While my family and I were vacationing in Toronto, Canada during the 4th of July weekend, we noticed scores of people at various restaurants and bars watching the Women’s World Cup final. Not only were those Canadians watching the US women whoop Japan’s ass, most were cheering for the Americans.
That’s right, Canadians showed us Americans lots of love for our women’s soccer team. This was a little odd considering that both countries’ women’s squads are blood rivals.
And while I marveled at the love shown by the Canadians, I was happier at the growing love that our country has shown to the women’s team – and soccer in general.
Before I proceed, let me say that I was not always a fan of soccer. In fact, I hated it.
Lately I have found myself slowly but surely catching on to the sport, and it extends well beyond the men’s and women’s World Cups. And if soccer is catching on with me, it’s only a matter of time before the sport captivates most of America.
The question now is how can “the world’s sport” do just that.
Before going any further, I have to acknowledge that we do have Major League Soccer. The problem is that it lags behind European leagues such as the English Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, and Serie A. It is considered soccer’s version of AA-ball at best.
So let’s go back to the question: how can soccer grow in popularity in the US?
First, we have to develop and nurture home-grown talent. On the surface, it’s easier said than done because football, basketball, baseball – and to some extent hockey – are much higher on the sports totem pole in this country. That’s the mountain MLS has to climb.
A way to solve this is simple: have the MLS clubs sponsor camps and academies on high school and college campuses. That way, MLS clubs could easily identify and nurture talent in the US. Hell if it wanted the MLS could also sponsor summer camps and academies for kids in grades K-8.
One more thing, those academies would be for both boys and girls.
I refuse to believe that there are not enough movers and shakers in the sports world to pull this off. Jerry Jones, Bob Kraft, soon-to-be owner David Beckham, Warren Buffet and others could help the MLS make those soccer academies a reality.
I mean, what’s not to love about soccer on TV? A typical soccer match consists of 45 minute halves, no commercials, one halftime, under two hours. Talk about an awesome TV-viewing experience.
(And now that the US Men’s National Team are doing well in the CONCACAF Gold Cup [we won our group before the weekend], more momentum is heading towards soccer’s way in this country.)
I believe that soccer will eventually catch on well in the US. In fact, I expect it to surpass baseball in a few more years. Baseball is an old man’s game played in front of a newer generation.
I just think with more time and more open minds laced with a bit of common sense will get soccer there. I really do.