US remains apathetic as World Cup approaches


The 2014 World Cup is fewer than 100 days away, and that’s something Americans should care about.

Soccer is the world’s most popular sport, meaning the World Cup is the biggest forum for international competition, probably larger than even the Summer Olympics.

So why doesn’t the U.S. care? I’ve heard countless people scoff when soccer is mentioned, preferring to talk about baseball or football. You know, “America’s games.”

Is that it? Because we’re not the best, soccer doesn’t matter? I don’t think so.

South Africa, 2010. Against the odds, U.S. midfielder Landon Donovan scores the winning goal in the 90th minute against Algeria to secure a spot in the round of 16.

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Though the United States would go on to lose to Ghana 2-1 in its next match, that goal became a defining moment of that World Cup, not because the U.S. went on to win or because it affected the tournament in a profound way, but because it united a country.

Maybe that sounds cheesy, but how many times was that video shown on “SportsCenter”? It won “Best Moment in Sports” at the 2010 ESPY’s, and suddenly soccer was relevant.

But four years is a long time. People forget.

And at the start of every World Cup, the same arguments are repeated. “Soccer is weak.” “It’s too boring.” “They just flop all over the place.”

Well, guess what? Flopping happens in American basketball too — see LeBron James in Game 4 of the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals.

If soccer, fútbol, football — however you want to say it — is so “boring,” then why is it the world’s No. 1 sport?

In a 2006 survey, FIFA found that 265 million people around the world are playing soccer, with Asia and Europe combining to contribute more than half the world’s soccer players.

North and Central America boast about 43 million players, roughly two-thirds of Europe’s 62 million players.

And that’s fine. Different countries prefer different sports. England and India love cricket and New Zealand is big on rugby, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate those sports.

The 2014 World Cup is an opportunity for change. Maybe if Americans embraced the game of soccer, the U.S. team would be more apt to succeed.

And besides watching purely for national pride, it’s fun to see different countries — with up-and-coming teams — try to battle with the international powerhouses.

Imagine a Brazil-Spain final. As the victor of the 2010 World Cup, Spain wants to prove why it’s still No. 1, especially after losing to Brazil 3-0 in the Confederation Cup this summer.

But with home-field advantage, maybe the stars will align for Brazil in Rio.

And you can bet Italy wants to redeem itself after failing to make it though group play in 2010, just four years after winning the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

It’s a year of rivalry and revenge, of new faces and experts. We’ll see Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Donovan and Garreth Bale all fighting for their respective countries in what is always an exciting tournament field.

However, the U.S. has its work cut out for it, as Germany, Ghana and Portugal round out Group G. Of these four teams, just two will advance to the round of 16.

The World Cup begins June 12 and promises a month of exciting international competition, even by American standards. So tune in.

Aryn is a senior in LAS. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @arynbraun.