US Still Disconnected From World Football

It’s going to take the US football team to get to the semi-finals of the World Cup or better for the US ever to become a real football nation.

Of course it’s not even called football in this country – it’s soccer because there is American Football – and when the Americans talk about football they mean the NFL game, which is of course played with the hands.

And we had the sight of a new Yorker on TV at the beginning of the World Cup tournament,  rather annoyed and saying that the rest of the world was crazy to love soccer, and that the game was so  stupid,  because you couldn’t use your hands – and that unnatural for any game.

I know – that’s why we call it football – world football – as opposed to American football.

And  on the network news over here, the big sports news right now is which team top basketball player LeBron James will sign for – and he will say something tonight – he’s currently a free agent and most fans seem to want him to stay at the Cleveland Cavaliers, where he has been since leaving high school.

President Obama, who is a big basketball fan, at least wants him to sing for Cleveland –  even though the Chicago Bulls – Obama’s home town team , are keen to sign him.

Yes, on the major channels they mention what’s  happened at the World Cup most of the time, to be polite, but  some American commentators also keep referring to a player being “offsides” rather than offside.

There is an “offsides” in American football, and the English commentators keep trying to refer to the game as soccer, but keep saying football – only because that’s what they’ve called it all their lives – after all it’s FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) and not FISA.

The  coverage on the main networks outside the televised games is minimal, even though  the tournament has completely gripped the rest of the world these last few weeks, and does so ever four years.

NFL Football, Baseball, College Football, NBA, NHL (hockey), Golf, NASCAR and Tennis are only some of the sports that are more popular in the US than soccer.

Maybe there’s 10% of the US population into football – but that still means 30M – so in terms of numbers, there may still be a lot of support over here – but it pales in comparison to other sports in the US.

And people are saying that world football will become popular in the US –  but I’ll not hold my breath – I was here when Pele played for the NY Cosmos in the late 1970s, and they were saying the same thing then – only more so.

No – the US has its own sports and they will not change to embrace a game that was invented in England – think about it.

Not in my lifetime anyway.

That’s what we think – and we know we have lots of readers on our blog here in the states – so what do you think of the state of the game in America?

Comments very welcome.

31 comments so far

  • safferman

    Jul 8, 2010 at 2:11 PM

    Comment #1

    yeah I dont see things changing, I’m here in Raleigh and the worst is when the guys here try to talk “soccer” with me, its just not in their culture and have no clue, I usually find a Mexican to discuss the games with!

  • NUFC_Richyg01

    Jul 8, 2010 at 2:20 PM

    Comment #2

    The word Soccer just pisses me off, it sounds wrong.

    Only the Yanks would call a game “FOOTball” where you actually use your hands!

  • DCToonFan

    Jul 8, 2010 at 2:29 PM

    Comment #3

    First post here. Love the blog and the comments. I’m an ignorant Yank, but I’ve really immersed myself in the Toon and the sport over the past 5 years or so. My opinion FWIW…

    I do think things might change for two reasons:

    1) It is very easy to watch Premier League games in the US now through Fox Soccer Channel and ESPN. Most Americans will never become huge fans of MLS because they know it’s a 2nd rate league compared to the top European leagues. But if Americans can easily watch those games they’ll get more into the sport.

    2) Video games. Lots of kids/young adults have grown up playing the FIFA series of games from EA Sports. They know the big clubs and the big players. It won’t be that much of a jump for them to embrace the real sport (especially since games normally air at times that don’t compete w/ established American sports).

    I’m not saying football (see I can use the right term ) will ever overtake the NFL or college sports, but I think you’ll see it continue to increase in popularity.

    Would have helped though if we could have seen off Ghana!

  • nufctj

    Jul 8, 2010 at 2:49 PM

    Comment #4

    The US is disconnected with the rest of the world in general. So why should sport be any different? I was born and raised in the USA. I have never been to England. I American sports when i was a kid. “Soccer” was something we played in gym class. I fell in love with the game in my late twenties when my kids started to play. I now have only one passion when it comes to sport, football! World football that is! So it is possible for us to be converted. I am living proof. I can care less about American sports anymore, ESPN Sports center annoys me to no end.

