Much like our embrace of the metric system, or Oprah’s engagement to Steadman, America’s love affair with soccer has never really reached the torrid zone. After more than a generation of anticipation that the sport that the rest of the world calls “football” would be the next big thing, soccer has never become a major American spectator sport. On television, at least.
Soccer has become an important coming-of-age sport for many young people, most notably female athletes who had been shut out of the playing field in the pre-Title IX era. While it remains must-see TV for many immigrants, it has never conquered American television.
ABC and its cable networks hope to change that over the month-long course of the World Cup, beginning with “2010 FIFA World Cup Kick-off Celebration Concert” (7 p.m., ABC).
The musical event, held in the Orlando Stadium in Soweto, Johannesburg, promises to be one of the biggest entertainment events in South Africa’s history. Participants include international superstars Alicia Keys, the Black Eyed Peas, John Legend, Shakira and Juanes. The celebration will also showcase South African musicians, many of them unknown to American viewers, including Amadou and Mariam, Angelique Kidjo, BLK JKS, K’Naan, Lira, Mzansi Youth Choir, The Parlotones, Tinariwen, Vieux Farka Toure and Vusi Mahlasela.
Much like NBC’s broadcast of the Summer and Winter Olympic Games, the World Cup will afford viewers and fans endless hours of sporting events. ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN Classic will air more than 166 hours of World Cup matches. All 64 matches will be archived on ESPN3 .com and can be streamed through the end of the year.
This will give us plenty of chances to fall in love with the world’s favorite sport. But will we ever call it “football”?
• Two’s company on “Dual Survival” (9 p.m., Discovery). Over the course of a 10-episode season, military-trained Dave Canterbury and naturalist Cody Lundin will work together to stay alive in some of the planet’s most unforgiving locales. Tonight’s test: stranded on a desert island off the Canadian coast. Did I mention it was in the middle of winter?
• TCM celebrates the 100th birthday of filmmaker and naturalist Jacques Cousteau with a 20-hour marathon of his underwater documentaries, beginning at 5 a.m.
• The 2009 documentary “The Last Days of Lehman Brothers” (8 p.m., CNBC) recalls the rapid decline and fall of one of Wall Street’s most storied firms. “Last Days” marks the first of many Friday-night movies on CNBC, a summer business film festival that will include “Wall Street” (July 2) and “The Rainmaker” (July 9).
Tonight’s other highlights
• A concert proves eventful for Julie and Matt on “Friday Night Lights” (7 p.m., NBC).
• A painful reincarnation may explain a business big shot’s odd behavior on “Past Life” (7 p.m., Fox).
• “Hippies” (7 p.m., History) spends two hours examining the shaggy social phenomenon some can’t forget and others will never forgive.
• An unstable man takes a hostage to “replace” his lost daughter on “Flashpoint” (8 p.m., CBS)
• Deep sea divers need assistance on “Miami Medical” (9 p.m., CBS).
• A peace summit may bring anything but on “Merlin” (9 p.m., Syfy).
• Roman’s former collaborator throws a party to show off his new success on “Party Down” (9 p.m., Starz).
• The stop motion animation sitcom “Glenn Martin, DDS” (9:30 p.m., Nickelodeon) returns for a second season.