US Soccer Needs a Makeover

Monday, 23 Jun 2014 07:26 AM

By Jon Friedman

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Yes, I bit my nails during the USA's nail-biting 2-1 victory over Ghana early in the World Cup. Yes, I was disappointed by the USA's ultimately disappointing 2-2 tie on Sunday with Portugal. Sure, I am following the World Cup action. Does that mean I like soccer?

Nope. I am, you see, an American, one of the many Ugly Americans who pays attention to the beautiful game every four years — precisely during World Cup season. Wake me up in 2018.

It's almost comical by now how so many pundits doggedly predict a breakthrough for the sport of soccer on the U.S. television networks because of the thrilling global tournament (which, as I tweeted and wrote last week on Facebook, certainly puts Major League Baseball's "World" Series to severe shame by comparison).

It happens every four years, in fact. Then as sure as Lucy yanking the football away from the onrushing Charlie Brown, the hopes are collectively dashed and Americans happily turn to watch the National Football League games in record numbers.

For my two cents, here is how soccer can make progress as a popular TV sport in the United States:
  • Promote the star players. Today, in an era of celebrity journalism and celebrity gossip, we need to care about the rich and famous. Nobody in the U.S. soccer scene has much cache. Nobody is a household name. That has got to change immediately.
  • Promote natural rivalries: There is not a shred of Yankees-Red Sox, Army-Navy, Dodgers-Giants to arouse the American sports fan's interest. We love watching our traditional rivals bang heads, no matter how poorly they may be doing in a given year.
  • Sprinkle the world's best teams on our broadcasts: I keep hearing about Manchester United, supposedly the New York Yankees of the sport of soccer. But I wish I saw ManU more often on U.S. televisions. I could find out for myself.

I'm not saying these suggestions will definitely put soccer over the top on our shores. But it's a start.

USA! USA! USA!

Jon Friedman writes the Media Matrix blog for Indiewire.com. He is also the author of "Forget About Today: Bob Dylan's Genius for (Re)Invention, Shunning the Naysayers, and Creating a Personal Revolution." Read more reports from Jon Friedman — Click Here Now.

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