Football Culture Matters

My ears perked.

I was in the checkout line when I overheard the fellas behind me chatting about Sunday’s Liverpool/Man United match.

They casually discussed why Liverpool would beat Manchester United. One explained to the other how Liverpool could go on to win the Premier League.

I clenched an invisible fist in excitement.

You see, it’s been 23 years since the Premier League was first broadcast in the US. And yet I’m still surprised when I overhear strangers talking football.

Football has made progress here.

World class matches are available in an instant.

Scores float by on ESPN’s sports ticker.

All of my friends could pick out Cristiano Ronaldo in a crowd.

But football is still not part of mainstream US culture.

Women’s World Cups aside – it’s still not relevant.

So conversations like last night’s give me a shot of hope. The hope that one day the US will become a world footballing power.

Why?

Because conversations like these reveal a deeper possibility. A possibility the game is growing beyond rec leagues and ODP programs. Growing above Soccer Hall of Fames and Decision Days. It reveals the possibility the game could be growing where it matters most – culture.

Countries with strong football cultures dominate football.

For the average citizen in Brazil, Italy, or Germany, football is an inescapable part of life. The game is everywhere.

It’s painted on city walls.

It’s played on the beaches.

It’s sung from terraces every week.

To the rest of the world football is a blood soaked love affair. In the United States it’s a hobby.

Until that changes, the US national team will remain a program of average Joes.

Bonus: Alan Jacobs wrote a concise summary of the current state of the US soccer program. Read it here.