As we enter the final weekend of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, you might be saying to yourself, “That’s still going on?” Men’s soccer has never been a top-of-mind sport for most Americans. It doesn’t help that our national team didn’t even qualify to play in this year’s tournament.
There are other reasons why soccer doesn’t resonate with many U.S. sports fans. For one thing, it doesn’t have as much scoring as American football or basketball. It has also become a surprisingly expensive sport, despite the fact that it doesn’t require much equipment. Youth soccer has quite simply become a very big business that is pricing a lot of families out of the game.
Perhaps the most off-putting aspect of soccer for Americans is the flopping. Many international players, in their attempts to be awarded penalty kicks, will act as though they’ve been struck down by a sniper’s bullet when, in reality, they may have tripped, only to land on some soft grass. Brazilian futbol superstar Neymar is notorious for his Oscar-worthy performances on the pitch.
However, there are signs of life for soccer in America. The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team has enjoyed considerable success since the early-1990s, including three World Cup championships and four Olympic gold medals. On the men’s side, Major League Soccer (MLS) is growing with Atlanta United FC drawing big crowds to their games. Closer to home, the Charlotte Independence of the United Soccer League have been actively marketing and increasing their fan base. And when international matches are held at Bank of America Stadium, they either sell out or get very close. Liverpool FC and Borussia Dortmund will play there on Sunday, July 22.
If more homegrown talent can rise to the elite levels of professional soccer, perhaps the sport has a better chance of capturing the attention of American sports fans. Pennsylvania native Christian Pulisic (above) is one such star to watch. The 19-year-old midfielder happens to play professionally in Germany for the aforementioned Borussia Dortmund, as well as the U.S. National Team. Let’s just hope he doesn’t develop into a world-class flopper.