Goal Posts

Commentary on the complex relationships between motivation, performance, competition, cooperation, and goals.

Why Aren’t Americans More Interested in Soccer? Why is the U.S. Bad at Soccer?

In the last edition of Goal Posts, I raised the question of why soccer has struggled to gain mass appeal in the United States. Thanks to all the readers who offered their views on this question. Read More

Yeah changing the rules might

Yeah changing the rules might raise interest, in a sport that looks like soccer, but isn't quite soccer. What's the point of changing the rules to raise interest to get more young talent to compete with the world when the sport we're raising the profile of doesn't even end up being soccer. We don't deserve to win because we're American and we can't change the sport to accomodate the fickleness and unrealistic expectations of our fair-weather fans. I know the sport and I know what happened is a good result overall. We played reasonable well over the whole tournament and two of our games would've been clear-cut wins without controversial calls, one of which was horrible. Do I disagree with the FIFA rule stating referees aren't required to state why they made a call?, hell yeah, but I don't get to make them change it because I'm American and it screwed us, it's screwed plenty of other teams the world over. We don't get to be good just because we're the United States and we don't get to change the rules just because we don't like them for the same reason. We have to earn it like we have to earn everything else, you don't get World Cup titles thrown at you and Ghana earned it today, whether you know it or not Ghana is a quality team with a great young generation coming through and I have no shame with having lost to them. I would think a man with a professional degree would understand that his solutions would make instituting them useless in the first place but I'd imagine your interest is just as mercurial as most of the rest of the populace. If you can't accept the sport find one you like, don't try and change it to make it more friendly to the American mindset, our mindset needs the overhaul in my opinion, not the beautiful game.

Aaahh, I see, change the

Aaahh, I see, change the game, so widely enjoyed by the vast majority of the world's population, so it will become more popular in the good old US and give them a better chance of winning. Believe me FIFA is not waiting for your call!

Look at it this way, once every four years the world gets to see the mighty US humbled. Suddenly all that money and all that power count for nothing, and we love it. Everyone has three teams, their country, their sentimental choice and the one, above all, they want to see beaten. My guess is that the US would win the most popular 3rd team spot by a mile. Maybe instead of changing the game the US could think about why it so profoundly differs from the rest of the world in this way. Look Ma everyone's out of step except our Johnny!

Despite your analysis I thought the US team was great. They were unlucky against Ghana. It was a tight game decided by a few short periods of brilliance, some of them from Tim Howward, more of them from Kingston. Personally I would be singing their praises before I went in for any more cultural analysis.....but hey that's a soccer attitude, my team is my team, winning or losing they can do no wrong!

It is truly amazing to see

It is truly amazing to see such a seemingly intelligent person dribble on about something he knows nothing about. If you want to criticize a sport because it doesn't make you happy or excited, I suggest you write it in your journal. No one on the internet cares about your lack of research and your poor opinions.

And by the way, according to this graph, soccer is pretty popular in the United States. Great job!!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Football_world_popularity.png

My thoughts

I'd like to call it football, but it will bring some misunderstandings, so I hope 'soccer' will not sound too foreign to me.

1) It's the internal problem of US soccer, nothing an outsider could say and help.

2) About 'ties': as you have already seen in the matches the USA team played in this WC tournament, goal is difficult and sometimes seems to be near impossible to score, especially again a defensive opponent. For short, goal is scarce. If you, by any chance, keep going to watch soccer, and follow it long enough, you will definitely see some matchs in which neither participating team deserve a win against the other, and it'd be most fair for the teams to go home with a tie. Soccer is more a social matter than mathematic matter, it accepts 'gray' as one of the outcomes.

3) Please honestly answer me this question: do you have the same excitement for every points scored in a, let's say, 85-80 basket ball match? I'm also watching basket ball on occasions with my friends, and my usual feeling is this: oh, it's a nice basket, or good dunk, and then, the opponent attacks, and then basket, or dunk, and attack. There is little-to-no build-up on the play, and no time to comprehend and celebrate for one successful attack. Scoring becomes a constant routine and provide little excitement. And in american football, if one touch down rewards 1 point, the scoreboard will be as good as 2 or 3 points for 1 match. It's not the numbers that matter, it's the nature that matters.

