What Are We in For?

I can’t help but be concerned. The US team is waltzing along to Germany without a care in the world. The mainstream media gives them the happy nod, expecting them to do well. That opinion is, no doubt, bolstered by the ridiculously high world ranking, and their ignorance of all things soccer. What’s going to happen once the team gets a shellacking and is unceremoniously sent back home?

Can you hear the jokes already?

The sport is just struggling to its feet in this country. Most of the sports stories and talk, when soccer gets any attention at all here, are still condescending and derisive. The sense is, people are cautious now because they might have heard the US actually has a decent team, but they really can’t wait for them to bomb so they can get a cheap laugh and go back to talking about the only 3 things they all know anything about.

I do think the US team is at least competitve, much better than they ever have been, but I still don‘t rate their chances this year. Things are just beginning to look up, and these things take time. Will a quick exit from the World Cup do irreparable damage now?

I think it might.

The MLS is eking by, and it’s important that it is, but even I struggle to get interested in most of their matches. If the national team doesn’t manage to live up to a respectable showing, I suspect the domestic soccer league will lose the fledgling amount of support it has earned so far. The message will be that soccer just isn’t America’s sport. Let the Europeans have that one and lets get back to something we can do. Right now, the likes of Landon Donovan and a handful of others are willing to sacrifice money and exposure by playing here. I’m afraid even a slight downturn now will bring them to say, “well, we tried”.

As things are now, I can pretty happily get as much soccer on television as I like. Between Fox and Setanta, I can watch most of the English Premier League matches, a handful from the Championship (thankfully, since my Ipswich seems mired in it for life), The Italian Serie A, the German Bundesliega, even some French and South American matches. ESPN generally carries a Champions League match. I can get extensive daily news, and there are even soap opera themed shows if I really get desperate.

All that is wonderful, but the truth is, those channels are losing money on that programming even now. They’re betting that they are starting out in a tiny market that will surely expand over time, and will eventually pay off. They honestly believe soccer is so good that it can’t possibly fail. A poor US showing could set them back years, and I worry they might just throw in the towel. It’ll be back to scouring the internet, and we won’t even catch a fleeting glimpse of the game from here.

So I’ll be rooting very hard for the national team to do well. For purely selfish reasons. I want the greatest game in the world to be played here. I want to be able to follow it from here. Unfortunately, if the US only play to their ability, it could be the beginning of the end. Americans want to be the best at whatever they’re doing. They tend to ridicule anything they don’t understand. They don’t have much patience to begin with, and I’m afraid a hiccup might be all it takes for it to run out on soccer.

I think a lot more hinges on the success of this Cup than many realize or would like to admit.

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