The World Cup comes along once in a blue moon- actually a blue moon is happens more regularly (once every 2.7 years according to trustworthy internet sources, and far more regularly at my house thanks to my wife)- and captivates the entire world. This is its greatness, and its tragedy.
Think about that for a minute- a sporting event that generally occurs in one time zone, but is important enough to 32 different nations to cause businesses to shut down, and people to commune, watch, celebrate, cry and everything in between in nearly every time zone across the globe. Every nation with representation going into group play, technically, has a >3% chance of achieving a victory that would likely mean more to that country than any other attainable feat. It creates a sense of community, unity and synergy that is unlike any other event, Olympics included.
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Unlike the Olympics, the world actually pays attention to Soccer during the 47 months that span the time between events (Sorry curling, I still love you-just once every 4 years is all… ). Premier League viewership in the US- a country seen globally as a barbaric, football-loving, futbol-hating country- is at an all time high. With the addition of Premier League games to premiere cable networks, and the steady growth of the MLS, top notch soccer has never been more accessible. But I would argue that there is more to it than that…
-Soccer is by far the most global sport. Stars from every continent, sans Antarctica, convene to create the best competition possible. Not only does this increase the quality of soccer being played, but also the interest level for countries who may not otherwise have a dog in the fight. In America, baseball has always dipped into the southern hemisphere and basketball has more international players than ever- but no other sport captivates the global audience like soccer.
-You know what to expect- 105 minutes with halftime, give or take 10 minutes, and you are in and out in under 2 hours.
-Low scoring does not equal boring- This World Cup has been one of the highest scoring in history, but I would argue that the most drama stems from the low scoring, close games. The Mexico-Brazil game that ended 0-0, much to the chagrin of soccer haters everywhere, was one of the most exciting games of the entire tournament.
It might just be part of the grieving process- but I found myself, after the US exited in the round of 16, questioning why we have to wait 4 years to do this again? One of the most frequent questions I hear from the casual spectator is “What do I do now?”. People like to get to know players, teams, stories, etc. The national teams that competed in 2014 will look drastically different than the teams that show up in Russia in 2018, simply by virtue of the amount of time that has passed. Only 4 players from the 2014 US Mens National Team played significant minutes for the 2010 team, and I would wager that 4 is probably a good over-under number for the carry-overs that will contribute to the 2018 team. Fans need a way to remain connected to the players they have come to know. Players need an opportunity to develop chemistry that isn’t possible in the short amount of time they are allotted to train with their national teams.
What if we could create a competition once, twice, or even thrice in a blue moon that would allow the casual fan to maintain that connection they developed with their national team? International soccer needs something to fill the void. A well-organized international competition would be the perfect way to keep fan interest abound, provide development opportunities for national teams outside of meaningless friendlies, and ultimately provide a platform for the world to remain invested in the team they have gotten to know. Currently there are a number of tournaments (Gold Cup, Euro Cup, Copa America, Confederations Cup), but none of these are all-encompassing enough to create much interest outside of their perspective regions, and in some cases not even there.
Maybe we are already heading in that direction? According to this article CONCACAF and CONMEBOL are teaming up for a joint tournament in 2016 in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Copa America. It will essentially be a combination of the Gold Cup and Copa America, featuring 16 legitimate teams. Definitely a step in the right direction, and hopefully it attracts enough popularity to become the norm going forward. Even better news? It will be held in the United States My general.
It is my hope that this trend continues, because one legitimate international soccer tournament every 1.48 Blue Moons simply isn’t enough.
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