4) Not always the stronger team will win: it's life, isn't it? Not always fair, and one moment of concentration lapse, you pay dearly. People can talk and work out every aspects of the game beforehand, but after the game concluded, the victory will go to which team played it best. In his day, a rookie gangster can head-shot a veteran policeman, and all the latter can say is 'fukc!'

5) Just imagine, in american football, the offensive team's receiver wanders around touch-down line, behind the whole defense line, and before the attack commences, waiting for the long pass. It's unfair, right? and it kills the beauty of the game. In a free-flowing game like soccer, you cannot ask all the players to gather and stand behind one line every time they start to attack. So they have the 'offside' rule, and it adds depth to the game. You can go google for the 'offside trap'.

6) Your comparison is a good try, but not close enough. Scoring a goal in soccer is hard, and one attacking chance will take several minutes to complete. What will you feel when your team have tried so hard for the last 5 minutes, and eventually put you free 1 meter away from the goal mouth, with the ball at your feet, and then the bell rings? Utter anger, and disapointment, I bet. In soccer, usually the referee, after the regulation time has officially ran out, will allow the play to go on if the ball-holding team is pushing up for the last scoring chance, and only whistle after the ball is cleared away to safety. Subjectivity in this case is just and fair, I think, and it's good.

7) Again, like (1), it's a matter outsiders can't help. Maybe the MLS should give a try to bring Messi, or Ronaldo to play soccer in the States.

Why The Rest Of The World Call It The Beautiful Game...

I wouldn't like to judge someone who thought soccer was just too damp. If I'm not mistaken, the term Joga Bonito-play beautifully wasn't meant to be about scores. Or about winning. It's the art, the spirit, the play of soccer. Obviously you didn't watch as many soccer matches to know that. I think the US team played brilliantly. I think if you ask any other soccer/football fans around the globe, they'll agree that the US team wasn't the strongest team, but they played hard & they played well. The reason soccer is not famous in US is because Americans can't feel soccer as much as the rest of the world. All you need is a ball to play. You can never claim that to any other sport. And it's a good way to socialise. I don't need english to watch the game anywhere in the world. It's truly universal.

Why The Rest Of The World Call It The Beautiful Game...

I wouldn't like to judge someone who thought soccer was just too damp. If I'm not mistaken, the term Joga Bonito-play beautifully wasn't meant to be about scores. Or about winning. It's the art, the spirit, the play of soccer. Obviously you didn't watch as many soccer matches to know that. I think the US team played brilliantly. I think if you ask any other soccer/football fans around the globe, they'll agree that the US team wasn't the strongest team, but they played hard & they played well. The reason soccer is not famous in US is because Americans can't feel soccer as much as the rest of the world. All you need is a ball to play. You can never claim that to any other sport. And it's a good way to socialise. I don't need english to watch the game anywhere in the world. It's truly universal.

Soccer is a Growing Sport...

If you look at Team USA's performance in the Cup as well as the FIFA rankings you would soon realize that we have a world class team which competes well on the world stage. Many of the US Mens players play in the top leagues in the world. MLS is fastly growing. US Womens Soccer is first class.

The reason domestically why the sport does not have as much of a following as Football, Basketball and Baseball simply comes down to dollars and cents. More money has been historically spent on these sports. However, this is a good thing because soccer is growing with a particular demographic which is highly educated and the sport is highly accessible from a fan and player perspective. Look at season ticket prices - they are affordable and available. Open tryouts are a standard with MLS teams. Soccer is the best sport in the world and slow adopters just lack imagination and knowledge of this.

Interesting question, but...

I can't get past the lack of spacing/paragraphs etc. As someone that isn't close to immune to typos (they are a weakness of mine) and writes his blog entries on the quick side (like 20-30 minutes max), I still am mind-screwed by this presentation.

