Stillwater News Press

Our View

July 5, 2014

OUR VIEW: Americans catch the fever

STILLWATER, Okla. — Americans love a winner. But if not a winner, then a feisty underdog like the U.S. national soccer team in the 2014 World Cup.

The United States exceeded expectations by many accounts. The Yanks survived the “Group of Death” to advance to the knockout stage when many believed their chances of doing so were slim and none. But then a heart-wrenching 2-1 loss to Belgium in extra time ended the dream of advancing past the round of 16.

That’s progress, but the American side is still a long way from consistently competing on a world-class level.

The United States will have turned the corner when we begin to have our greatest young athletes choose and stay with soccer as a career. As it is now, all-stars such as LeBron James and Mike Trout and Andrew Luck picked basketball, baseball and football as their sport. Imagine if soccer organizations in the United States could attract that kind of talent on a consistent basis.

But there is no denying World Cup excitement was at a fever pitch in the United States while the American team was still in the hunt. Fans packed stadiums and parks and public areas to watch each minute of the action. No doubt workplace productivity suffered mightily when the Americans were playing as co-workers huddled around television sets to watch the action. Even President Barack Obama caught the spirit, chanting “I believe we will win” during a White House watch party.

Alexi Lalas, a former national team player now doing analysis for ESPN, summed up what many were thinking after the Americans were eliminated.

“This team has provided a glimpse of the fact that there is a soccer culture in the United States,” he said. “And it’s vibrant. And it’s passionate. And ultimately it will lead us to win a World Cup.”

That’s optimistic thinking. The reality is that it will likely be many years away. But if this sort of fever pitch about soccer is sustainable, then Lalas might be right.

 

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