America, world of soccer is out there

America, world of soccer is out there

Published Jul. 12, 2010 1:00 a.m. ET

As a soccer fan in the United States, I always find it fascinating how “foreign” the game seems to so many Americans.

These, of course, are the same people who religiously follow football, basketball and baseball (all with completely unique rules, equipment and game play), yet they can’t grasp the concept of players not being allowed to use their hands (as if using a bat, dribbling and the forward pass have so much in common).

So why is it that football (we’ll call it “soccer” from here on out to avoid any confusion) is king across the globe, yet can’t seem to land a permanent foothold in the American sports landscape, especially against the giant NFL?

Is it the low scoring? Of course, that’s a major complaint, but a 14-7 football game is the same as a 2-1 soccer match. You can throw in a few field goals here or there, but are they really any more exciting than a shot off the crossbar or post?


Perhaps it’s the American fan’s inability to deal with ties after 90 minutes. Sure, it’s great to have a winner, but what’s wrong with equal value for equal performance over the course of a long game and season? Besides, is flipping a coin and kicking a field goal really the best indicator of the superior team?

Diving and bad refereeing? A pass interference call for 80 yards is as arbitrary as a penalty-kick call, and slowly but surely NFL quarterbacks are learning to milk the roughing-the-passer call to gain the advantage. It’s a question of risk vs. reward, and there’s too much at stake not to take advantage of it in either sport.

Whatever the reasons may be, there are a number of things about soccer that should at the very least give the curious observer a reason to dig a little deeper.

I don’t know about you, but I feel slightly duped that a 60-minute NFL game lasts anywhere from three to four hours and is littered with commercials and timeouts. And what’s the biggest farce of all? If you cut out time in the huddle after each play and all the other stoppages, there’s actually only about 15 minutes of real action on the field.

Another great thing about soccer is that you don’t have to be the biggest and the strongest to be the best. It’s a game of skill, not a gene pool lottery. Diego Maradona, arguably the best player in the history of the sport, is only 5 feet 5 – hardly imposing, yet devastating in his ability.

In addition, there’s a global appeal about soccer that nothing in the world can rival. Players the planet over can showcase their skills in leagues all around the world, learning different styles and tactics and discovering the systems that best suit their talents.

With the world getting smaller and smaller each day, isn’t it refreshing to branch out and get out of your own backyard every once in a while? Sure, it’s great the NFL is the best football league in the world, but that’s hardly saying much when it’s pretty much the only one.

But, at the end of the day, every football fan in the United States has heard these arguments before and still isn’t convinced. And that’s OK – globally speaking, football needs you more than soccer does. A billion or more fans can’t be wrong.