turned off the DVR and watched live to take part in the social-networking and live-tweeting action. We seemed to be hooked. Messages and Facebook posts about the game came in quicker than the sports commentators. We were now the commentators. Call it the social vortex, a virtual watercooler; whatever it was - we wanted in - even if we didn't get it.

We invested our money with our loyalties. You couldn't find a U.S. soccer jersey, shirt, hat or any kind of sportswear with accurate team colors.

TV ratings were at an all-time high.

Then Landon Donovan slammed home a winning goal against Algeria, and Team USA advanced to the playoff. We went crazy. Nearly every YouTube video was infused with the vuvuzela. I witnessed countless numbers of random strangers standing, watching non-U.S. games on TVs at sports bars. They stopped and talked soccer - people from every walk of life who maybe wouldn't even discuss the major issues in our country. But that day they were talking soccer together.

So when we finally faced Ghana, it looked like it might be the time for U.S. soccer. People knew Donovan's name, and Americans had a star they could root for, the on-field hero who made us care.

As the competition reached the playoff stage, all kinds of bars were advertising the games and bringing in full crowds. The U.S. faced Ghana in the playoff. The game went into overtime. In the bar where I was watching the game, the buzz waned. The most frequent question I began to hear: How much more time is there in this game? Followed by remarks of how slow the time was moving and a debate of whether baseball was more boring than soccer.

Our team couldn't make it past Ghana, and just as quickly as we embraced the sport, it was over. We had nothing else to talk about, nothing to say - that is, only for the casual viewers.

There's no doubt avid soccer fans are just as thrilled to be watching the World Cup games now. (ESPN ratings have remained just about the same for non-U.S. games.) But the buzz is gone a bit. One or two tweets a day still pop up on my Twitter stream, and gasps can be heard as games play on - but certainly not with the voracity they had been.

My roommate, who I perhaps forcefully engaged in the World Cup, was glad our fake love of the sport was over. And the other day, he turned to me and asked if it was still going on.

And that was the moment I knew, soccer madness was probably over, at least for the next four years.

But there are some real positives for the sport. The U.S. made it to the top 16 teams in the world and did better than traditional powerhouses such as Italy and France. And we showed we could galvanize around an American team.

This year's U.S. team also put faces on the sport. We may now root for Jozy Altidore, Carlos Bocanegra, Michael Bradley and Donovan as individuals.

Major League Soccer has had a fantastic year of attendance - with some teams seeing a 20 percent increase. And with Donovan making the rounds on "The Daily Show," morning and late-night TV, and even gracing the covers of tabloids, the U.S. may finally have a star who can carry casual viewers into the regular soccer season such as LeBron James carries basketball fans.

While many fans who tuned in to watch the U.S. may not be about to learn the ins and outs of the English Premier League, a few probably will want to follow Clint Dempsey at Fulham and Tim Howard at Everton. It may be a slow-moving tide, but it is moving on. And that's more than can be said in a while, depending on whom you talk to.

Either way, it's likely we'll do all of this again. The cheering, the booing, the complaining and the debating - in Brazil in 2014.

soundoff (272 Responses)
  1. klt

    The world series of T-Ball would hold my interest longer.

    July 10, 2010 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Latin

    Well guys don't worry.. in a few years there is going to be more latins than americans, so soccer or "futbol" will have more presence 🙂

    July 10, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mehr

      hahahaha

      July 10, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew55

      What are you saying latins can not be amercans .

      July 10, 2010 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Camila

      Exactly!! Soccer is passion. It's the BIGGEST! sport around the world and the American team made us Proud. We still have a long way to go, yet we're going to get there. Nobody outside USA cares about Football!

      July 11, 2010 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
  3. Ade

    As with anything that threatens to change americans perceptions in their own country they get defensive. 99% of the world realise that football is the most played sport in the world. But in america just that sentence would be seen as an attack on america's soul!! I for one don't give a crap if america like footy or not. Football is the biggest sport by a long, long way in the world and it's got there without america, who gives a hoot if america takes to it or not!

    July 10, 2010 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
  4. itried

    You people are retarded, look at the stuff your talking about. Not all sports are for everyone you are acting like if You don't like a certain sport your country is horrible.

    July 11, 2010 at 3:34 am | Report abuse |
  5. jesse

    my dodds high school team stationed in germany (zwei 90') could dominate any american college team. soccer makes baseball look like golf or checkers. the only people who dont like soccer are dipshiiiits. basketball, and other no talent sports cannot hold a candle to soccer. espn is an emberrassment to the usa, and the world is laughing at its incompetence....

    July 11, 2010 at 5:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Lstrm

      While I disagree with much of what you have said, I am especially perplexed by your assertion that ESPN is an embarrassment. It's a sporting channel on cable. Do you mean MLS?

      July 11, 2010 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  6. Soccer is OK but it lacks too much

    I am an American living in Europe and I've grown to enjoy watching a bit of soccer. But I believe it will never succeed at being popular in the US until there are some changes in the way the game is played.

    Take yesterdays final for example. Far too many players flopping and acting like they needed to go to the emergency room only to get up a few minutes later, after they realize that nobody cares, and walk away.

    And the game dragged on and on without a score for what seemed an eternity. Even though I was cheering for the Netherlands, by the end I was just hoping that ANYONE would score so that the game would mercifully come to an end.

    American football has its problems (too many commercials and too much time allowed for huddles) but it is better suited for America than "footy". American football is not just a sport of great action but it is a sport of great strategy. The genius of football is the strategy involved because not only do you need skill to play but you also have to be smart. And the coaches have to come up with a good game plan in order to win. Once a soccer game begins, the coach really doesn't have to do anything. I've played soccer (on real clubs not just "pick up" games) and even though there is some strategy involved, it is very limited and there's not really a lot of thinking involved. Americans are thinkers and they love making plans and following through on strategy. Soccer doesn't require that to the same extent as American football.

    Finally, many of you are saying that Americans should like soccer because it's popular around the rest of the world. I must say that this is the greatest problem in America today. Too many people care what the rest of the world thinks of America. The US does NOT need to care what the rest of the world thinks. If we decide to become like the rest of the world we will lose the very ideals and foundations that have made the US the greatest country in the world. Americans should be proud of who they are and what they stand for and stop giving a care to the opinions of the rest of the world. If they hate the US so badly why, please tell me why, do so many millions of people want to leave their own country and go to America?

    In the country where I am currently living they love to bash America. But then they turn around and ask me, "Why would you live here when you could still be living in the US?" Often people have said to me, "I would never leave the US if I could get out of here."

    Believe me, the US is fast becoming a place which will not have any noticeable difference to the rest of the world. And that, my fellow Americans, is a shame.

    (P.S. I know where Slovenia is and I can tell you that it is a terrific and beautiful country. You should all go there for a short visit sometime.)

    July 12, 2010 at 8:05 am | Report abuse |
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