2010 FIFA World Cup: How Soccer Can Become 'Big' in the United States

Cody DixonCorrespondent IJune 4, 2010

Project 2010. Project-40. Generation Adidas. 

Sound familiar? 

To the average American sports fan, probably not.  That’s because the average American sports fan couldn’t name the starting XI of the US Men’s National Team (Don’t feel bad average American sports fan, Bob Bradley is having trouble with it too.  Oh, you don’t know who Bob Bradley is either?).

In short, Project 2010 is/was a manifesto of sorts, one outlining certain plans to make the United States a “legitimate threat” to win the FIFA World Cup by the year 2010.


Well, according to my watch, it’s the year 2010, and it seems that Project 2010 should be just about ready to bear fruit.


With only a week left until the 2010 FIFA World Cup officially kicks off in South Africa, the grandiose plans of Project 2010 will be put to the test.  


Now, I’m not going to be blinded by my passion for American soccer and say that the US totally has a shot at winning this thing, but I’m also not going to implore negative sentiments about the team and say that they’re going to get blown out by much better competition. 


I have to admit, the fact that most soccer analysts, domestic and abroad, predict the US to go through to the knockout stages is a great improvement.


And in truth, call me crazy, but I do feel that on any given day, the US Men’s National Team can beat any other country’s national team, as was proved by the stunning 2-0 win over World Cup favorite Spain in last year’s Confederations Cup. 


But to sustain that kind of play against a myriad of the world’s elite teams in a month long tournament, and to think the US has a “legitimate” shot at winning said tournament, it becomes very hard to speak those words and truly believe them.


But I no longer agonize over the question of why the US isn’t as good as everybody else. No, what disheartens me the most is why doesn’t anybody care?


Why is the world’s most popular sport, a sport that ends wars and unites nations, merely an afterthought in the American sports landscape?


I’m not going to answer these questions, instead I will give two scenarios in which soccer could become as big as football or basketball in the United States (I’ll bet you can guess the first one).


First scenario:  The US wins the World Cup


Winning the world’s most prestigious soccer event is a no-brainer, but let’s not overlook this one.  Some may argue that a deep run in the tourney will increase soccer interest nationwide. 


No.  Any increase in soccer interest will only last as long as the team itself lasts in the tournament.  A semi-finals appearance? Not good enough.  A dream trip to the final?  A vast improvement, but still not something the American people could hang their hats on.


I won’t deny that if the US makes a deep run in this year’s World Cup, the nation will be alight with soccer fever, but that will fizzle out. 


Remember, the World Cup isn’t an annual tournament. The old sports adage “Wait ‘till next year,” doesn’t exist in international soccer.  Only bringing home the trophy would keep the attention of the American sports fan for four years.  Only winning the biggest event on the planet would give American fans something to boast about, and be excited about for four years.  Only winning the FIFA World Cup would make soccer relevant in the United States.


Second scenario:  The world’s best soccer player is an American.


If Lionel Messi was an American, soccer would be huge.  If the United States had a figure that everyone in the world recognized as the best player, then soccer would become immensely popular in the States.  Americans love being the best, and certainly having a player that is the best in a foreign sport would propel its popularity within this country.  


People would recognize that this great American Soccer player (whatever his name would be—I’ll call him: Pelé Smith) scoring four goals in a Champions League quarterfinal match would be the equivalent of Kobe dropping 50 in a playoff game.  And people would go nuts!  Fans, the media, etc., would all jump on board if the best player in the world was an American.


And I’m not just talking about a really good player. I’m talking about a legendary player, a progressive player, a player who changes how the game is played.


Unfortunately, the only way I see the US having such a player is if they won the World Cup and inspired some super athletic youngster away from football or basketball to become Pelé Smith.


And now I’m back to scenario one.  Good luck boys.