After the World Cup, will soccer fervor survive?

July 25, 2014

By MICHAEL LETENDRE
STAFF WRITER
Can I ask all of you a question?
Now that the FIFA World Cup is over, with Germany holding on to defeat Argentina 1-0 for the championship, are you going still going to watch and follow soccer anymore?
Do you have any passion for the sport now that the World Cup is over and done with?
Can you get behind one of the squads from one of the many leagues in the U.S.?
Would you enjoy following one of the many European teams?
Or, just like every time the World Cup comes and goes, is soccer time over – at least for you over the next four years?
Personally, I think those are viable questions that deserve an honest answer and approach.
Because, as Americans, we’ve proven time and time again that professional soccer is a commodity we just don’t care about.
It’s a fact and now that the World Cup is gone, we won’t be talking about soccer at coffee shops, at the ball park, or the grocery stores for quite some time and frankly, it’s a shame.
And of course, some of you are going to tell me that you talk about soccer all the time, it’s more popular than baseball in American and that I am 100-percent wrong in this case.
No, you don’t because we are not invested in soccer as a country and if you are, you’re in the minority.
It’s rare but at my father-in-law’s house, Premier League Soccer is always on the TV.
But that’s a rare American exception. 
We don’t have the passion and the drive when it comes to soccer in this country. 
Do you even recognize these names: Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Matt Besler, Jozy Altidore, or Kyle Beckerman?
Those are some of the best American soccer players – born in the grand ole’ USA – who are currently out there today.
I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t know any of those names.
It’s not a national institution like baseball and football are in America and it never will be.
We’ve just proven that on so many different fronts.
I can say Kobe Bryant, or Jose Canseco or Tom Brady and there’s no doubt about who those guys are compared to Howard, Dempsey or Altidore.
See the difference?
How about in our state…do we care about soccer here?
When professional soccer makes appearances at Willow Brook Park or Rentschler Field in East Hartford, how many die-hard fans show up for games?
Let’s just say those matches don’t draw sellouts, to be sure.
The big exception was back on May 25, 2010 when the U.S. took on Czech Republic at Rentschler Field in East Hartford when over 36,000 fans showed up as American lost 4-2.
Again, in a World Cup year, the fans of the United States showed up in droves.
Maybe all the losing on the biggest stage doesn’t help the growth of pro soccer in America.
How about this: have you ever heard of Connecticut Pro soccer?
Probably not, but it’s out there.
Now, on the local level, soccer is huge and continues to grow in numerous youth (and adult for that matter) leagues.
Whether it’s Park and Recreation, high school or just a group of guys getting together, we play soccer all the time – indoors and out.
So, why doesn’t soccer matter more to us as a nation?
Is it because several other countries are better, more polished and have an established track record of success than the U.S.?
Trust me when I say, we don’t even belong on the world stage in the soccer department.
On a world scene, we are behind in soccer – as a nation – like some countries are behind the United States in baseball and basketball.
But that gap has closed in basketball and baseball isn’t far behind.
Those Spanish basketball leagues are as competitive as they come and the proof in the pudding comes from players like Pau and Marc Gasol.
In soccer, the bridge is still long and wide.
Sure, all over our country, you can see the jerseys of Premier League, Serie A, La Liga and other international leagues being worn but we’re not going gaga over teams from the US who compete each and every year.
How about another take on the soccer subject in a local context.
Would a Major League Soccer team work in Connecticut?
The answer is no because our neighbor in Massachusetts has a team (did you even know that?) and it doesn’t exactly draw to well.
Boston has a pro team – the New England Revolution.
Individual tickets are $24 when bought in advance, that’s not exactly breaking the bank to see some pretty good pro soccer from Gillette Stadium.
You can also watch those Revolution games on CSNNE so the exposure is out there.
Gillette Stadium can house nearly 69,000 fans for a Revolution game and the average attendance of those contests from 1996-2013 is only 15,555.
That’s pitiful.
And I’m positive you – and other fans who watched World Cup action – have already forgotten about it and won’t be going to see the Revolution play any time soon.
Off the outstanding World Cup showing from the U.S. National team, you’d figure the squad has done enough to get you to following a professional “football” team, here or overseas.
It just won’t happen as the passion that drives those crazy fans overseas just doesn’t exist here.
Soccer could be very popular in our country but the lack of real enthusiasm of the sport will never get it to break the boundaries that the NFL, baseball, the NBA and even hockey vastly enjoys.
Soccer is a beautiful sport in which some of the great athletes in the world participate in.
But if we don’t care enough about it, we’ll never take that next step.
Frankly, America is the greatest country in the world and we should be stronger in the real sport the rest of the world calls football than we really are.
Don’t worry, we’ll be psyched in the summer of 2018 for soccer…and quickly drop it like yesterday’s news once it’s over.
You know what, go support your local high school team or go catch a park league game.
Give soccer a chance…just don’t wait another four years for it.
Comments? Email mletendre@BristolObserver. com.

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