DAVID PYE: World Cup fever might finally see football kick off across the pond
12:00pm Friday 27th June 2014 in Sport
IT seems our American friends across the Atlantic have finally got the football bug in a big way.
Even before the US men’s national team’s final group clash with Germany last night, the World Cup had got into the psyche of those who follow the biggest growing sport across the pond.
A huge television audience of almost 25 million in the States watched their dramatic 2-2 draw with Portugal – a record for the game they call soccer.
Putting it into perspective, that was eight million more than the figure that watched the climax of the NBA basketball finals between San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat recently and 10 million on top of the average viewing figures for baseball’s World Series.
Okay, so it is the World Cup and every country sees a swell in its viewing public when national pride hits fever pitch and there are few countries who excel in that pride than the US. But this tournament could be a watershed moment for the beautiful game stateside.
For years and years, the drive to get football to the same audience level in North America as it is in the rest of the world has struggled to get out of first gear.
We had the early days in the seventies and eighties when big-name stars such as Pele, George Best and Franz Beckenbauer were drafted in to try to boost the popularity of the new league, but it failed.
It remained a sport for youngsters at school, and particularly girls as the US became the leading nation in women’s football.
Then, in 1994, the World Cup visited the States for the first time and turned out to be a success. Yet again, however, the imagination captured soon strayed back to the big three sports of American Football, baseball and basketball.
However, since that time there has been more development in players in America as Wanderers can testify with Stuart Holden and Tim Ream both influential US internationals plying their trade here.
Several others have trodden that same path and the reformed MLS has started to gain ground in the eyes of the American public thanks to the likes of a new-breed of imported stars like David Beckham and Thierry Henry.
With new teams (or franchises) like New York City – partners of Manchester City – and Beckham’s exciting plans for a new Miami side, maybe a star-spangled football banner may yet wave over the land of the brave after all.