Today’s May 13. The World Cup begins on June 12 — Brazil vs. Croatia — so technically, we have now crossed over into the “less than one month until the World Cup” time period. With that — always in WC years, and sometimes in Euro years — come a slew of articles regarding Americans’ secret and true love of soccer. For example: here, here, here and here. One of the oft-cited data points in this year’s collection of articles is that the MLS just signed a deal for five times what its last deal was for ($18 million — > $90 million). That definitely seems impressive as all hell (who wouldn’t want to jack their earnings by a factor of five?), but then consider the TV rights landscape in America for sports overall:
The MLS rights fees are still less than half that of the NHL, which many people scoff at as a “non-American sport” (even though the ratio of American teams to Canadian ones is 23-7).
Look, everyone’s a soccer fan during the World Cup, just like everyone’s a hockey fan (well, less so) during the Stanley Cup Finals. I was at a bar with primarily disaffected hipsters during the U.S.-Algeria game in 2010.
Place was literally packed in like sardines, and it went apeshit for that, to the point that beer was spilling on everyone, and no one cared. That’s the power of the World Cup, or any great sporting event: bringing people together.
But is soccer fandom a thing in America? Good Lord no. Even if the US were to win this World Cup — which seems challenging, considering their initial group contains Germany, Portugal and Ghana — I doubt it would be a thing. It’s too slow and artistic, with not enough direct things happening (big hits, dunks, home runs) for an American sports fan to stay enthused. Plus, at this point it’s almost a badge of honor for a standard American sports fan to “not really get soccer.” That’s something for Brits like Lane Pryce.
So you’ll see all the articles and trend pieces in the next 29 days or so — probably a ton in the beginning of June — but remember, in context it’s not about to become the NFL Part II. Nothing is, even the most popular sport in the world.