Courtney Haupt > Sophomore > Media Communication Studies and Psychology > UMBC
As the 2010 FIFA World Cup demonstrated, soccer is the world’s most popular sport. From Argentina to North Korea, the “real” football has always been a unifying symbol of sportsmanship, teamwork and outright competition. And to the excitement of soccer fans across the country, the 2010 World Cup has finally seemed to spark an American appreciation of the sport. But will it last?
“The World Cup has definitely made me more interested in soccer than I was before,” said Mariah Pratt, a sophomore at Notre Dame. “It’s always exciting to see the combined talent in one nation facing off against another.”
Some say the level of skill that professional soccer requires has sparked a new interest in the game. Even the most dedicated FIFA video gamers can’t match the pro players’ unbelievable endurance over 90 minutes, not to mention the impossible “goooaaals” that send scorers soaring in victory across the pitch. This explains why soccer fans are among the most diehard – and craziest – in the world of sports.
Others have a slightly different opinion.
“The World cup did not make me more interested in soccer,” said Melissa Krysiak, a junior at Loyola University. “I got sick of hearing about it, and after a while, the games got kind of boring.”
But the numbers seem to speak for themselves. According to Kyle Sheldon, Director of Marketing and Communications for the D.C. United soccer team, viewership of the 2010 World Cup was up 31% from 2006. The U.S.-Ghana game drew a staggering 19.7 million viewers in the States, making it the most-watched soccer game in U.S. history.
Like Sheldon, those involved with Major League Soccer (MLS), hope that the World Cup will have a lasting impact on interest in American soccer.
“At the end of the day, growth of the MLS will continue to take time, but the World Cup helps give us a little additional momentum,” said Sheldon, who has been playing soccer since he was a little kid. “The World Cup exposes people to the game who might not otherwise seek it out,” he said.
Perhaps above all, soccer fans around the world tout the sport’s versatility: it requires virtually no money and little skill to get out and play. Unlike the American pastimes of baseball and basketball, soccer boasts a simple equipment list of a ball and two easily makeshift goals, making it the easiest and cheapest pick-up game to play.
The vuvuzelas have sounded and the clock has run out on the World Cup, but has America’s fascination with soccer finally kicked off?
Images courtesy of suffolksyaa.comand oleole.com.