Weekend Ramble - A World Cup Rambling

Another four years, another World Cup.

The 2018 World Cup final was earlier today, with France getting their second Cup with a 4-2 win over Croatia. It was an interesting tournament, with several usual powerhouses like Brazil and Germany getting knocked out fairly early, and overall quite enjoyable.

In the US, of course, it’s time for the quadrennial discussion as to why we generally aren’t that great at the world’s biggest sport, a discussion made that much more intense by the fact that we didn’t even make the tournament this year, while tiny countries like Panama, Uruguay, and Iceland did. Heck, Iceland has HALF the population of Boston!

There is a lot around on why the US has this problem, and I don’t think I have a lot new to add. But today I did come across two interesting bits of info on the state of soccer in the US that I wanted to share.

One is an article in the New York Times on a significant decrease in youth soccer participation in the US, which has fallen 14% over the past 3 years. My wife and I are both on the board of our town’s youth soccer league and we’ve seen a similar trend in our league’s registration numbers. The article addresses some possible reasons, which we’ve addressed at least a few of, and my wife thinks there is a bit of a cyclical aspect to it, with registrations getting a bump post World Cups. While this isn’t particularly good news, I’m not that concerned about it at the moment. Locally soccer is still the dominant youth sport, and we’re up against available resources, especially field space. Nationally, while the US does need to improve how we develop players, quantity isn’t the issue. But this does bear watching.

The second pieces of news, a much happier one, is a Gallup poll I heard about today on the local sports radio station. The TL;DR summary is that among age groups under 55, soccer has surpassed baseball in popularity of sports people in the US like to watch. Personally I find baseball akin to drying paint as far as watching goes (although I like going to games occasionally), so the results of this poll fit me to a T. This poll may seem at odds with the NYT article, but keep in mind the Times was looking at youth participation while Gallup was looking at fans watching various sports.

Overall? The US has a ways to go with soccer, and some trends may bear watching, but we may be moving on the right path.

Written on July 15, 2018