Soccer every weekend? That's a long way off for me. Soccer once every four years - THAT I can get excited about. You can call me a bandwagon jumper & by definition, you might be right. But when an American soccer team is outplaying the country with the best player in the world, at least for 94-minutes and 35-seconds, it would be un-American NOT to be amped about that. And according to the meter-readers, I'm not alone...far from it. The U.S. team's 2-2 draw with Portugal Sunday evening drew the largest audience ever to watch a sporting event on ESPN that wasn't football related. Hey, who said patriotism is dead?!? The Yanks' better-than-ever play certainly has a lot to do with it. But the growing number of soccer fans in this country is also attributable to the influx of the Latino population from Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. Often times, they root for their home country first, but view the Red, White, and Blue as their 1-A choice. It's somewhat similar to snowbirds in Florida, who migrate here and still root for teams from the Midwest or wherever their place of origin may be. Whatever the case, soccer has been big overseas for generations and that passion didn't get left behind in the move. So if the inspired U.S. team ends up not advancing out of its group, will this surge in homegrown soccer hysteria simply wither and die? I contend no. Never before has America seen its National Team play anywhere near the level of the world's other soccer powers. Not until 2014.
Tom James is a 2-time Edward R. Murrow Award-winning sportscaster, who does play-by-play & studio work for the ESPN Family of Networks (including ESPN Wide World of Sports, ESPN3, college football, basketball, & a wide array of other sports), CBS Sports Network, Lax Sports Network, & Pro Watercross. Tom also hosts and produces sports documentaries & is part of the weekly regionally syndicated college football radio show, "Southern Pigskin Tonight."