World Cup: From Brazil, With Apathy

Although I have an appreciation for the sport, I’m not what you would call a “soccer fan.” Perhaps it was my poor eye-foot coordination or frequent time on the bench that turned me off as a kid, I can’t be sure. However, every four years I find an excuse to become a fair-weather fan and binge watch soccer games to pretend I can name players whose name isn’t Messi, Ronaldo, Rooney or Donovan (wait, scratch that last one) – it’s time for the World Cup.

But, how many others, like me, plan on tuning in to watch the tournament? Well, not that many apparently.

According to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, 71% of adults in the U.S. do NOT plan to watch the World Cup games in Brazil this summer, while only 28% say they do intend to watch (ABC News/Washington Post Poll, June 2014). Compare that to the 58% of Americans who planned to watch this year’s Super Bowl between the Broncos and Seahawks (CBS News Poll, January 2014).

Despite soccer’s attempt to become more popular in the U.S., polling data also indicates there has been little progress within the U.S. over the last 20 years in terms of garnering interest in the World Cup:

  • In 2010, 76% of Americans said they were not looking forward to the World Cup (Pew Research Center, January 2010).
  • In 2006, 69% of U.S. adults said they were not planning on watching any World Cup games on TV (Gallup/USA Today Poll, June 2006).
  • In 2002, 72% of U.S. adults said they were not planning on watching any World Cup games (Gallup/USA Today Poll, May 2002).
  • In 1998, during the middle of the tournament, 81% said they had not watched any World Cup games on TV in the last 10 days (Harris Poll, June 1998).
  • In 1994, when the World Cup was held in the U.S., 61% of Americans said they were still not planning on watching any World Cup games on TV prior to the tournament (Gallup/CNN/USA Today Poll, June 1994).

While the sport doesn’t captivate Americans in the same way as our international counterparts, American soccer fans may have some time before U.S. interest in the sport catches up to the rest of the world. Roughly half of Americans (47%) believe professional soccer’s popularity will stay about the same in the U.S. over the next 10 years (ABC News/Washington Post Poll, June 2014), which is a sentiment similar to 1994 when 53% of Americans said the World Cup made “no difference” on their interest in soccer (CBS News Poll, July 1994).

Regardless, the U.S. soccer team kicks off its first World Cup game against Ghana tonight in a rematch of sorts, as Ghana eliminated the U.S. from the World Cup in 2010. I’ll be cheering on the team, but for the nearly three-fourths of Americans not planning on watching the World Cup, I’m sure there are some good re-runs on TV.

Go U.S.A.!

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