It could be that I love soccer and am just looking for ways to "hate on" this, but I don't think so. This is a really interesting question. But, I think it has a lot to do with cultural learning/norms as much as anything. There is nothing, inherantly, that makes baseball more enjoyable than soccer. It is just what people grow up with and what other people like that largely determine what we like.

I'd wager that most people that say they like the NBA Playoffs wouldn't watch either if the sport wasn't as popular. They may sound circular, but it isn't. Most people who watch any sport don't love the sport, independently of others liking it. If all others stopped watching it, they would too.

There are exceptions; I think (or like to at least) that I am that way with soccer; I would watch it (and do) regardless of its popularity.

Nathan - My apologies - the

Nathan - My apologies - the article was formatted in paragraphs and for some reason the website was not displaying the blog in paragraphs.

It is now back to normal, but I'm sorry for the inconvenience of reading an admittedly long blog as a single paragraph. Thanks for reading and for your comments.

Sincerely,

John Tauer

I would watch your Soccer

I couldn't agree more with your rule changes. I would add a couple more: a shot clock and an over-and-back rule. Or maybe lacrosse has it right: no shot clock and no over-and-back, but a time limit to get the ball into some sort of scoring area.

I think there's something about the rest of the world that wants to accept the randomness of authority as demonstrated by officials that can't possibly keep up with the game, leading to inevitable mistakes. We Americans see that and say, "Well, we can fix that. Let's have replays, goal judge and official timers, that'll do the trick. And let's speed this thing up while we're at it."

I'm obviously one of those American sports fans that pays attention to soccer once every 4 years. I might follow your game, Mr Tauer, but that of course will never happen. As the other commenters demonstrate, most soccer fans are Traditionalists. They think the game is beautiful and perfect just the way it is, thanks.

See you in 4 years then!

Soccer is world's sport

you pointed out well there George Nguyen.I agree with him.Internal problem of US mindset.Outsiders cant help.You have to have passion about the game to be world beaters.All of the big countries brazil,argentina,germany are crazy,mad about the sport.You will never progress to the final if you don't start putting passion about the sport since child.Millions people loved the sport.Billions watching it.Your point to change the rules so the Americans can embrace the beautiful game is just crazy and stupid.

Wrong question

Soccer is by far and away the most popular game in the world. The real questions relate to why are Americans so different from the rest of the world?
The three 'popular' American sports (football, basketball and baseball) are ignored the world over. Why do you assume that soccer should change for the US fans? Should we change American sports rules to make the games more interesting to Europeans, Africans, etc?
What I find fascinating is why American parents persist in encouraging their children to in play sports that genetically they have ZERO possibility of succeeding?
Why are Americans so enthralled with sports that have so little to do with skill?
It seems to me that the biggest problem that soccer has in gaining interest, is that for soccer to become popular, Americans have to admit that they are wrong about their concept of sport. That truly, games based on skill are better than games based on genetics.
Why is it that in the 'Land of Opportunity' we Americans enjoy sports that are the exact opposite. The beauty of soccer is that anyone can play and anyone can succeed. The best soccer player in the world, Lionel Messi is 5'7" What are the chances that he would be able to play professional football or basketball? Conversely, Manute Bol was given an NBA contract sight unseen, where in the soccer world would that occur?
If you really want to pose an interesting question, ask why Americans are so obsessed with size, strength and violence. Since you are blogging on Psychology Today, this is the far more intriguing issue.

People in America do watch

People in America do watch much soccer for the very same reason people in Europe do not watch much baseball or football: They did not grow up watching those games.

If you lived in Australia and grew up watching Aussie Rules Football and Rugby, chances are you will mostly watch those sports as an adult. Why do such a greater percentage of Canadians watch hockey than Americans? Because they grow up watching those games on televisions and at the arenas.

