The FIFA World Cup is the world’s most watched sporting event. The month-long international tournament draws the attention of hardcore fans and casual fans alike. FIFA estimates that at least one billion people watched the World Cup Final in 2010, and the event draws millions of dollars in advertising revenue.
It’s no mystery that the World cup gains so many viewers, as soccer is the world’s most popular sport. But the United States has always been an anomaly when it comes to the sport. Most notably, the term soccer itself is an American concept, as the sport is known as football around the world.
But during the World Cup, American interest in the sport seems to rise. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the group stage match between the United States and Portugal was seen by more than 24 million viewers and was ESPN’s most watched program outside of the NFL and NCAA football.
Much of that excitement is due to the fact that the U.S. Women’s Team is ranked number one in the world and the Men’s Team is ranked in the top 15.
Many PCC students can be found watching World Cup games on the big screen in the Piazza located in the CC building. Maria Hernandez is a fan of the sport who usually follows the Primera Division, Mexico’s top soccer league. Hernandez is also rooting for Mexico’s National Team in this year’s World Cup.
“I think it depends on the countries that make it,” said Hernandez. “The fact that it only happens every four years only adds to the excitement.”
Some fans are not what you would call avid watchers, but have learned to appreciate the game.
“I watch soccer every once in a while, but not enough to claim a favorite team. But I like the sport so I’ll watch it when it’s on,” said David Melara, biology.
Melara is rooting for the United States and he believes that Team USA’s strong showing kept American fans interested.
Many believe that soccer’s popularity in the U.S. suffers because it has to compete with many other sports that are also popular.
“Because of the saturation of sports and the number of sports that we have in this country, we don’t always give soccer as much attention as other nations do,” said Monica Tantlinger, PCC Women’s Head Softball Coach.
Tantlinger, who was also pulling for the U.S., believes the fact that the World Cup is increased because it is an international tournament.
“The level of excitement goes up because the players are representing an entire country rather than a program or a club,” she said.
American interest in soccer has made strides in recent years. A 2013 report by Forbes found that Major League Soccer, the top professional league in the U.S., has seen its attendance jump 35 percent since 2000. And a recent poll by ESPN found that MLS popularity equaled that of Major League Baseball among 12-17 year olds.
Additionally, in 2016 the U.S. will host Copa America Centenario, a major international tournament featuring teams from both North and South America.
”Soccer has grown tremendously in the U.S. in the last ten years, and that’s a credit to our Men’s and Women’s National Teams,” said Reggie Rivas, PCC Women’s Head Soccer Coach.
Rivas says that the growing popularity of soccer in America will benefit the sport at all levels, including the teams at PCC.
“When your country does well, it sparks the next generation. I think soccer is now a part of the American mainstream and as a coach, I’m very excited about that.”