Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Underdog role is nice, but if soccer wants to be a major, it’s time to set up

The US need not be satisfied with just advancing to the ‘knockout phase’ of the World Cup as that’s what was expected of them. An overabundance of drama that was bestowed on them from overcoming early deficits, horrible refereeing, and getting the country to turn off the NBA Finals and Inter-league baseball long enough to give a toss, is now in the rearview mirror and they now have earned a spot in the sweet-16 of world soccer. At the milepost where they have arguably had their greatest win (2-0 over Mexico to advance to the final 8) the US has another winnable game and as much as I hate to play fortune teller, if someone would have come the US and told them that in one game you can actually WIN Group C by simply beating Algeria and for good measure we’ll throw in a trip to the final 8 if you can knock off Ghana, anyone and everyone associated with the representation of this country over the past 4 years would have accepted those stipulations with pleasure and anticipation. Now that the terms have been accepted it’s time to step up and become a major sport in the country like you’ve always wanted to become, but that only comes with winning. One advantage the US Soccer team has to accomplish this goal is that a sure way (other than winning a championship) to get the neutrals off the fence and on the band wagon is to feel like the US is being cheated or to play the underdog role, both those scenarios have come into play. The opportunity is there for this specific US team to take the sport from the junior college football fields to the stadiums and not to rest on the laurels of an unbeaten group stage record. So let’s create another major sport to follow and battle baseball in the summer the way the NBA, NHL, and NFL do in fall and winter, and what better way to kick it off then having another National Team have an impact in a world competition. The Basketball and Hockey players answered the call in the last Olympics and it’s time for soccer to follow suit as they will not have such a golden opportunity for another four years.

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