  • Captain Beefheart

    Jul 8, 2010 at 3:01 PM

    Comment #5

    ‘Rugby’ Football was differentiated from ‘Association’ Football in a similar way. What’s in a name anyway? The main thing is the USA finished ahead of us in the group and avoided Germany!

    It’s down to culture and tradition, and the USA has its own. However I do think USA stands a better chance of winning a future World Cup than England, let me explain why.

    Because USA is not lumbered with loads of old and worn out vested interests such as the FA and club loyalties, it is able to make radical strategic decisions relating to how the National team operates (perhaps centralise contracts), and I the club v country debate will be decided in favour of the latter every time (unlike in Blighty).

    So the USA is perfectly placed to cultivate an elite team from the formidable college system (as well as USA players from clubs in Europe and South America) and this National team will only get better and better on the back of his year’s creditable display.

    Like the name Soccer, this approach is very different to the game in England, but on that basis I am confident of seeing a USA team in the final in my lifetime. Club soccer is another matter, but best compare it to club cricket in England! We English don’t support our local club (or even county) but everyone watches the test match.

    And I’ll put a fiver on the USA winning the World Cup before England!

  • The Original Todd

    Jul 8, 2010 at 3:38 PM

    Comment #6

    The link below is one of my favorite recent articles. I hope all of you who resent the word “soccer” will read it.–fbintl_ro-soccervsfootball070110.html

    Ed, I’m a bit surprised. Being a native of the US, it seems to me you’ve been taking some shots at our country during the World Cup. Saying England dominated the match against the US was a bit of a reach. We were one save away from winning that game.

    Since this country has been your home for the last 40 years, I thought you might instead focus on those of us who do love the beautiful game here.

    And this clip shows while we may be the minority, there is passion for the sport in the US. This was the match vs Algeria:

  • bkeena00

    Jul 8, 2010 at 3:51 PM

    Comment #7

    Wow! You really have a problem with the name thing. Here in Ireland it’s also called soccer but it hasn’t stopped the game becoming a major player in our collection of popular sports. Obviously here football (gaelic football that is) and hurling are much bigger games, but I think many countries are very capable of embracing numerous sports.
    Give the Yanks a chance, they’ll get there

  • lloydie780

    Jul 8, 2010 at 4:25 PM

    Comment #8

    Is it true we may be interested in signing Bradley? saw the news on transfer rumours (out the blue) and got me excited as i think hes a cracking little player. Any ideas?

  • Toon_Fresh

    Jul 8, 2010 at 4:46 PM

    Comment #9

    Ed- What’s with the bitter post? If you don’t like it, you can get out!

    Yeah we have a million sports here, but you of all people should notice how many American fans we have on this blog, including myself.

    Who cares what we call football? It’s a different country, we can call it what we want. Correct me if I’m wrong, but in Italy the call it “calcio.” What does it matter what it’s called?

  • Snevik

    Jul 8, 2010 at 4:47 PM

    Comment #10

    I’d tired of discussing this point with American pundits; I’m not sure I want to begin the battle with alien ones. Anyway, suffice to say, there’s a lot of us over here that love the sport, there’s a lot of us over here that play the sport, and it doesn’t matter what you call the sport. Also, this:

  • MacToon

    Jul 8, 2010 at 5:00 PM

    Comment #11

    😆 I better not say anything except in great to have some American fans following NUFC

    nufctj, post 4, nice 1 especially the first sentence but I didn’t say anything… honest.

  • MacToon

    Jul 8, 2010 at 5:00 PM

    Comment #12

    *it’s great

  • Tom Mo.

    Jul 8, 2010 at 5:16 PM

    Comment #13

    Ed I don’t know about you, but since last year I have already seen a DRAMATIC increase in popularity for the Premier League and world football in general here in the USA. It is going to take some time, but we are definitely getting there. It annoys me just like you to try and talk football with people who don’t know what they’re talking about here. It will get better. Don’t be so critical. The biggest problem with football for Americans is drawing, especially 0-0. (hence the NY post title) They just don’t understand. Someone has to win! hahahah I think it’s funny just like you. We will see

  • roy cropper

    Jul 8, 2010 at 5:20 PM

    Comment #14

    when i was in las vegas a few years ago i visited the – green door – where they were playing some fantastic watersports.

    they had some – world class – performers and i got a good soaking but i thoroughly enjoyed it.


