Soccer’s influence in the United States

Jack Starkebaum

The terms “football” and “fútbol” sound alike but may carry very different meanings depending on your nationality. 

Here in the United States, football conjures up images of big tackles, Peyton Manning’s forehead and Super Bowl commercials. Outside of the borders of the U.S., fútbol is an entirely different sport. America has adopted the term “soccer” for that sport, but has not fully accepted it into its culture. Soccer is arguably the most popular sport in the world and has captured the attention of entire countries in its fervor, yet somehow its allure has escaped the U.S.

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Peek in to any American’s living room and you likely will not see a soccer match on the TV. It would be more common to see a game of baseball, America’s pastime, or maybe football or basketball. However, when the FIFA World Cup comes around, it is a different story. Patriotism shines as Americans shows its support for their team trying to take the title of “world champions”.

America’s interest in soccer seems to cycle in tandem with the World Cup. But, the interest never lasts long enough for it to catch on year-round. 

“My previous school was an international school, and on my soccer team, no Americans played,” said Ki Ho You, a student studying abroad at Colorado State University from South Korea. “I never saw Americans playing soccer.”

However, soccer has become more popular for young children to play in America. US Youth Soccer reports that 3,055,148 American youths participated in the sport, a number that has nearly doubled since 1990.

“I think some people use [soccer] as an introduction to sports,” said CSU student Andrew Nichol, who has lived eight years in Russia and has traveled to over twenty different countries. “Some people leave it as that and they don’t really want to express more interest in soccer.” 

Even though America may have a fairly large amount of youth playing the game, people seem to lose interest as they get older. This loss of interest is seen in a noticeable lack of high school and collegiate soccer clubs.

CSU lacks a Division I men’s soccer team and only added a women’s team in 2013. Soccer has not become a high priority sport in America or at CSU, and more attention is directed towards other sports.

After spending so much time abroad, Nichol has observed soccer’s influence across the globe.

“I see in other countries that their heart is in soccer and is somewhat in their identity as well.” Nichol said. “I think soccer in the US is something that we want to be good at, but our heart isn’t in it. It’s either taken by American football, basketball or baseball.”

This is an observation that would explain America’s dominance in basketball, baseball and soccer. But that still leaves an open question as to why soccer is so prevalent in other countries.

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“Soccer actually doesn’t need any equipment. Soccer is very easy to play; you only need a ball and somewhere to play,” You said.

The simplicity of soccer has allowed people in all corners of the world to play soccer, regardless of economic or social standing.

Soccer has become so global that hundreds of countries around the world compete for 31 spots in the FIFA world cup that happens every four years. After visiting South Africa the year after it hosted the 2010 World Cup, Nichol realized how large the sport’s reach truly is.

“Soccer is truly the only global sport there is,” Nichol said.

Maybe if America can find a greater appreciation for soccer, it can find a greater connection with the rest of the world.

Collegian Sports Reporter Jack Starkebaum can be reached at sports@collegian.com.