Opinion: Popularity of soccer in United States will remain low after World Cup

World Cup Brazil women fans
In country’s like World Cup host Brazil, there is no other sport. Credit: Getty Images

It’s the world’s biggest and longest sporting party and we’ve always been the kid in the corner too afraid to dance or do a keg stand.

The United States is the oddball at the big dance that is the World Cup, because we still (after decades and decades) haven’t realized that soccer, (ahem) futbol is “the best game on Earth.”

That’s not to say there won’t be great interest here in the month-long extravaganza that’s already underway in Brazil. The TV ratings will be through the roof, even in the States. Personally, I haven’t been this psyched for a soccer tournament since our Essex County U-12 jamboree in 1994. Not so coincidentally, that was also the year the U.S. hosted the World Cup. That was also the year that the hardcore soccer fan convinced the casual U.S. sports fan that in 20 years, soccer would be the most popular game in the country. Sorry Taylor, Trevor and Justin. It just never worked out that way.

The world’s futbol is still an afterthought here. American football is more popular than ever.

Those who believe the NFL’s “concussion crisis” will bring its popularity to a halt are mistaken. New helmets will be invented. New rules will be put in place. And in the year 2034, the NFL will still be king.

Football, the one with the pointy ball, is the sports equivalent of oil in this country. We’re addicted, and although there are safer and more efficient ways of getting our sports fix – we won’t quit it. Not in the lifetime of anyone who’s reading this.

Don’t feel too bad, though, you soccer people. In 1994, we were also told the metric system would be the preferred method of measurement in the U.S.. We were told gas-powered cars and also gas stations would be nowhere to be seen in 2014. Soccer being the No. 1 sport in the country in a couple of decades wasn’t the only empty promise, for sure.

Look, change is obscenely hard in this country, as any story relating to Washington, D.C. these days will show. Change is even harder when the constituent seeking change has its own internal problems. ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap delivered one of the all-time fascinating, yet chilling reports in the sports network’s history last month when he exposed FIFA (the international governing body of soccer) and Qatar (the host of the 2022 World Cup) for more or less encouraging modern-day slavery to take place in the 2022 host nation in order for giant soccer-only stadiums and mini-cities to be built in time for the games in eight short years. Hundreds of workers have already reportedly died. There’s also a major bribery investigation likely going down soon. It’s the kind of stuff that would make the NCAA and International Olympic Committee blush.

Those bummer stories are sure to be pushed to the backseat while the games in Brazil continue these next few weeks. The games always get the most attention, whether it’s in the United States, Brazil, Europe or Ghana or whether it’s futbol, American football or tetherball.

So enjoy these next few weeks. The games are going to be awesome to watch. Even if you don’t appreciate soccer as a game, the spectacle itself is worth viewing.

Just don’t expect the popularity of this World Cup to be the start of some sort of futbol revolution in the U.S.. Our role is to stand silent in the corner, remember?

Follow Metro Boston sports editor and columnist Matt Burke on Twitter: @BurkeMetroBOS


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