The United States’ run through this year’s World Cup shows once again the potential soccer has in this country but also how little progress the sport has made at the highest level.
According to Variety, the U.S.’s second-round loss to Belgium on Tuesday drew a Nielsen overnight rating of 9.6, which is excellent for a sports event. But consider that in 1994, when our country hosted the World Cup, the Americans lost to Brazil in the second round, and the game drew a 10.4 Nielsen rating.
That 1994 World Cup was supposed to be the turning point for soccer in this country. The men’s national team managed to make the 16-team main draw. Interest was up. People were talking about the game. They were excited. Even losing that match to Brazil didn’t seem to derail American interest in soccer.
It was supposed to mark the beginning of great things for our men’s national team.
Now, in 2014, the U.S. men’s national team still is scuffing to make the main draw. TV ratings aren’t going up as we thought they would 20 years ago. So, instead, we claim interest is up by pointing to total numbers of viewers, which are rising in large part because there is more population.
And nobody seems bothered when the U.S. loses. That probably is the most disappointing part of this year’s World Cup.
The U.S. won one match out of four in the World Cup, and nobody is calling for the coach’s head or questioning why our large, resource-rich country went out in the round of 16 again. Instead, we’re seeing ESPN post a photo online with the words “Thank you” emblazened across it. (Gene Chizik and Mike Shula might be wondering how they can sign up for that gig.)
Personally, I’d rather watch Donoho or Jacksonville High play soccer — it matters to them and their fans when they don’t win.
Our reaction this World Cup is the same as the owner of a new puppy. We’re just thrilled he isn’t peeing on the rug anymore.
Congratulations, U.S. men’s soccer team. You didn’t pee on the rug. Good for you. We can’t wait for the 2018 World Cup to see again how good you are at not peeing on the rug.
Sports Editor Mark Edwards: 256-235-3570. On Twitter @MarkSportsStar.