More fútbol, less football


Sports writer Carlos Islas Photo credit: Nick Martinez-Esquibel

Despite what you may hear or what you see, soccer is quickly becoming one of America’s big sports. It may not be at the height of baseball, basketball or football yet, but it is gaining a big following.

Sure, the sport may have players diving to oversell a foul but the same thing is done in basketball. Yes, flopping is much like diving. Players try to draw a foul when there isn’t one, except that soccer players exaggerate.

I understand why some people would be turned off by this but overall the game, when played correctly, is beautiful.

A staggering 21.6 million Americans tuned in to watch Belgium knock out the U.S. in the 2014 Men’s World Cup. The ratings beat the 2014 NBA Finals according to the Nielsen Company, a global information and measurement business.

In addition to that, at its peak, 21.86 million people tuned in to watch the U.S. women’s team beat Japan 5-2 in the Women’s World Cup Final in 2015. Compare that to the 23.5 million viewers that watched Game 7 of the 2014 World Series.

If these numbers indicate anything, it’s that more and more people are watching soccer. It is also important to keep in mind that the Nielsen Company did not account for viewership in bars.

There is no doubt that more and more Americans are tuning in to watch soccer, albeit the big tournaments.

This can also be attributed to some of Europe’s biggest stars coming over and playing in the MLS such as David Beckham, Thierry Henry and most recently the Italian maestro, Andrea Pirlo. As more and more stars come over they attract more viewers that otherwise may not have a chance to watch these players play live. Most fans can only watch these stars play on TV and would have to wake up super early to watch them.

The MLS All-Star game also features the top stars of the league take on a big team from Europe.

The thing that makes soccer popular worldwide is that it is not a sport that requires money or fancy gear to play. You can play with pretty much anything and all you need is a group of friends to get a game going.

Part of the joy is playing the game with your friends, arguing about whether the ball hit the makeshift posts or not, and no matter the score, the last goal always wins.

It will only be a matter of time but eventually soccer should become one of the big sports to watch in the U.S. It may not happen now, but it will happen. The numbers don’t lie and I hope it gains a huge following in America. Who knows, maybe someday the stars and stripes will be a powerhouse in international soccer.

Carlos Islas can be reached at [email protected] or @cIslasReports on Twitter.