Thumb Wars: The Future of Soccer in the U.S.

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Hate It

I missed Landon Donovan's miracle goal. Yes, his 91st minute strike to save the U.S. from ignominious elimination.

Instead of being glued to the screen, I was chugging along my commute below the waters of the Bay.

There's no consolation for being left out of the greatest moment in the history of American soccer - and one of the greatest in American sports history.

All at once, an entire country leaped up from their couches, captured by one of those singular moments that become etched in our collective memory.

As our receding-hairlined hero dove into the grass in celebration, it seemed that the sport had finally slid into the States with him.

Except it's not going to happen.

The vuvuzelas of this World Cup have backed one of the greatest shows on Earth. Still, it's a show that we'll only watch once every four years.

Every sport in the States is already dwarfed by the Goliath that is the NFL. Even if the MLS grows or imports more talent, it'll still be stuck in fifth place behind baseball, basketball and even hockey.

It doesn't help that our most gifted athletes don't play soccer, often opting for those more visible sports. The best that do don't even stay at home.

Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and Michael Bradley all ply their trade in Europe. Even Donovan, the longtime mainstay of the Los Angeles Galaxy, is expected to bolt across the pond for a more lucrative contract.

Who can blame them?

The nature of the game itself also doesn't widely appeal to our sentiments. Only seasoned fans will be drawn in by ties or endless running that rarely results in goals. Soccer simply isn't as embedded into American culture - and given our limited attention spans, we'll likely only make room for it again in 2014.

-Jack Wang

Also Hate It

I went to a World Cup party where guests dressed in support of their favorite team. But at a party of mostly Americans, there were surprisingly few Landon Donovan or Clint Dempsey jerseys. It seemed as if everyone had thrown their allegiance behind the Netherlands.

This may be logical given that the Dutch were on their way to the final, but more often than not, the orange clothing was a choice of convenience. There's really no point in owning a jersey for a sport that you only watch every four years.

Every American loves an excuse watch sports and act nationalistic, so the World Cup has its appeal. But the U.S. has virtually no consistent interest in soccer in the four-year periods between World Cups.

In spite of recent American success on an international soccer stage, fans here still cling to backup teams. When you know that your great great grandfather's homeland of Spain is much more likely to remain in the tournament next week, it's tempting to root for them.

With such a divided fan base, soccer in America completely contradicts the way soccer is experienced in other countries: as an intensely uniting and patriotic phenomenon. The absence of this dynamic in the U.S. completely detracts from everything soccer should be.

Our reaction to the team's recent improvement is heartbreakingly unenthusiastic. After Landon Donovan's game-winning goal against Algeria, I saw about five fans celebrating in the streets. I was in France for the Cup in and there were fireworks after every game (maybe not the final).

American soccer is stepping up its game, and its fans need to do the same.

-Alex Matthews

Tags: WORLD CUP 2010, THUMB WARS






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