Most people watch the same sports as adults that they watched when they were growing up. Tastes in sports do change over time, but this change occurs gradually as a few people in each generation convert to fans of a new sport. Overtime those number of converts may accummulate to create a noticeable change in the popularity of a sport. For example, over time football has surpassed baseball as the most popular American sport and basketball has similarly risen in popularity over the decades. By contrast, the popularity of boxing and horse racing has gone the other direction. Indeed, its almost difficult for young people today to grasp how popular boxing and horse racing once were.

In short, most people, will continue to watch the same sports they watched as children. A minority in each generation will switch sporting allegiances over time, and eventual a noticeable or even large shift in the popularity of a sport will occur.

the minnows

Soccer players in Mexico make more money than MLS players, until that changes, kids here in the states will never consider it as a career possibility, so it will be a very long time until soccer become popular with the general population, although some mexican league games get better Nielsen ratings than Lakers games here in LA, due to the local demographic.

As far as FIFA is concerned, the US is just another minnow, so good luck with your suggestions, it will never happen, so stay with Basketball or the NFL handball if you like big scores. Besides have you consider that is precisely the difficulty in scoring a goal in soccer what makes it more interesting ? just like chess and chekers, sure; you take more pieces, faster in chekers, but that doesnt make it more interesting than chess

America is more than good in soccer.why?

America here in south africa is one of the highly respected team.the american has wath it take to be the best in the world the way they play they have the passion and committment toward the game unlike the my south african team.south african they love the american team.on behalf of SA i would like to thank all the americans that a visiting SA

­¡Viva España!

That's amazing! We should change a game that has persisted thousands of years because Americans are too incompetent and ADD to understand the game?
1) There are several reasons that America isn't able to compete with South America and Europe. But principally it must be the overall lack of initiative. It's not popular, I don't understand the rules, blah blah blah. There won't be much to compete with (suitable players) until somebody steps out of their bubble and takes the time to know the game. Surely then they'll love it.
2) Fear of a tie game? That seems a wee bit pathetic. It's not as if every game of the season is a draw, and it is not as if the squad isn't rewarded for draws. It is all of part of the strategy.
3) What's a basket in a game that totals 180 points between the two teams? Or a touchdown in a game that garners 50 points. The low scoring is what makes not only football (Soccer for you introverted Americans) but so many other sports exciting. You won't see any one jumping up and down because the Lakers scored two in the third quarter. Every goal matters in football.
4) Possession and shots do not make a better team. It's what you do with your possession and where you place your shots (and much more) that matters.
5) Again, the rules are a part of the game, and there are consequences to a squad's actions. And if someone would take an hour out of their ADD lifestyle to understand the rules of the game, they wouldn't be so ambiguous, would they?
6) I say again, it is part of the game and part of the strategy. And it adds for suspense! FIFA won't change the rules simply because Americans complain about the clock - give a real reason.
7) Americans should rear less selfish children. If you ask any footballer (soccer player) why he started the game, he'll respond without a pause 'because I love it'. What does it say about the U.S. if someone won't pursue a career simply because it doesn't pay $20 million a year?

You really are American and you really don't know the game. I played for 11 years of my life and follow avidly, and anyone who loves the game as I do will be offended upon reading your post. The only way America is going to get any better is if they start winning games because they want to, not because they cried to their father to change the rules - because that will never happen!

Why Do Europeans CARE Whether Americans Like Soccer?

Can we all agree that, in the grand scheme of things, NO sport is all that important?

Babe Ruth didn't cure cancer, and neither did Pele.

Michael Jordan didn't bring peace to the Middle East, and neither did Franz Beckenbauer.

Peyton Manning and Wayne Rooney, Albert Pujols and Lionel Messi, all of these guys are nothing more than ENTERTAINERS. If you think it's fun to watch them play their games, great! Watch them, and have a good time! Just stop telling everybody else how important your favorite game is.

The NFL tried to establish an American-style football league in europe. Very few Europeans paid the league much attention, and the league folded. Now, does ANYBODY in the United States whine or complain about how "those European wimps are too stupid to appreciate our game"? No! We Americans don't care whether Europeans like our sports. If they have other sports they like better, that doesn't bother us in the least. We're content to say, "You guys enjoy YOUR games, and we'll enjoy ours."

