Archive for Sunday, June 13, 2010

Soccer drawing more U.S. fans

City leagues note change in mindset, participation

Soccer fans at the Red Lyon Tavern celebrate a U.S. team goal in the first half of a World Cup tournament match between U.S. and England. The teams ended the game with a 1-1 draw.

Soccer fans at the Red Lyon Tavern celebrate a U.S. team goal in the first half of a World Cup tournament match between U.S. and England. The teams ended the game with a 1-1 draw.

June 13, 2010


Soccer fans at the Red Lyon Tavern react to a play Saturday in the match between England and the USA. The teams ended the game with a 1-1 draw.

Soccer fans at the Red Lyon Tavern react to a play Saturday in the match between England and the USA. The teams ended the game with a 1-1 draw.

As the FIFA World Cup began play this weekend, it highlighted a sport that continues to interest more and more Americans, both locally and nationally.

More television coverage is devoted to international leagues through channels like the Fox Soccer Channel, and youth soccer continues to be popular.

Though it still lacks the following of major American sports like football or baseball, as more and more Americans participate in it, the more interest goes up, said Andy Clayton, president of the Kaw Valley Soccer Association.

Soccer experienced a rapid growth in popularity in the 1990s, he said, when the U.S. hosted the World Cup in 1994, and when many followed the women’s national team to prominence in the 1999 World Cup.

“That brought girls into the game in large numbers,” Clayton said.

Though participation rates in the Kaw Valley association have held relatively steady over the last decade at between 1,200 and 1,300 players, Clayton said the mindset of many of them has begun to change.

Once thought of as a way to keep children active between other sports seasons, soccer now attracts players all year long, he said.

“In the last 10 years or so, it’s become more of a serious sport,” Clayton said.

He’s also seeing a rise in the interest in soccer as a spectator sport, thanks to increased television coverage of international teams and the continued growth of Major League Soccer.

“It’s unrealistic to say it will ever approach football or baseball,” Clayton said. “But one day, I could see it reaching the level of the (National Hockey League). If we have four major sports right now, one day maybe we could have five.”

It’s not just youth who are interested and engaged in the sport. The Lawrence Adult Soccer League typically boasts between 200 and 250 participants, said Dustin Billings, a volunteer who helps oversee the league.

Like many soccer enthusiasts, Billings, who graduated from Kansas University in 2009, isn’t shy about his passion for the game.

“I love everything about it,” he said. “I’ve played, coached, refereed and watched at just about every kind of level.”

He said he organized local pickup games a couple of nights a week, and lately, they’ve been attracting more and more interest.

Years ago, he said he’d go through a lot of effort to get a game started among five people or so.

Now, he sends out one text message to a group of about 30 people, and nearly 50 people will show up looking to participate, Billings said.

The United States is a latecomer to the soccer trend; the sport attracts a rabid group of fans internationally.

In Germany, hordes of fans leave their homes during World Cup matches and watch them on huge video monitors outside in areas called “Fan Miles,” said Jim Morrison, co-director of KU’s Center for International Business Education and Research.

“It’s like going to a satellite stadium to watch it,” he said.

He was in Germany for the last World Cup and helped to organize a watch party that connected Free State Brewery in Lawrence to a similar brewery in sister city Eutin, Germany, by videoconference. Other watch parties were scheduled around the city, too, for American fans.

Morrison has organized an internship exchange between many businesses in the two cities, and hoped that the watch party — thought up by the owner of the German brewery — would strengthen that relationship.

“For them, of course, it’s obvious that Americans would want to watch their team play,” Morrison said.


BrianR 7 years, 10 months ago

I live for the World Cup. We need to bring it to the U.S.

geekin_topekan 7 years, 10 months ago

The multicultural phenomenon never ceases to amaze me.

cato_the_elder 7 years, 10 months ago

I actually tried to watch one of the games, which I did for at least three minutes before I became terminally bored. I know that some people find this sport interesting, but it's very hard to see how.

maxcrabb 7 years, 10 months ago

Well, this explains a lot. An article of the most unnoffensive nature, and not one of you can stop from looking like the troll you are. You actually dislike a sport enough to read an article on it and then be surprised it bored you? Stay inside and get fat, then. Soccer is a sport most of it's fans play, rather than just support.

CreatureComforts 7 years, 10 months ago

1) Participation awards are almost distinctly American/Canadian. I have been around the world many, many times and lived in 3 countries, and have never heard it outside the USA and Canada

2) It being a "sport" has nothing to do with boring vs. thrilling, but rather being a physical activity by definition. Name another sport where the athletes have to run around a field for 90 minutes with just one break. They are superb athletes, and it is indeed a sport by definition.

3), not really. England isn't as good as the English fans think they are, so I argue that a 1-1 draw, especially how the USA got that one goal, is a loss deep down

riverdrifter 7 years, 10 months ago

Beo, I agree 100%. I have tried to fall in love with this game but it is what the hell it is.

1-1 tie.

Sheeiit. Like watching ice melt.

thatonedude 7 years, 10 months ago

Too bad it doesn't appeal to all the ADHD cases out there, but if you don't care about the sport, just ignore it. I don't like NASCAR, but I don't make a thing of it when there's a story about it in the paper.

parrothead8 7 years, 10 months ago

Basketball players do it for 48 minutes, with short breaks between each quarter and a long break at halftime.

Football players do it in full body armor for 60 minutes, with breaks about every 8-10 seconds.

Hockey players do it in full pads for 60 minutes, with breaks between each of the three 20-minute periods.

Soccer players do it for 90 minutes, wearing no protection, with only one short break at halftime.

Baseball players do it when they finish counting their money.

local_support 7 years, 10 months ago

Yes, because running is not impressive in the slightest. That's why they give out medals for it at the Olympics.

Some people don't like baseball. Others don't care for the NBA or hockey. Personally I don't know anything about Australian rules football. But just because I don't know or care about it doesn't diminish it as a sport. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

parrothead8 7 years, 10 months ago

If "watching someone run" is all the game is to you, then no, it shouldn't be exciting to you. You obviously don't understand that soccer is a high speed human chess match, but that's fine with me. You don't have to watch.

However, you obviously care about the game enough to watch, because you comment on every story the LJW publishes that has anything to do with the World Cup, and I'm sure you're not one of those ignorant people who simply throws an uninformed opinion out there.

riverdrifter 7 years, 10 months ago

"Soccer players do it for 90 minutes, wearing no protection, with only one short break at halftime."

Yep, and nobody gives a rats rump.

1 - 1 tie and boring as hell.



maxcrabb 7 years, 10 months ago

You listed 'Grapes of Wrath' as a favorite book, and Chinatown as a favorite movie. I've had plenty of friends reference both as 'boring'. Why don't you go hassle them for awhile?

Prairielander 7 years, 10 months ago

USA - England game draws more viewers than first 4 NBA Finals games. I guess nobody gives a rats rump about basketball either.

Shelley Bock 7 years, 10 months ago

Thank goodness I didn't see this article until now since I've been watching every game, those during the week as recordings. My reaction would have been much more heated.

Pairielander's link is a very interesting. I hadn't realized that the numbers were so significant.

The soccer detractors declare their dislike. That's not really a problem. Leave 'em in your review mirror. Every year more and more play, coach and watch soccer. When kids discover that they don't have to be over-weight, over-sized and over-steroided, they play soccer. They are normal.

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