This is a cross-post from my guest blogging over at Young Germany.
Asking an American their feelings on the World Cup is like reaching your hand into a mystery bag. You never know what type of response you’ll get, but there are usually a few predictable outcomes.
The responses will vary on the basis of gender, age, locational demographics, and of course interest. Your question may be answered with another question along the lines of, “World Cup? What World Cup?” or straight-up “Who cares!?” You may be told it’s some silly soccer tournament that only foreigners care about. (Check out this YouTube video from TheLifeOfBaha if you want to make fun of Americans who don’t know soccer.) However, you may be lucky to connect with an American who is increasingly interested in soccer.
This type of American will be open-minded and admit he or she may not be the most educated on the sport, but does admire the passion and history behind the game. I am seeing an increasing trend in the American population ‘buying into’ the idea of a free-flowing and more creative game. It’s hard to turn down the passion that comes with being a soccer supporter; however, I still hear people say that all you’re doing is watching grass grow. And finally, if you’re extremely lucky, you’ll hit the nail on the head and find an American who goes the extra mile to support soccer. He or she will be thrilled by your questions, and love the opportunity to discuss with a fellow supporter.
To give you an idea of how soccer is supported across different regions of America, what I’ve found is that the American Northwest is far more advanced in their understanding and appreciation of the game. In my opinion, cities like Portland, Oregon, Seattle, and Washington are among the most soccer-proficient cities in America. That being said, two of these cities also have among the best MLS teams and MLS fan bases. Cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Miami are great soccer cities as well. I come from Atlanta, Georgia, in the southeastern United States, and soccer is very much a secondary sport to football, baseball, and basketball here. I am hoping that the MLS team set to arrive in 2017 will change this.
Anyways, take another question, for example, “How do you feel the USMNT (US Men’s National Team) will do this year in the World Cup?” When answering this, you’ll see a mix of glass half-empty and glass half-full responses. The draw in December yielded what some feel is the Group of Death, with a more-than-capable Ghana, powerful Germany, and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal. For the most part, USMNT fans winced at these results; however, there is a large population of fans optimistic about our chances to shock the world. This is as good of a chance as any to get revenge on Ghana, and prove ourselves on the world stage against Portugal and Germany.
In terms of awareness, advertising and commercials for the Cup are exploding through industries I would have never predicted would back the sport. Degree, a personal hygiene brand, has become an official sponsor of the team along with Allstate (insurance), AT&T (communications), Gatorade (sports drink), McDonald’s, Nike, Pepsi, Anheuser-Busch (beer), Castrol (motor oil), and Century 21 (real estate) to give you an idea of the wide range of companies jumping onto the World Cup coattail.
On top of the ever-popular EA Sports FIFA video game, the World Cup has proven to be an immensely important channel for promoting and growing the soccer scene in America. Although our team has yet to defy their historically difficult odds, our country has begun to back them in a way unseen since 1994 when America hosted the Cup. I’ve even seen the general population backing another World Cup bid! Here’s to praying we steal the controversial 2022 World Cup from Qatar!