Somewhere between the FIFA franchise brought to us by EA Sports, soccer has become relevant in the United States. It’s come a long way since hosting the World Cup in 1994 and still has a long way to go. Football (or American football anyways) is likely to always be the most popular sport in the country, but there’s tons to like about the Premier League of England and La Liga in Spain or the Bundesliga from Germany. Casual fans have been converted to religious followers and an open hysteria seems to have taken over.
In major cities across the country you are likely to see actual crowds of people in taverns or bars or pubs (or whatever we call them) drinking brews and discussing the sport as though we have always been familiar with the tactics and its beautiful makeup. While the popularity certainly is climbing, the average (rabid) soccer fan in the United States tends to be either English, someone in the career field of the sport, or nerds that want to take part in something that athletic people do. Seriously, check out how many dungeons and dragons dweebs show up to watch Tottenham or Man City beat up on opponents with the small-market equivalent bank account of the Oakland Athletics or Kansas City Royals (though said clubs are hardly as successful in the bigger picture).
And maybe these unlikely fans are a product of the gaming culture that has spawned professional gaming leagues. No matter, the FIFA video games have got to be much more important in the familiarity of individual players not named Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. Ten or fiften years ago it was reasonable to think that learned fans would have enough knowledge of international soccer to don jerseys from Zidane, Baggio, or Ronaldo (the Brazilian one). But kids under the age of 10 walk around with Thomas Muller German national jerseys and other randoms like they’ve grown into this. And maybe they have. Let’s hope it continues.