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Soccer in the US and American Exceptionalism Essay

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Updated: Jun 26th, 2021

Soccer is one of the most popular sports in the world in terms of viewership and participation. It involves a football game in which two teams comprising of eleven players each try to kick or head a ball into the opponent’s goal (Goldblatt 20). Despite the sport being played and highly popular in almost every country across the world, the situation in America is quite different. What Americans identify and describe as soccer is known as football everywhere else.

This is necessitated by the fact that Americans prefer other sports to soccer, especially considering that they have their version of football called American football. Soccer was first introduced as a sport in America in the 1850s by immigrants who came from Germany, Italy, Scotland, and Ireland (Goldblatt 27). Several years later, the sport is still struggling to gain a footing in America even though it is among the most developed countries in the world. The question of why soccer has taken this long to gain acceptance in the country continues to linger in the minds of many, as other sports such as basketball, baseball, and American football continue to grow further with every passing decade (Gorn and Warren 69).

One of the main reasons why soccer has taken so long to catch in America is the country’s culture. Studies have shown that several aspects of soccer are parallel to the social setting and beliefs in the country, thus making the sport unattractive for Americans (Gorn and Warren 81). For example, Americans cannot stand a tie score in sports. In soccer, a tie is one of the possible three outcomes in a game unlike in other sports like basketball where every game has to produce a winner.

American culture is also characterized by the obsession with being the best in everything they do and love. American history is dominated by numerous wars, whose sole aim was to earn the country superpower status (Collins 9). This element has defined Americans all through and soccer has not been an exception. The fact that America is not the best in terms of producing the best soccer talents explains why the sport is not very popular. Baseball, basketball, and American football are the most popular sports in the country because America is the best at each one of them (Gorn and Warren 105).

Americans also have a big obsession for big things, a behavior that reflects a lot in the sports they support. Basketball, baseball, and American football are sports characterized by big score lines. In soccer, the situation is different, as it is possible for a game played for close to two hours to finish goalless. Americans do not find any excitement in such results, thus the reason soccer is still struggling for acceptance. Another element of sports that Americans love in big numbers is the height and weight of players (Collins 43).

The average height of players in traditional American sports is 6.1 feet and for weight, it is 200 pounds. These elements fit the description of a big player that Americans find exciting and impressive. In soccer, the situation is different, as a player does not need such physical attributes to play or have a successful career. Goalkeepers are mostly the only soccer players that have to be tall to play. Small-sized players in soccer make the sport unappealing to Americans because it does not fit in with their social beliefs (Gorn and Warren 139).

However, the American culture has transformed a lot over the years and soccer is slowly gaining popularity in the country as evidenced in the number of existing soccer teams, fan participation, and the consistent appearance of the national teams in major tournaments. The American national women’s soccer team is the reigning world champion.

Americans are globally considered exceptional because they love to stand out from everyone else and maintain the status quo (Collins 61). The biggest casualty of this American culture has been soccer in terms of its growth and acceptance in the country. For example, it is hard to understand why the winners of the Super Bowl every year are crowned as world champions in a sport that is played only in America and by American teams.

Arguably, it is ridiculous for anyone to brand the United States as having the best American football players, yet almost every player of the sport is American. Unfortunately, they have failed to apply the same strategy in soccer because the sport is global and more competitive. Despite its superpower status, the American soccer national teams have been lowly ranked over the years in terms of competitiveness (Gorn and Warren 141).

The exceptional nature of Americans is to blame for the continued struggles that have characterized soccer in the country, as well as the failure of socialism. Americans are known to be materialistic and will only invest their time, energy, resources, and emotions in things that have the potential to make them as much money as possible. The fact that they like to pursue things with as few limitations as possible also explains why the concept of socialism failed in America (Collins 100).

In sports broadcast, the biggest source of revenue is advertisements. Over the years, major television channels in America have not made enough efforts to promote soccer through broadcast because they consider it commercially unattractive (Goldblatt 237). They prefer to broadcast sports whose format allows room for as many advertisements as possible. Baseball, basketball, and American football have formats where teams take several breaks in a game, thus allowing the broadcaster to air several advertisements. In soccer, the only time a broadcaster can run advertisements is a few minutes before kickoff, and at halftime.

This format makes the sport unattractive to broadcasters, thus making it less popular because viewers will have the choice of other sports (Gorn and Warren 171). Although soccer has gained a lot of popularity in contemporary America by bringing big football stars like David Beckham and Thierry Henry to play in the Major League Soccer (MLS), it is still far behind the likes of basketball, baseball, and American football as the culturally hegemonic activities in the country.

However, the huge potential for the growth of the soccer culture in the United States is undeniable. During the regular MLS season, stadiums across the country are often full of fans cheering on their favorite teams. Youth soccer in the country is also a spectacle, as many parents are encouraging their children to attend soccer camps and academies as an alternative to traditional American sports.

Works Cited

Collins, Tony. Sport in Capitalist Society: A Short History. Routledge, 2013.

Goldblatt, David. The Ball is Round: A Global History of Football. Penguin Books Limited, 2007.

Gorn, Elliot, and Warren, Goldstein. A Brief History of American Sports. University of Illinois Press, 2004.

Guttmann, Allen. The Olympics: A History of the Modern Games. University of Illinois Press, 2002.

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