10 signs that America will pay attention to the World Cup
The BBC sent a reporter to an MLS game recently, to gage American interest in some upcoming footy tournament or other. The alliterative headline "World Cup fails to fan US football fever" suggests that soccer is still struggling stateside, but the truth is a little more encouraging. It's not there yet, but the slow, steady progress of the beautiful game is tangible. So, I give you "10 signs that America will pay attention to the World Cup."
- When coach Bruce Arena announced his 23, it was live on ESPN SportCenter (like Sky Sports News, only with a lot less cricket and a lot more baseball).
- Double your media. The US training camp in Cary, North Carolina was visited by approximately twice as many journos as in 2002.
- George Bush officially acknowledged the existence of soccer recently. Still no word on global warming though.
- ABC/ESPN. For all their faults the networks are showing every game live, and in High Definition where available. So, when Rooney re-breaks his metatarsal Americans will see it with 100% clarity
- Commercials. There's the great Gatorade Take Me Out To The Ball Game commercial currently in heavy rotation, and no lesser celebrity than Bono is pimping soccer for ESPN with the One Game Changes Everything campaign.
- Freddy Adu. Quite a few people will tune in to see Freddy play. They will be disappointed of course.
- Euro-snobs. These are the people that won't be seen dead at an MLS game, not until the standard is comparable to European leagues. They will watch the World Cup though.
- Sam's Army. Dedicated supporters. So dedicated that even I think they're a bit odd.
- Landon Donovan. He's been the 'face of US soccer' for a while, but going into the World Cup he's become a 'spokesmodel' for the World Cup in general, appearing on various talk shows and promoting the game.
- Flag-waving. If there's one thing America does well, it's mindless patriotism. You can't walk down the street without seeing stars, stripes, spangled banners and 'support our troops', so once the pressure is on the US team, the flag-wavers will emerge and support their country regardless of what sport they're playing.