Soccer fans, on the other hand, are rarely content to show Americans the same respect. Europeans and Europhiles are all too quick to insist that EVERYBODY has to embrace THEIR game.

Why Do Europeans CARE Whether Americans Like Soccer?

Can we all agree that, in the grand scheme of things, NO sport is all that important?

Babe Ruth didn't cure cancer, and neither did Pele.

Michael Jordan didn't bring peace to the Middle East, and neither did Franz Beckenbauer.

Peyton Manning and Wayne Rooney, Albert Pujols and Lionel Messi, all of these guys are nothing more than ENTERTAINERS. If you think it's fun to watch them play their games, great! Watch them, and have a good time! Just stop telling everybody else how important your favorite game is.

The NFL tried to establish an American-style football league in europe. Very few Europeans paid the league much attention, and the league folded. Now, does ANYBODY in the United States whine or complain about how "those European wimps are too stupid to appreciate our game"? No! We Americans don't care whether Europeans like our sports. If they have other sports they like better, that doesn't bother us in the least. We're content to say, "You guys enjoy YOUR games, and we'll enjoy ours."

Soccer fans, on the other hand, are rarely content to show Americans the same respect. Europeans and Europhiles are all too quick to insist that EVERYBODY has to embrace THEIR game.

Its just incredible all those

Its just incredible all those emotions involving sports when if your not the one competing. When they are nothing more then than another form of entertainment. I think as European the criticisms towards soccer is actually legitimate, the time keeping is joke, the offside rule is joke also, and I find the whole notion behind American sports more appealing. Now about the spectator aspect, crowd trouble and Hooliganism, seems to be common thing regarding soccer, thus also paints soccer as negative thing in the ease of Americans. Pitch invasion also happen lot in soccer in hope to change results attacking opposition players and fans, while in American sports its seems rather an expectation than rule and I have not seen evidence of attacking the opposition. As for the obsession with Americans not liking soccer I did suggest its inferiority complex on behalves of european soccer fans more than anything. Americans on other hand don't seems to be to bothered with fact that American sports are not that popular in Europe. But I think European inferority complex towards Americans are best explained in the end of world war II in general but thats another story for another time.

(*) Where I wrote "football"

(*) Where I wrote "football" you guys understand "soccer".

I think the remarkable thing in football is the balance and just the difficulty of scoring goals, and the means that are used for this purpose.

The goal is the climax of the football game, so he can not be trivialized.

To score the goal and avoid taking are made several moves and strategies that require skill, technique and rapport.

The score of the game with three points to win and one point for a draw encourages both teams to win and valuing the victory.

Rivalries are the catalyst of popularity, nobody wants to lose the game and hear his rival gloat your team. Rivalries can be between local clubs and also between national teams.

Yet football connects people, and Americans are somewhat isolated from the rest of the world. And that's a shame, because the U.S. has a huge potential to be one of the biggest in world football.

Sorry, i don´t speak english so well and i used Google translate.

Ignoring the power of commercial support?

First, let me apologize for posting my comment so long after this was published, but try to look at the bright side - an older post retains life in our Googly era if the subject is one folks are interested in searching in.

The main thrust of my comment is that I believe Soccer's less popular status in the U.S. has a lot to do with Advertising. Specifically, unlike American Football, Basketball, or Baseball, there is no room for conventional television commercial breaks. The play must continue for two 45 minute halves, so advertising must be accomplished via on-field graphics, or the regrettable "split-screen" views that were attempted a few years back.

The inability for commerce to get the same returns from their advertising simply cannot be ignored when it comes to what is needed to grow Soccer in the United States. If the dollars aren't there, the talent goes elsewhere, and talent makes even tie-games more exciting.

All that being said, the U.S.'s MLS continues to expand, and I will continue to root for my DC United!

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John Tauer, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Psychology and Assistant Men's Basketball Coach at the University of St. Thomas.

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