Prof: Americans just don't get a kick out of soccer
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Reasons for why Americans seem to lack enthusiasm for soccer might be rooted in history, says a Purdue University sports historian.
"After America declared its independence in 1776, Americans had a tendency to reject some of the traditional British pastimes, including sports," says Randy Roberts, distinguished professor of history. "The game that we played with our feet morphed into football instead of soccer, and our game with a bat morphed into baseball instead of cricket.
"Today, soccer is the sport of American pluralism. A lot of recent immigrants, as well as first- and second-generations from Asia, Mexico and South America support the American fan base for soccer. But I'm not sure that fan base has spread."
Soccer may not be popular at the professional level, but youth soccer is a common sport. The US Youth Soccer organization reports that more than 3 million youths participated in the sport in 2009. The organization estimates that number represents more than 85 percent of the children and youths who play soccer in the United States.
"What is interesting is that even those young kids who grow up playing soccer because they love the sport don't watch it on TV or follow the American professional league," Roberts says. "Instead, they follow American football. There just doesn't seem to be room for two popular games."
Another difference between football and soccer lies in their socio-economic origins.
"In some ways soccer is a game of poverty, and football is a game of affluence," he says. "All of that football equipment is expensive, but in soccer all you need is a ball."