  • sovbloc

    Jul 8, 2010 at 5:49 PM

    Comment #15

    Would have to agree with beefheart regarding the states being potential wc winners. Large hispanic population coupled with kids taking up the sport in larger numbers & a national association that doesn’t appear to have it’s head up it’s arse a la the F.A.

    Plus I’ve always had the impression that professional sports can be quite unforgiving state side so the players that do make it can deal with the pressure of big games without caving in.

  • Howay The Lads

    Jul 8, 2010 at 6:44 PM

    Comment #16

    I think America will be the best team in the world in 15 years.

    So many kids play it there and it’s increasing every year. I think a lot of older people don’t realise because everyone is slightly ignorant to other age groups but they’ll be – just watch…

  • BeeGuy

    Jul 8, 2010 at 7:11 PM

    Comment #17

    O.K. Ed, you got me, I’ll comment. European football is catching on for the reasons cited above but also because of HD TV. Both ice hockey and real football are catching on because of the clarity on the screen and because neither of them are offered as breaks between commercials. We older guys and our weary eyes cannot tolerate the flash and noise of TV ads, so ice soccer and foot hockey are becoming our games of viewing choice. I lived and died Pittsburgh Steelers, but can’t watch anymore as the momentum of their power running game is now interrupted by a commercial every third play. So to me, it is no longer American football, it is made for TV programming. I suppose European football would prosper if all injuries were mandatory stoppages as long a it takes to run 2 or 3 ads, and the ref could stop the clock for ads when a throw in, or goal kick was coming. And how would you like to hear the announcer say”We’ll be right back for the exciting corner kick right after these messages from our sponsers.”

  • baro

    Jul 8, 2010 at 7:26 PM

    Comment #18


    Hey why the Steelers? 🙂

  • noir9

    Jul 8, 2010 at 7:27 PM

    Comment #19

    HTL @ 13, I read somewhere about how popular soccer (call it what you want) was with kids in the us & that parents prefer it because it safer than american football. With the resources they have they could be a real force in the coming years, think we’re going to see more & more players from the us coming to play in europe.

  • Howay The Lads

    Jul 8, 2010 at 7:41 PM

    Comment #20

    Exactly, noir.

    Already we’re seeing an influx of Americans into the Prem: Howard, The Gooch, Dempsey, Bocanegra, Donavan etc.

    In a few years I’m sure there’s gonna be a lot more

  • MacToon

    Jul 8, 2010 at 7:50 PM

    Comment #21

    Both ice hockey and real football……..?

    omg lol

  • ende

    Jul 8, 2010 at 8:44 PM

    Comment #22

    The only thing disconnected here is folks’ perception of the US. We’re talking about a country of immense cultural complexity, which of course extends to its sports. There is no singular sense of ‘American sports’ that can approach anything close to what the relatively less diverse English sport culture can be considered as. We’re talking about a country that is an entire order of magnitude larger in population, not to mention the relatively infinite diversity ethnic and cultural origins that contribute to that population, each bringing its own different set of sensibilities and preferences when it comes to sports.

    Sure, it’s easy to judge the “American perception of Football” based on ESPN alone, but one has to truely consider that the supposed behemoth that is ESPN… is really just a little building tucked away in America’s backwoods that plays host to a Boys Club of corporate sports fusion.

    The relationship between America and Football (that is, Association Football, or ‘World Football’ as folks here are apparently calling it) is complex and interesting, and more importantly still emerging. To make a long story short, though, read Soccernomics. The US will one day rule the football world, and you English just hate that fact 😉

  • punk skunk...

