Over the last two weeks...most San Franciscan's I know have come down with World Cup fever.
It happens pretty consistently every 4 years. We get up early to watch the games, be they the USA or other countries. We throw parties. We wear our colors with pride. Then the Cup ends, and we forget for another four years.
And each four years, we are reminded that Americans don't like soccer. That it will never catch on in the USA. That no one is interested. But I have to beg to differ.
For starters...our women's team is consistently one of the top in the world, if not the best. Why, yes, I realize "it's not the same," but soccer is hugely popular with women. I feel like everyone I knew played soccer as a kid...and the common belief is many girls continue to play while the guys go play sports where they may net more scholarships and money.
This is, however, changing. We are competing on the worldwide stage. We made it, again, to the World Cup; many world powerhouses did not. We made it out of the first round...16 other teams did not. We should amazing strength and poise when we were clearly screwed on goals, yellow cards, and calls. (as an aside...the officiating has been TERRIBLE this entire World Cup, and is making the case for some sort of replay being introduced)
The argument goes it will never be a big sport here. My question is...does it have to be? Basketball, football, baseball...the big three. Golf, NASCAR, Tennis; they are all kind of niche sports. Popular, but niche. (can you sit and watch a full golf tourney or NASCAR race?) I think it's ok if soccer stays kind of niche. I would like to see it getting a little more respect -- these players are running at almost top speed for 90+ minutes on a huge field with very few substitutions. This is not an easy task. This is not a wussy sport.
I think soccer has caught on in the USA; hopefully it will grow a bit in popularity so the professional leagues stay viable. But, much like other sports, its popularity will peak every 4 years with the World Cup, much like swimming and track does at the Olympics.
And, no, we don't call it football. We call it soccer. It is derived from "association football," and, according to Wikipedia, "The term soccer originated in England, first appearing in the 1880s as an Oxford "-er" abbreviation of the word 'association.'" A few other countries use soccer, as well. If you are a native American (as in, born/raised here, not tribal), and you call it football, you might as well have a sign tattooed on your forehead branding you a pretentious douchebag. It is lame.