As a casual soccer fan, I hate the World Cup

Like many Americans, I got into the sport of soccer later in life. Growing up in the late 1970s and ’80s, soccer just wasn’t something that was played by many kids outside of gym class. In those days virtually no one cared about the American Soccer League or North American Soccer League, and with their games seldom on television there simply was no way for many to even be exposed to the sport of soccer.

Plus the fact that the United States wasn’t able to even qualify for the World Cup between 1954 and 1986 didn’t exactly help matters.

Except for a hiccup in 2018 the US has qualified for the World cup since 1986, and probably should have qualified in ’18 as they easily won their fourth-round group and despite stumbling in the fifth group round-robin needed only a win against Trinidad and Tobago on the final day to move on. They instead crapped themselves and lost 2-1 at Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.

Behind that international success, soccer has begun to grow in the US. The US Women being the best in the world has certainly big a big reason behind the growth in popularity, but with the internet, the availability of soccer programming has increased by leaps and bounds and we no longer consider soccer to be just a fringe sport in this country.

As a casual soccer fan, it’s expected that one picks their favorite teams from the European “futball” giants. Years ago I chose the Arsenal Gunners of the English Premier League as “my” team.

When asked on a messageboard by a Londoner why I picked them, I quickly replied “I like the color red and their cannon logo is very cool”. More experienced fans, especially of the EPL, frown on new fans picking teams like Manchester United, Liverpool, or Arsenal just because that team is successful. My reasons were deemed good enough to pick the Gunners.

English fans can be a bit snobby. They’ve earned it; their league has been around since 1890 or so.

It really shouldn’t be a surprise that soccer is gaining popularity in the US. The amount of money spent for the US broadcast rights for the European Leagues rivals everything except the NFL. According to TV ratings for Major League Soccer were up 16% in 2022, and a deal between MLS and Apple will broadcast MLS action worldwide. Billions of dollars are spent every year on the sport, both by viewers and participants of the sport. Every single day the game of soccer is gaining in popularity.

And, that’s part of my problem.

I don’t consider myself an expert in the game. Now the rules I’ve got down pretty well, but on a scale of one to ten when it comes to the intricacies of the sport I’d call myself a solid “four”. Hardly a match goes by where I don’t notice something I hadn’t seen before, or something comes up I thought I’d figured out that and it turns out, well, I really hadn’t figured it out.

The internet being what it is, to my annoyance suddenly everyone is a master of soccer when the World Cup is on. Just like all the other sports on TV, the mob questioning every play that didn’t go exactly as desired and suggesting alternatives that have no basis in reality irk the heck out of me. My limited knowledge of the game is enough to know these faux experts don’t know what they’re talking about, but they become so loud they drown out the knowledgeable people talking about the game I’d like to hear from.

The one saving grace this time around is the World Cup is taking place after the MLS season is over, so these loudmouthed fools won’t slide over to domestic games with their “newfound knowledge”. I’m always amazed that someone that can’t name three teams in the MLS somehow thinks themselves smarter than the head coach of a professional team, especially considering many of those geniuses only exposure to organized soccer is from their kids playing.

I understand it happens in every sport, and I do get massive amounts of enjoyment reading these comments after nearly every major sports match-up. But for some reason, people doing it in soccer really annoys the crap out of me. Maybe it’s because I know I have a lot to learn about the game in order to speak intelligently about it, and don’t have enough patience for people who think they do soccer commentary as well as Craig Burley without them having any idea who Craig Burley is.

But now that the US has advanced to the knockout stage, I’ll be watching. And avoiding social media while I do.

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