Soccer: The Sport of the Future

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Dan Drezner tries to figure out when soccer will finally become popular in the United States:

The fact is, there are plenty of sports in the United States that occasionally capture the intermittent attention of the casual sports fan, but won’t “break through” the sports zeitgeist until and unless the United States fields a successful national team. This is how it tends to work with the Olympic team sports, and it’s how it will work with the World Cup. If the United States can advance far in this tournament, Americans will become more interested; if not, they’ll switch back to baseball and the NFL draft.

Surely this is backwards? What matters isn’t a successful national team, it’s a successful domestic league. If MLS ever attracts lots of fans and a big TV contract, then Americans will become as passionate about the World Cup as anyone else. If not, not. After all, football and NASCAR are wildly popular without any Olympic representation at all, while beach volleyball remains a niche despite consistent American success at the international level.

Clearly, the key is to make soccer a non-nerd sport among the young. As long as the best athletes continue to focus on other sports, while soccer mostly has to make do with the offspring of PhD-wielding yuppie sophisticates, well, it’s just not going anywhere. But give it time. I predict it will take over the American sporting world about the same time that Unix takes over our desktops.

Alternatively, maybe we just need more plays like this one from Saturday’s outing to show Americans just how satisfying the game can be. Thanks, England! You definitely helped the cause. We can work our way up to a more refined appreciation for the game later.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

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In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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