Soccer heading up, perhaps at baseball’s expense




Deputy Editor

Mark Roberson


As the World Cup in Rio de Janeiro (and other Brazilian cities) approaches, it’s time to start talking about soccer, or should I say fútbol?  Footy?

Soccer in the United States has always had a hard time catching on.  It is a sport that has taken a back seat to the NFL, MLB, NBA, and others.

Growing up in the United States, I have always considered soccer as a lesser sport, behind that of the majors, although curiously enough, the first sport I ever played was soccer.

It’s that way for most kids in the U.S.  Somewhere along the line, though, most of us gave it up to pursue different things.

Let’s face it, the MLS will never be able to match the marketing power of the NFL.  It’s sad to say, considering the success of La Liga and the Premier League in Spain and England.

There are numerous barriers for soccer in the U.S., but lately, it seems the tides have started to turn.  Soccer has become one of the fastest growing sports in the United States, and that’s due to the rise of the MLS.

Before its attempt at “Major League Soccer,” the United States did not have a structured soccer league at the professional level.  This is perhaps the answer to the questions:  “Why hasn’t the USA ever won the World Cup?” or “Despite America’s endless supply of athletic talent, why do they always fail to compete professionally?”

In the UK, kids grow up dreaming of playing two sports, cricket or football (as they call it).  Most of the time, it’s football;  that is where the money is and has been for several decades.

England continues to have an enormous advantage over the U.S., but that’s starting to change.  Team USA isn’t as bad as it used to be, and it may have my generation to thank.

While, yes, soccer, as our country calls it, is still much less popular than our big three, it  garners much attention among younger age groups.  Now, kids are able to turn on the TV and see professional athletes playing soccer.

They can continue to play what they started when they were only 4, when before, the opportunity did not exist.

This is one of many cultural changes we are seeing in sports today.

Look at baseball.  It has one of the largest fan bases in the United States, perhaps second only to the NFL.  It’s also the oldest of all fan bases in the U.S.

Out with the old and in with the new.  That is the cry of my generation.  People my age and younger don’t want to get caught up with the intricate details and statistics of baseball.  Not to mention the slow pace of the game.

Soccer is new, fun, and exciting.  It is growing rapidly and will continue to do so, and before we know it, the MLS could become one of the biggest leagues in the U.S., and the world.

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