Pro-con: Will soccer ever attract crowds in U.S.?

APTOPIX South Africa Soccer WCup US AlgeriaEvery four years, as the global ritual of the World Cup begins, we go through our own national ritual: debating the place of soccer in our culture. More than any other sport, soccer polarizes this country. Many love it, and hope the World Cup will finally persuade others to as well. Others criticize it for being boring, too theatrical, unfair, even un-American. This year’s games have already garnered larger audiences than previous men’s World Cups, with audiences treated to all that makes soccer both exhilarating and frustrating. Though it garners less attention and money than other sports, millions in the United States are already passionate about, and conversant in, the language of soccer. In fact, it may well be the most widely played sport in the country. And the United States is the center of global women’s soccer, with the best women’s players in the world coming here to play. The culture of soccer is here, and it’s only going to grow. — Laurent Dubois, Duke University

Can soccer make it in America? Three reasons suggest not. Soccer in America is an educational tool that most students outgrow once they leave school behind. In Europe, soccer unleashes exuberant passions, but in America, soccer teaches you how to run around without running into anyone or leaving anybody behind. Soccer is egalitarian extremism: Everyone gets a trophy, and nobody scores enough to justify gloating over anyone else. Most Americans do not see the benefits of going into a battle with your hands tied behind your back. Every sport has rules, but denying your own best attributes before you even begin playing is going a bit too far. Most fundamentally, there is the problem with scoring. Most Americans find it hard to enjoy the expenditure of so much energy without much to show for it. — Stephen H. Webb, Wabash College