MARC ILES' WORLD CUP SIDESHOW: Americans already have a football States of mind
THIS isn’t the World Cup when the USA finally “got” football – this is the World Cup when football finally “got” the USA.
As amusing as the comedy stereotypes are of American soccer commentators wittering on about “end zones” and “net minders” – they aren’t strictly true.
It is just as lazy to suggest that everyone over here knows about cricket. I for one wouldn’t know a short third man if I fell over him or her (it is a person, right?) For a good few years MLS has been developing into a very slick, very marketable league and the quality of its media coverage has also improved exponentially.
More importantly, so has the standard of football.
If you look in the right parts of a sport-crazy nation you will find massive pockets of very knowledgeable supporters who follow the world game a lot closer than the average Premier League onlooker on these shores.
I’ve spoken to American journalists who can reel off statistics about MLS football just as easy as La Liga, Serie A or Bundesliga. They definitely know their onions.
And after following Wanderers on tour over there in Owen Coyle’s days I can also vouch that the die-hard fans embrace the sport with just as much vigour as anyone else.
No-one over there is looking to usurp NBA or NFL as the national sporting mainstays but there are definitely enough sporting lunatics to go around.
Don’t forget this is a nation obsessed with competition and as patriotic as they come. You can question whether the sheer size of the country makes it too difficult for club football to function as fluently as it does over here – it will never have that tribal quality as something that grew from working class roots in industrial towns – but to pass off the Americans as some sort of sideshow is ridiculous.
A lot has to do with the packaging. Jurgen Klinsmann’s appointment was a masterstroke.
He brought in German planning, sensibility and quality coaching, lifting the US to a different level, as seen at last summer’s Gold Cup.
He also invested in the German-American pool of talent in the Bundesliga which, while viewed as a controversial move by some, has added some serious spine to the group of talented home-grown youngsters he inherited from Bob Bradley.
It is sad that we didn’t see Stuart Holden and Tim Ream in the mix. Their time will come again, I’m sure.
But the USA’s performances at the World Cup have made the world stand up and take notice. Football isn’t some kind of novelty or experiment – it’s serious business to them.