G-O-A-L: Good Old American Leisure

If you’re reading this, you’re probably not watching soccer now. Maybe you just took a break from watching the World Cup to get some work done, and reading the Mozy blog is as good as it’s gonnaget for the moment. Besides, the games have monopolized so much bandwidth that work seems to have slowed to a crawl.

But since we’re on the topic of the World Cup, the following soccer facts might be of interest to you. For example, did you know that the last World Cup (2010) drew upwards of 112 million viewers? That’s just viewers in the United States. As if that isn’t amazing, how about this: worldwide, the audience for the final match between Spain and the Netherlands at the 2010 World Cup was 1 billion. You read that right: 1 billion television viewers watched at least part of the final game. Who knows what the viewership will be for 2014, but viewership is already up 26 percent from the 2010 World Cup. Sometimes it’s hard for Super Bowl-watching, World Series-watching, and NBA Finals-watching (heck, might as well throw in March Madness-watching for good measure) Americans to believe, let alone understand, that the World Cup is the world’s most widely viewed sporting event. When you consider that 111 million viewers tuned in to the last Super Bowl, 19 million fans tuned in to watch the last game of the 2013

World Series, and 18 million viewers tuned in to watch the last game of the 2014 NBA Finals, World Cup soccer is clearly the winner in viewership. That’s right; when you consider worldwide viewership, soccer is bigger than U.S. football, baseball, and basketball—combined.

If you live outside the U.S., none of this will surprise you. And for good reason. Football (that is, soccer) has been around much longer than any American sport. Although the modern game has its origins in England in about the mid-1800s, the game can be traced back to the Middle Ages. Yes, those Middle Ages. If you’ve ever seen a modern-day football game in England, you know how passionate fans can get. Think about that in the 10th century with few if any rules. No wonder it was sometimes called “mob football.” Eventually, football caught on around most of the world. The need to organize play gave birth to FIFA, the International Federation of Association Football, which governs the sport worldwide and is now comprised of 209 national associations.

But things are changing in the U.S., and as the ethnicity of the U.S. population continues to change, so too does U.S. interest in soccer. Heck, more and more Americans are starting to call it football or fútbol. In fact, Major League Soccer, which represents the best of soccer in the U.S. and Canada, is currently comprised of 19 teams, including Real Salt Lake, winner of the 2009 MLS Cup, and contributor of two players (Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando) to the U.S. 2014 World Cup team. (Being from Utah, I felt I needed to say that.) MLS was founded in 1993. That’s relatively new when you consider that the National Football League, which is comprised of 32 teams, was founded in 1920; the beginnings of Major League Baseball, which is comprised of 30 teams, was founded in the late 1800s; and the National Basketball Association, which is also comprised of 30 teams, was founded in 1946.

If you didn’t have a chance to watch at least some of Monday’s game between the U.S. and Ghana, you missed a victory in a highly anticipated match (at least in the U.S.). Having lost to Ghana in the last World Cup, it was good to see Team USA win.

Waiting for a return flight to Salt Lake City, I watched the first part of the U.S.-Ghana game from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Watching a World Cup from an airport can be a bit unnerving. “Oh my gosh, what was that noise?!” Answer: thousands of U.S. fans in a relatively closed space watching or listening and cheering at the top of their lungs as the U.S. scored the first goal early in the game. The eruption was seismic in comparison to the usually quiet mood of an evening at the airport. Consider that 16 million ESPN and Univision viewers throughout the U.S. were watching the game and cheering for their team. That’s remarkable when you consider that interest in soccer in the U.S. is comparatively new, at least when compared to our history with football, baseball, and basketball. In fact, the U.S.-Ghana game was a TV ratings hit for ESPN, which had more than 11 million viewers (Univision, which broadcasts in Spanish, claimed nearly 5 million viewers). ESPN says that’s the most-watched soccer game in the U.S. ever.

What does all this mean? That U.S. soccer isn’t taking a back seat to any of the other great American pastimes and the U.S. is learning what the rest of the world has known for a very long time: football is the world’s most popular sport.

Enjoy watching  the World Cup, but make sure you get your work done. That should be your G-O-O-O-O-O-A-L!