Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Soccermania in the USA?

While Americans certainly aren’t as big of soccer fanatics as the rest of the world, Landon Donovan and his crew have ushered in a splurge of soccer excitement across the states. According to our latest poll, a quarter of the country reports being more excited about watching soccer because of the World Cup.

The World Cup caught the attention of young adults across the country. 39% of 18 to 29 year olds report being more excited about soccer following the World Cup. While the majority of Americans (81%) haven’t played soccer, those who have are of the younger generations. 22% of 18 to 29 year olds and 29% of 30 to 45 year olds report having played organized soccer. These results reaffirm that soccer is a newer phenomena in the United States and suggest that soccer popularity could rise as it continues to take root in American communities.

Soccer hasn’t had a strong following in the United States but it’s not because Americans think soccer “un-American.” 81% of say there is nothing “un-American” about soccer. If soccer isn’t “un-American,” why haven’t Americans rallied around soccer like they have other sports?

Many suggest it is because of the American sport superiority complex, the concept that American fans are only interested in leagues and teams with the best players in the world.

But maybe it is because of the way soccer takes root in the United States. We didn’t add an income demographic question to this poll, but I would be interested to see those crosstabs. In the United States, soccer is a sport of the suburbs, a sport for upper middle class kids. But the reason soccer is so popular around the world is because anyone can play it and everyone does. It has long been considered a sport for the poor—but not in the United States.

In his article “How a Soccer Star is Made,” Michael Sokolove pointed out that in order to succeed in American soccer a player must devote endless hours of playing time from the time he or she is a young child. Sokolove compared the American system to the European and suggested US players become worn out and coaches and trainers focus on shaping the best team and team players not the best individual. But I would also argue that the American system by design is classist. It doesn’t allow poor or even middle class children to compete successfully because their families are unable to commit the necessary amount of time to their child’s sport. In America soccer may not be for everyone.

It is the soccer system, not the players we have in the United States, that may be hampering our ability to produce world class soccer players and ultimately enthused fans.


The Interesting Times said...

I can't speak for all Americans (and in fact I'm sure I don't), but personally I find televised soccer to be dull and monotonous.

I played soccer as a kid, and I still enjoy actually playing the sport. I can also take enough interest to follow the team standings in the news. Evidently there's something about watching the game itself that I find boring.

In an effort to figure out what that something is, I compared soccer and my perceptions of it to other sports and how I feel about them.

Basketball is probably my favorite sport to watch, followed by baseball and then American football. I find that I feel about the same about hockey as I do about soccer.

Comparing and contrasting those sports, I think what bores me about watching soccer is the consistency of gameplay and the infrequent scoring. I can walk away from the TV for half an hour and come back to see the two teams in more or less the same position as when I left.

In terms of consistency of gameplay and infrequency of scoring, hockey is the same way, which explains why I find hockey to be equally dull.

Baseball and football can also be low-scoring games, but they at least have devices to break up the game and prevent monotony; baseball has innings and football has downs.

Basketball, my favorite sport to watch, usually has frequent scoring, and fouls and free throws break up the game and prevent monotony.

Maybe I'm just ADD?

Camhill666@gmail.com said...

"The appeal of soccer has been growing steadily in the United States for years and the 24.3 million figure is not far behind the 28.2 million that tuned into Game 7 of the NBA final between the Lakers and the Boston Celtics last month."

Also more than any game of the world series last year or the final round of the MAsters. So soccer is not so unpopular.
I find World Cup soccer to be very compelling, low scoring and all. The most popular spectator sport in the US is NASCAR. I believe this is because you can be the seriously drunk and follow the action.....

mjames said...

Jensen does not really explain why poor kids in the US do not play soccer b/c their parents lack to resources but poor kids in the US do play basketball and football, despite a lack of resources. He really needs to explain why a lack of resources prevent kids from playing soccer but not football and basketball.

OleGunnar20 said...


because in the US most of the elite youth soccer is done at for profit "clubs". they are local business, often run by "experts" with accents who employ a "pay to play" system. that is to play on the elite local team a talented youngster must pay large fees and all travel expenses (these teams travel a lot to prestigious tournaments and to find top competition).

add tho this that there is a serious lack of FIFA certified youth coaches and these clubs are often focused on winning "trophies" so their advertising pitch to wealthy parents who want their kids to get college soccer scholarships is more appealing. the focus is not on individual skill development but rather winning now to look good to get more paying kids.

in most other parts of the world youth soccer is developed at the level of professional soccer clubs. every city town and village has a "professional" club. the better the youth player the better the club's whos youth teams are interested. the clubs motivation for subsidising the entire enterprise is that they will either get, eventually, a player for their top first team or they will sell the player to a bigger club for a profit (this obviously depends on the size and quality of the pro tea/club). the environment is very competitive and the focus is solely on the development of individual skill and players. obviously teams still play matches and there is some focus on tactics and winning mentality. but the overriding focus for a club is to find and develop the best talent for their team of for sale.

basically instead of profiting off of duping overly wealthy parents with smoke and mirrors and full trophy case teams in europe only make profit off of their youth teams by creating good pro players.

OleGunnar20 said...


in the US this is changing a bit. MLS, the pro league of soon to be 18 teams, mandates that every team has a youth academy. each academy has U18 and U16 teams that compete in the new(ish) USSF Development Academy. each MLS youth academy usually also has programs for kids under 14 that are mostly just skill camps. the USSF DA was an attempt to change the "for profit" pay to play youth club system. the USSF basically sanctions 77 elite youth clubs around the country and has worked with them to change the focus from winning to development. but old habits die hard and aside from the MLS clubs who have participation in their youth academies as totally free most of the clubs in the USSFDA were simply the biggest and most successful clubs under the old system and continue to focus on trophies and continue to profit only from charging parents for the privileged of playing on their team. MLS youth academies are starting to get the best of the best talent in each of their regions, often times away from more established PtP clubs, but the process is slow and in soccer hotbeds like Dallas, Chicago, LA and others some of the old guard still hold a lot of sway and get a lot of the best kids.

the MLS youth academies have a few advantages. first they are often free so they can focus more on getting poorer kids involved. this might take a while because it must start at 8-10 age range. they also are the only youth "clubs" that can provide a clear path to professional soccer for their most talented players. the usual player at a PtP club is basically playing at that club in the hopes that he will be seen by college scouts and get a scholarship (thus why parents are so willing to fork over their cash). however the US college soccer system is seriously lacking the necessary coaching and talent to produce truly world class professional players at the same level as youth academies of professional teams like in Europe and now MLS. true some of the most very talented players from the US who did not go to european youth teams as 15-18 year old kids and ended up in college still found their way to MLS and other pro-teams that usually happens after 2-4 years in college most of which are a waste. by the time a player is 20-22 in the rest of the world the truly talented players are already professionals, have been for a while and have been playing regularly at their professional teams (often as early as 17-18).

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