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Will the World Cup help grow American soccer interest?

From A to Zowie

Will the World Cup help grow American soccer interest?

By Richard Zowie

(Published in the July 14, 2010 issue of Clio, Mich.-based Mt. Morris/Clio Birch Run/Bridgeport Herald)

In the past few years I’ve covered soccer for both the Herald and for a north Oakland County newspaper. Whenever I could these past few weeks, I watched World Cup highlights on television and wonder which team I should follow in Major League Soccer–the Houston Dynamo or FC Dallas (remember: I’m from Texas). Regarding the World Cup, I cheered primarily for two teams: America and the country where the Zowie family originated from–Germany.

I also wonder: will Americans ever truly love soccer the way they love watching football, basketball, hockey and baseball and even golf and auto racing?

Hard to say.

I’ve heard various reasons why Americans don’t like soccer. Too boring. Hardly anyone ever scores.

The same could be said, though, about our favorite sports. Football can be boring when neither team can run or throw the ball, or when both teams do nothing but one half-yard run after another. In basketball, the game stops so often for fouls, traveling and timeouts that after a few minutes, I’m ready to change channels. I like watching baseball, but for many it takes too long for a pitcher throw the ball and for a run to score. Golf is undoubtedly a tough game, but with all due respect to our golf-loving publisher Mike Harrington, I find it as dull to watch as the endless left turns in auto racing.

This brings us back to soccer. I posed a few questions about the game to some local officials of soccer, such as why Americans aren’t into soccer more and whether it will grow here.

“I would think that many people do not understand [soccer] and may not have given it a look,” said John Van Deusen, who coaches the U-16 Boys National Games Team from Birch Run in the American Youth Soccer Organization. “There may also be a bias due to it being a foreign sport. Time will bring the sport popularity.”

A sport that is wildly popular elsewhere in the world.

The World Cup raises awareness for the sport, and as Van Deusen points out, Major League Soccer is gaining popularity in America. After having begun in 1996 with 10 charter teams, the MLS now boasts 16 teams and will expand to 19 by 2012. It’s still in critical stages: two other teams (Miami and Tampa) have gone defunct while others struggle to earn a profit.

There is no Michigan MLS franchise, but maybe that’ll change in the future.

Van Deusen, who this past week was in West Palm Beach, Fla. at the AYSO National Tournament, believes soccer is gaining popularity among a very crucial demographic–children.

“Children like it, compared to some of the other sports, because there is very little waiting,” the coach explained. “The game is fast and a player can make something happen at any time with a great move. This is especially important with the younger children. They seem to like the fast pace.”

He saw a lot of passion for soccer at the Florida tournament where about 220 teams across America with players ages eight to around 19 competed.

“They love the game like no other,” the coach added. “These are true soccer families. As our players in the U.S. improve their skills and begin to compete on the world stage, I think the fans here in the U.S. will follow the game.”

Time will tell if Van Deusen is right.

Richard Zowie is a reporter and columnist for the Herald. His blog is at https://fromatozowie.wordpress.com.  Send comments to the paper or e-mail Richard at rzowie@myherald.net.


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