    Jul 8, 2010 at 11:30 PM

    Comment #23

    The term soccer comes from private school boys who referred to rugby football as rugger & association football as soccer…
    So, it’s a ponce word made up by third hand french people’s, snotty kids in posh schools in england back in the 1800’s!..
    It’s a bit like callin’ beckham, becks…Puke worthy!..

  • punk skunk...

    Jul 8, 2010 at 11:33 PM

    Comment #24

    U.S.A. is quickly becoming a world force in football…This world cup isn’t the first time they’ve done well…Doesn’t anyone have a f***ing memory?..
    ‘Soccer moms’ in the states prefer their kids to play sports that don’t involve violence…
    …Er, for decades now…

  • punk skunk...

    Jul 8, 2010 at 11:43 PM

    Comment #25

    It’s just as likely that most of the american pundits hate the fact that football is starting to take over the states…
    It goes both ways…

  • Brisvegas

    Jul 8, 2010 at 11:52 PM

    Comment #26

    You think you have problems with other football codes and access to media. In Australia we have Aussie Rules, Rugby Union, Rugby League and Soccer (which is increasingly being called football). To try and get around the problem of column inches in newspapers and air time on tv, and lots of other things like acess to stadiums, our football season happens in summer. Because of where we are in the world we watch EPL games in the early ours of the morning – I’ve been watching the World Cup at 4.30am. This means that top quality football is rarely seen on free-to-air tv in prime time. There’s a lot on cable, though, but that is only subscribed to by 25% of the population.

    Despite that, the game is advancing. So much so that Aussie Rules and Rugby League, both of whom dominate the media, are constantly trying to undermine football’s advances – like trying to undermine Australia’s World Cup bid for 2022.

    And our population is only 20 mil. remember, that means there aren’t many bums to go on seats in so many codes.

    You have it easy in the US.

  • De Kuip02

    Jul 9, 2010 at 12:32 AM

    Comment #27

    Good Website Lads, Keep up the good work. You’re right ‘Soccer’ will never take off in the US. Their big chance was back in 94 but it never won the hearts of the yanks. They only want it in 2022 for the sponsorship etc.

    On the other hand, you are not alone. The Aussies arnt into football either. Preferring their version of long-distance ping-pong, Aussie Rules (which they call football). I mean they play it on an oval shaped pitch? Whats that all about?

  • ende

    Jul 9, 2010 at 1:04 AM

    Comment #28

    Keep telling yourself that De Kuip02

  • henok ethiopian toon

    Jul 9, 2010 at 8:23 AM

    Comment #29

    safferman which part of USA do u live at casue no body here understands me either

  • Hawaiian Geordie

    Jul 9, 2010 at 9:22 AM

    Comment #30

    as an american i can say i quit following american sports because of the commercialization: i simply cannot abide a break in the game where the players go sit down and wait for television commercials to play. 45 minutes of uninterrupted straight play is unimaginable in US sports

    and to be honest, i used to understand why everyone was so up in arms about the term “soccer,” but i don’t get it anymore. it’s not like the term is baseless, and i don’t see people getting outraged at other words like “commercial” instead of “advert” or the other 1000 of words that aren’t the same between our two languages. i think it’s some of that protracted bitterness over 1776 et al

    and SOCCER is catching on and i’d definitely bet a “fiver” on us winning before your sorry lot!

  • De Kuip02

    Jul 9, 2010 at 12:35 PM

    Comment #31

    Bit of bitterness i feel here from some of our cousins across the pond.

    I Personally would like the yanks to embrase the beautiful game. Its unfortunate that the majority of its non-immegrant population do not follow it . However to claim that they will one day domintae the sport just highlights to me why they don’t understand it.

    Football is not like any other sport. A country can’t dominate just by throwing money and top training behind its players. The game is developed over decades of understanding, passion and practice.

    This is why countries such as Greece, Spain (not a pot to p in), Uruaguay (population 3 million), Brazil and Argentina are amongst those that have done well. Its not about how rich you are its about how a team can do on its day and anyone can beat anyone else.

    This is perhaps why the US have not taken to football – because they dont dominate and can be beaten by a poor country. Its Just a theroy but americans do like to feel they are the biggest and the best.


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