This is not a post about college football at all. For the most part.
It is about the World Cup and its ratings success. Seems to me there have been very heated debates as to soccer’s popularity. This has happened way more in the U.S. (where millions have been watching the games) than in Canada (where our 110th ranked team looks forward to World Cup 2026 for our next feasible opportunity to qualify); however, the debate still rages on. Is soccer becoming more popular? Is it a mainstream sport? Can the naysayers shut the fuck up already?
To start, I will qualify this post with this fact: I am not really a soccer fan. I have tried in the past to get into it, watching EPL and Serie A matches, World Cup, Champion’s League, etc. I just can’t get into it. A lot of people are like that. And that’s OK. Saying that, I totally understand the popularity of the World Cup. People go out of their ever-loving god-damned minds with this tournament. And why? It is the biggest tournament on the planet. Period. You can’t argue it. Pretty much every country on Earth can attempt to qualify for it. So when you see someone who has all of a sudden painted their car orange in homage of their Dutch soccer heroes, you can understand why.
Does this mean soccer is becoming more popular here? Yes and no. You can’t compare the World Cup to anything else soccer-related. At. All. It is a being all onto its own. Nothing touches the World Cup. To even compare it to things like the BCS Championship, Stanley Cup finals or the Super Bowl is ridiculous because you are comparing apples and twigs. Totally different entities. So instead of that one all-encompassing question at the start of this paragraph, two really need to be asked:
- Is the World Cup more popular here (and in the States) than ever?
- Is soccer in general more popular here (and is it a mainstream sport)?
The World Cup is definitely more popular than ever. Can’t deny it. Look at the big parties they have in various American cities. Guaranteed, most of them couldn’t name more than two American players, don’t understand what offside is, and call it a field and not a pitch. But it’s ‘Murica and they love everything ‘Murican so of course they will cheer for it. Again, that’s fine by me. Some people can be a little over the top (read: non-soccer fans who suddenly become MASSIVE soccer fans by wearing country-specific clothing, painting their face, etc.) but this is the nature of this tournament.
As for soccer itself. It is more popular than it was four years ago. But it’s REALLY slow-going. MLS is not very popular (sans Seattle, Portland and pockets of fans for TFC, Vancouver, Columbus). EPL is quite popular but other soccer leagues are basically ignored. In both Canada and the States I would still consider it a niche sport because ultimately it still is.
And let’s not get carried away with this. In Canada, we can’t compare soccer to the NHL. No point. The NHL is king and always will be (just like the NFL in the States). I mean I love college football. But I know as a Canadian I am definitely among an extremely small minority who are fans of the game. Less fans than soccer and it will probably always be that way. It is truly a niche sport among Canadian viewers. In the States, however, it could be considered either the #2 or #3 sport (depending on who you ask). Niche sport? Don’t think so. It’s massive there and does big ratings.
Could I see soccer becoming bigger and more widespread on television? Absolutely. TSN will have five channels come late August. Live soccer should (and probably will) be a big part of those three new channels. Expect more MLS, a maximum amount of EPL, and also other competitions flooding the airwaves. Same goes for other sports like college football, rugby, tennis, bowling, and unfortunately, poker. You will see a lot more of these sports which will satiate the viewer (at least more so than it does now).
Soccer has its place. Let’s not ruin it for true fans (and fair weather fans…and people who just like wearing flags and their country’s colours) and shit all over their parade. This is a great tournament. Will I watch some of the games? Yes I will watch portions of games. I will watch highlights. That’s about it; but this is coming from a non-soccer fan. Soon the tournament will be over, and this conversation will be over…for approximately four years. Then the World Cup heads to Russia and a whole host of different problems when it comes to watching it on TV and the same talk will come up. Who really cares? Does it affect me? Not really. I watch what I want to watch. I don’t rent my eyeballs, I own them. I can’t be forced to watch what I don’t want to watch. People just need to calm down, have a beer (or a scotch…or smoke some weed…whatever, I don’t care what you do in your own home) and let everyone have their own fun.