While many Americans are enjoying their Memorial Day weekend, all of Europe will be tuned in to one sporting event: the UEFA Champions League Final, which takes place today at Wembley Stadium in London.
It is the most important game in soccer this year.
Many Americans are not soccer fans, and are not aware that Manchester United and Barcelona will be facing off in a game to determine the best soccer team in Europe. Many people just don’t care about soccer, and other soccer fans just might not be aware that the game is taking place.
However, there is a growing fan base for soccer in the States, and there are many influences on the growing popularity of The Beautiful Game.
The definitive moment in soccer’s growing popularity in the US came during last year’s World Cup, specifically the game against Algeria.
The US needed to win the game to advance out of their group and into the Round of 16. The score was 0-0 heading into the final minutes of the game. This is when the US charged down the field and Landon Donovan scored the game winning goal for the US.
There are now countless videos online of the numerous celebrations that took place all over the US when he scored this goal. In Kansas City, there were tens of thousands of people crammed into a small part of the city to watch the game.
It was proof of the game’s increasing popularity in America.
Other than the World Cup every four years, the only other soccer in the US is the MLS. The league is growing, but it is not close to the level of the other major sports in the US.
The league is expanding and is being helped out by older European stars coming to the MLS to finish their careers. Guys such as David Beckham of the LA Galaxy and Thierry Henry of the New York Red Bulls had great careers in Europe – England and France, respectively – and are finishing their great careers in America. This cross-continental switch is something that is seen in European basketball. Many Americans players will go play in Europe where they are much more popular and can even earn more money. The most recent example is Allen Iverson, who went to Turkey
The next World Cup will not take place until 2014, and there should be an even larger fan base for the US team by the time it comes around. The MLS is starting to draw larger crowds, and with the possible lockouts of the NFL and NBA, soccer’s popularity in the States can only go up.