Saturday, July 12, 2014

To Become Popular in the USA, Pro Soccer Needs These Changes

As the World Cup draws to a close, and American soccer fanatics are left with Major League Soccer and its low-status on the hierarchy of professional sports in the United States, many will question if soccer can maintain its popularity. Some will argue that this World Cup was the tipping point, as America "finally fell in love with soccer." Certainly, there was a lot of national unity this time around, as groups as large as thousands gathered in public places to watch the USA play on soccer's biggest stage.

Alas, the moment will be fleeting.

Soccer will not maintain the hype of the World Cup any more than professional skiing or swimming or track and field does following the Olympics. It was the hype of a once-in-four-years event that truly prompted many Americans who "never watch pro soccer" to tune in to the games. I am one of them. I played year-round competitive soccer for many years, and I have never been to a pro soccer game. This is the reality, despite living in Colorado with a popular team that draws respectable crowds. For, while more American kids play soccer than any other sport, few youth soccer players turn into true pro soccer fans. Soccer is just  not that popular in a country that has so much other sports entertainment.

However, a few simple rule changes could change America's feelings about soccer:

  1. Get rid of off-sides - Off-sides is the most useless penalty in soccer, and a primary reason games are low scoring and "boring" to non-afficionnados of soccer. Ending off-sides would lead to many more goals and breakaways and one-on-one match-ups.
  2. Injury Box - There is nothing more annoying to casual soccer fans than the "flopping" and writhing on the ground for phantom fouls. And the imposition of "injury time" which is only known by the ref is so frustrating. So, if a player goes down and stays down long enough for a stoppage in play, he must leave the field - and be subbed for - for a period of five minutes.
  3. Instant Replay Challenges - Teams need the ability to challenge plays, especially anything leading to a penalty kick in the box. Those fouls are game changers and can be game deciders. They must not go completely unchallenged.
  4. Continuous Subbing -  The limits on subs is booooring. Soccer needs regularly fresh players like hockey to keep the action at a higher level.

And for more thoughts on soccer's popularity:

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