MT. VERNON —
The United States became a soccer loving nation this summer.
You may have been duped before, but it's really happening this time. There is no hype, just facts.
The World Cup has become must-see summer television and more specifically the U.S. games are gaining unprecedented attention from viewers.
The U.S. played a trio of group games and has qualified for the knockout round, which features 16 teams. The United States faced Portugal last weekend in their second match of the World Cup. The scenes were amazing. Tens of thousands of people gathered in Chicago's Grant Park to watch the action on a huge screen.
Viewers watched the game on ESPN in record numbers. The total turned out to be about 18 million. It was the highest rated sports program outside of football in the network's history. Another 10 million people watched ESPN's telecast of Thursday's U.S.-Germany matchup. That game took place in the middle of most people's work day and still garnered huge numbers.
The problem with saying that we are now a soccer nation is that it's a bit like the child who's cried wolf a few times too often. The general public has been hearing from soccer enthusiasts that the sport will be huge in America for several decades.
Most of the clamoring from the soccer faithful started when the United States hosted the World Cup in 1994. Soccer was supposed to grasp and grip the nation forever and ever.
Most of the time it doesn't work that way.
These things take time.
Sure the nation was exposed to the highest level of competition and the elite players of the world, but a soccer-loving country isn't created in a day.
On the heels of the World Cup, America launched Major League Soccer. The interest in the World Cup spectacle was supposed to overflow into attention for the fledgling league. Again, soccer hopefuls pointed to the new league and said soccer would explode. Naturally the quality on display couldn't compete with the European leagues.