Atomic City Update: World Cup not the same without the Americans

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By Phil Scherer

As the World Cup heats up this week, I’m really having trouble getting into it. You see, for the first time in my lifetime, the USA is not involved. As much as I enjoy watching the best soccer players in the world compete, it’s tough not having a real team to root for and be invested in. 

I have vivid memories of the past few World Cups, but all of them involve watching the Americans. I know I watched other matches but the only memories that stuck were dramatic goals and moments from USA matches, like Landon Donovan’s dramatic goals against Algeria and Ghana in 2010, and the painful loss in the round of 16 against Belgium in 2014. 

This year, I’m watching matches and enjoying them, but the tournament doesn’t seem to have the same weight as it has in past years. I’m curious to see if other people feel the same way as I do. In the past, soccer has become a main talking point around the country in June every four years, but I struggle to see that being the case this year. 

That’s really a shame, because the World Cup has been one of the very few things in recent years that has unified a large group of people in this country. Millions of people that had never cared about soccer suddenly turn into super fans every four years to support their country. This year, that’s not the case. Instead, the viewers in this country will mainly be limited to people who already enjoy soccer, and that won’t do anything to further the growth of the sport. 

I’m also interested to see what effect the lack of American participation this year has on youth soccer. After previous world cups, the number of kids signed up to play soccer has skyrocketed because of the increase in exposure. I don’t think that will be as much of the case this year, which is unfortunate. It’s a great game for kids to become involved in, and anything that makes them more interested is a good thing. 

However, there is some good news on the horizon. The announcement that the USA will be one of the three hosts of the tournament in 2026 should help a lot, as anticipation builds toward that event. The last time the USA hosted the World Cup, in 1994, the country set attendance records that have not been broken, and youth soccer participation rose from 1.6 million in 1990 to 2.4 million in 1995, a monumental rise. It’s doubtful that the impact will be quite that large again, but it will be significant. 

We are fortunate to live in an area here in Los Alamos where soccer is a major sport, and where teams find success at all levels. The amount of passion shown for the game by local soccer players is great to see, and is something I wish was present everywhere. I have learned more about the game in the year I have lived here than in the 21 years I lived elsewhere, and it has given me a much greater appreciation for everything about it. 

It is because of that level of knowledge that I am able to still enjoy watching this year’s World Cup. I just wish I could watch it with a team to root for, because it would make for a much better experience for all Americans.