The United States has a lot of sports fans that want to like soccer. More than twice as many people watched the World Cup in 2010 than they did in 2006.And here in the U.S., attendance at Major League Soccer games is up. Those teams are building strong local bases. But there is little evidence that the sport is resonating outside those few cities.
One thing holding back American sports fans is the absence of a team to root for outside of the U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Teams every four years.
It is difficult to get attached to a product like the MLS that is still second-rate on many levels. So if American sports fans are going to finally make the plunge into soccer, we all need to pick an English soccer team to root for. Watch the games on TV. Buy a scarf. Travel to England and attend a game.
Only then will we truly appreciate the world’s most popular sport.
There is some debate as to what the English equivalent is to MLS. Some argue it is as good as England's Football League Championship (second-division). Others might say MLS is no better than third- or fourth-division.
MLS has been able to bring over a few stars like David Beckham, Thierry Henry, and Robbie Keane. But those guys are in the tail-end of their careers, and the overall depth of MLS is still lacking.
Part of the problem is that the best athletes in the United States are still gravitating to other sports. But another problem is just the lack of significant television revenue streams and the ability to go out and buy the best players in the world.
With coverage available on ESPN, Fox Soccer, and FoxSoccer.tv, not to mention numerous other less reputable websites, international soccer is everywhere. Just like American sports fans no longer have to live in the cities of their favourite sports teams, now it is easy to follow the English Premier League in the United States.
This Saturday you can watch some of England's biggest teams on one of those networks, including Manchester United, Manchester City, and Arsenal.
The only real way to truly learn something is to immerse yourself in it. Want to learn a foreign language? Go spend some time in that country.
If you want to truly learn and appreciate the world's most popular sport, you need to watch the best games. Learn the players names. Learn the tactics. Learn the system. And that is not going to happen watching the U.S. Men's Soccer team once every four years, or five minutes of the MLS Cup Final.
And the best way to do that is if you have a rooting interest in one of the teams.
If you are truly a sports fan, attending an Premier League game in England should definitely be on your bucket list. Just like a New York City subway, it is not as bad as the stereotypes would lead you to believe.
The excitement and the intensity week in and week out is unmatched in American sports. It might be like the Yankees and Red Sox playing each other every game. Or maybe Ohio State versus Michigan. Only over there, it happens every weekend.
It is Saturday morning and you are ready for a full day of college football. What better what to get the weekend of football started than by watching live sporting events.
EPL games have similar start times to Sunday afternoon NFL games. But here in the U.S. that translates to 7:45 am, 10:00 am, or 12:30 pm on the east coast. Why watch another college football pregame show when you can watch two full soccer games in the same period of time.
Clint Dempsey is one of the stars of American soccer. He is also a goal scorer for Fulham in the EPL. So far this season he has three goals and another three assists.
Tim Howard, a goal keeper, is also a key member for Everton, after having played three seasons with Manchester United.
As the NBA lockout rages on, it is starting to look more and more like the NBA owners are more than willing to forfeit an entire season in an effort to pad their pocketbooks just a little more. And hey, that is absolutely their right. But they shouldn't be surprised if more Americans jump ship and discover soccer at the highest level.
It took several years, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and a whole lot of steroids for Major League Baseball to recover from their work stoppage in 1994. And the NBA is not nearly as popular as baseball.
There are still far too many people in the United States that have never laced up a pair of ice skates. And most sports fans have never played one second of ice hockey. So the chances of those fans ever truly appreciating the speed and skill behind in NHL games is unlikely. We've tried. It doesn't work.
I have been working on picking my own favourite EPL team now for a while. But don't worry, Manchester United is not one of the finalists. I have it narrowed down to Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Everton, and Manchester City. Whether it some of the players, the uniforms, their stadium, or even the location, there is something I like about each of these teams.
If you have a favourite EPL team, feel free to try and persuade me to your team's side in the comments.
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