Understanding The Soccer Culture

Soccer has always been my culture. As a young child, my parents signed me up for various sports to see which ones I would like. I took a liking to soccer very quickly. I gave up on baseball and basketball to focus all intentions on soccer. For the rest of America, the feeling isn’t the same.

I get it though. Soccer is the World’s Sport but not America’s preference. Major League Soccer (MLS) has tried plenty of times to Americanize the sport, and in doing so attempted to grow the sport. With the expansion of the sport, MLS has now changed rules slowly back to the more common FIFA style but kept certain Americanized changes such as the playoffs.

The reality is, the World Cup draws big TV viewership numbers, and American networks have shelled out a lot of money for the broadcast rights to the English Premier League and Major League Soccer. Soccer-specific stadiums are being built all over the place, and the sport’s popularity is growing, especially in younger demographics. Teams are joining all over the country, with Los Angeles getting a 2nd team and Atlanta getting a team. Rumors are wild about Sacramento, Minnesota, San Antonio, and St. Louis joining the league. Once the city of Miami can get behind the club, Miami will join the fold. A sport that was said to “never survive in America” is turning into a growing force. Sadly, not the entire nation is embracing the game.

You don’t see any other sport suffer this boil-over into public displays of animosity. Only soccer. Only in the United States. Football doesn’t take shots at baseball. Hockey doesn’t take an earful from basketball. Want to see tensions spoil over? Call it futbol.

I understand the hatred for flopping and getting after players for faking injuries. Soccer isn’t the only one to do that though. Plenty of players in the NBA flop. The NFL has a history of players faking injury to slow down another team. Maybe you need to understand the reasoning behind it. It is easier in soccer to score a goal from a set piece than in the field of play.

Those who don’t/won’t understand soccer cannot comprehend a game where much of the action doesn’t involve a game winning shot. It doesn’t even involve the ball sometimes. It is more about the game withing the game that makes it beautiful. A scoring play is the point of American games, but in soccer, the flow is the point of the game. The set up for the shot is just as exciting as the goal itself. Many who hate soccer struggle to accept this concept.

Brian Phillips explains it best when he wrote: “the game is mercilessly hard to play at a high level. (You know, what with the whole “maneuver a small ball via precisely coordinated spontaneous group movement with 10 other people on a huge field while 11 guys try to knock it away from you, and oh, by the way, you can’t use your arms and hands” element.)”

The game doesn’t have to end in a tie. It could end in a penalty shoot out to please the fans, but you have to understand that it isn’t the culture of soccer. How would you feel about an NBA regular season game ending in a tie and instead of overtime they go to a game of knock out? What if the MLB game ends in a tie and goes straight into a home run derby. Those sound exciting but they aren’t displaying a team’s full skill set like playing overtime. Going into a penalty shoot out takes away from the game within the game.

The only question I have to ask, can we all get along? Probably not.