Certainly not FIFA. And maybe not even the Canadian Soccer Association. Probably a few corporate sponsors including the upstart carbonated beverage maker known as the Coca-Cola Company; some plucky airbnb users for sure; and definitely Fox Sports. But after three decades of international play and an on-again / off-again romance with the beautiful game, is it possible to defend an American cultural interest in soccer as played by the most successful national team in U.S. history (sorry, Dream Team)?
[caption id="attachment_3336" align="aligncenter" width="600"] The 2015 Women’s World Cup Roster (USA)[/caption]
Here’s how I see it.
Thanks to the World Cup and the Olympics, every four years, a few million people and Tom Hanks geek out about the USWNT (United States Women’s National Team); at the end of tournament play, Letterman’s** producers rope a few players into doing flirty sit-downs, the American sports news cycle decides it’s an outrage we can’t maintain a women’s professional soccer league and then, you know, it’s back-to-school sales and fall TV and Monday Night Football, and then there’s Thanksgiving and Christmas and really…who cares? When it’s all said and done, who really cares that we can’t quite manage to put together a sustainable soccer league for a handful of graduates from UNC Chapel Hill? There are lots of great career options for college athletes, so why whine about this one slightly glaring omittance?
Americans love a great spectacle (we are not the land of the free and the home of NASCAR for nothing) and the Women’s World Cup (and Olympic play) pretty much always produces one or two.
But man cannot live on spectacle alone; what’s needed is more league sustenance and less reliance on a national team with little diversity or team turn-over; what’s needed is less reporting on “household names” and the journalistic man-power worthy of the fastest growing sport in America. What’s needed is gusty sponsors–both local and national–to rally behind the NWSL during WWC off-years not because it’s “the right thing to do,” but because they’re heartless capitalists who see an untapped market of untold millions. (Hell, even Canada gets that–which is saying a lot for a nation that’s practically run by a maple syrup cartel.)
And until U.S. Soccer begins to make a true, concerted effort to favor state-side seasonal play over twice-a-decade tournament runs, can we really blame the rest of the world and soccer’s governing body for their apathy?