Pro-con: Is soccer winning over Americans?

APTOPIX South Africa Soccer WCup US AlgeriaUnbelievably, World Cup soccer has become the topic of conversation around the watercooler at work. In recent weeks television ratings for the sport have soared, with games involving Team USA equaling the recent NBA finals and surpassing baseball’s World Series. Watch parties drew tens of thousands nationwide and huge crowds at AT&T Stadium in Dallas and Soldier Field in Chicago. This time around America embraced the “beautiful game” of stunning goals and incomprehensible offsides, joyous nationalism and comic-looking flops. For decades, kids in this country, as in the rest of the world, have grown up playing soccer. Drive through suburbia on the weekends, and you’ll see fields upon fields of tykes chasing a speckled ball. Until now, that’s where the infatuation has ended. Once kids stopped playing the game, they fell into the more traditional viewing habits of college football on Saturdays, the National Football League on Sundays, with a baseball and college basketball game when there was more at stake. Yet this time around more Americans checked out the World Cup than ever before, and they often enjoyed what they saw. For once you give the beautiful game a long look, as the rest of the world knows, it’s difficult to turn away. – Tim Wendel, Johns Hopkins University

Soccer is easy to mock. In what other sport can we compile a scorecard of the number of ersatz “injuries” or the time the supposedly injured players spent writhing on the ground? But I am not here to mock. I’ve tried to like soccer. It seemed like the open-minded thing to do. Let me set the stage: It is the summer of 1994 and I am a graduate student living in London. The dormitory in which I lived had a summertime influx of Italian students who, in a gratifying example of international outreach, insisted that I watch the World Cup with them. I did so, game in and game out, as an ambassador of sportsmanship and goodwill. And, to the joy of my newfound compatriots, Italy progressed all the way to the final against mighty Brazil. And so we watched what I was told would be the pinnacle of sporting endeavor. For 90 minutes we watched. And no one scored. We watched through extra time. And still no one scored. At last the game was settled through a shootout, in which the goalie guesses at which side of the goal the opposing player will kick the ball and dives in that general direction. Italy’s goalie guessed wrong and Brazil walked off the World Cup champions. A coin flip might have been slightly less dramatic, but the effect was pretty much the same. This helps explain why soccer may be the world’s sport, but not yet America’s. – Andrew G. Biggs, American Enterprise Institute