HOME ARCHIVE 2018

My take on why professional soccer is not that popular in U.S.

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

I have played it, coached it and reported on it, but soccer is way down my list of what sporting events to watch, even though it is the most popular game worldwide.

We call it soccer. Worldwide it is known as football. But that word is already taken in the U.S.A. by – football.

The word “soccer” is simply a diminutive of association, as in As-soc-iation Football, with “er” added, according to an article I found in The Guardian.

It was, apparently, all the rage among public schoolboys in the mid- to late-nineteenth century to add “er” onto the end of a butchered word. ... “I’m going to play ‘Soccer.’” It quickly caught on.

The British had to come up with a new word because they already used up football to describe rugby football. So, they settled on this “socc-cer” thing.

We had the same problem as the Brits, so the word soccer came in handy.

While professional soccer became wildly popular in Great Britain and all over the world, it has languished in the U.S. We had other sports to follow already that had more to offer, according to some. (I had to attribute this statement to somebody).

Scoring: There is almost none. Most of the time fans just watch a ball being kicked up and down the big field. Americans like games where there is a chance of a high score. We don’t like to watch for 90 minutes just to see a bouncing ball and then go home seeing one or two goals.

Tie: We hate ties (I seldom wear one). Walking away from the stadium after a tie game is worse than losing, if you ask me (thank you for asking.) It’s like the game never happened. I could be wrong about this. The game may actually have happened.

Power: We like lots of scoring and some control over the refereeing of the game. In soccer, a referee can extend the game, take goals away and assign penalty kicks, which is why soccer players learn to flop before learning how to play soccer.

We don’t like to give a referee all that power. We have replays, set times (except in baseball where the game can theoretically last infinitely). We like the referee to be accountable to a higher power (Not God, although that comes later. The replay booth in New York.)

Rioting: We riot over important things like a law, the government, or an unjust war. But most of us in the U.S. do not enjoy being in the middle of a riot caused by a soccer game.

Europe simply calls soccer rioting “soccer hooliganism.” This fixes the problem of people being attacked before, during and after a game for cheering for the wrong team and women being groped as they enter and leave the stadium.

Soccer riots are “the thing to do.” It’s not a great place for a family outing, like baseball, for example, in Houston on a Tuesday – dollar hotdog night. (I saw a guy eat six of them and then wash it all down with a $12 beer.)

Can’t use your hands: I think this is a big reason why the sport doesn’t make it past the youth leagues in popularity here. We like sports that require the throwing, carrying and catching of balls. Football has all of the above. Baseball and basketball lack the carrying part, but they have other things to make up for it, like the grand slam and the dunk.

How can we make soccer more popular here? Make it more brutal. In basketball, we have the block, which causes two players to crash into each other on purpose. In baseball, we have players crashing into the outfield wall while making a great catch and rolling into the dugout for the same reason. In football we have – football. It is 100 percent brutality.

In soccer, we have flopping.

DID YOU KNOW?

• The first ever soccer match was played on Barnes common at Mortlake, London on 19th December 1863 between Barnes Football Club and Richmond Football Club. The game ended in a 0-0 draw.

• Sialkot, a town in Pakistan is the soccer ball production capital of the world, exporting about 30 million soccer balls a year.