In 2010, the first World Cup where I really paid attention to my own country’s team and cheered them on in a more-than-casual way, I was crushed after they lost to Ghana in the Round of 16, and I wrote this post about what to do next to keep paying attention to soccer, while being an American.
In 2014, apparently I was so out of touch with this blog that I wrote nothing the entire calendar year. I guess I was tweeting? Anyway, I certainly was crushed after the #USMNT’s loss to Belgium in the Round of 16, and I kept up with soccer, and both the American men and women’s teams in a big way, but didn’t leave any instructions here.
So we come to 2018.
The men’s World Cup is over. The United States failed to qualify, our family’s second team, Italy, also failed to qualify — bit of a rarity, there — and yet I’ve just spent four weeks with soccer on in the background of most of the parts of my daily life, at least two or three games a day, and of course on that one glorious first weekend of the tournament, the magical four-game day!
Why was it so much fun? Honestly, it felt like anyone could win every single game, maybe with the exception of England-Panama. Parity is real, and even though we didn’t get a new World Cup winner out of this tournament, I would take this French team (a.k.a Diaspora FC) over just about anyone else who came to play, maybe excepting Peru.
There are some easy answers. Here are five.
- Keep watching soccer. MLS and the NWSL are in full swing. Your local teams are probably easy to find, and there are games on FOX, ESPN, NBC Sports, and there are streaming options, too. Is the quality as high as Brazil-Belgium? Every now and then, sure! For a few minutes. Either way, it’s professional soccer, with stars like Zlatan and Marta and Alex Morgan and (sigh) Wayne Rooney and lots of fun. Honestly, if you live somewhere like Portland, Seattle, Atlanta, Orlando (!), Kansas City, or Columbus, you might be shocked to find amazing groups of supporters standing and singing for 90 minutes, complete with tifo and drums and all that comes with it.
- Keep watching soccer. The English Premier League starts in a few weeks. If you don’t have a favorite team, now is the time to pick one. In 2010, I picked Everton. Now, yes, I know, true Evertonians born in Merseyside will chuckle and say real Evertonians are born, they don’t just pick a favorite team, and I get that, but really, you’ll be fine. Pick an English team. It’s easy to find their games on television every Saturday morning between mid-August and mid-May. The week between Christmas and New Year’s is especially fun. Here’s a slightly outdated guide to… picking a guide… to picking an EPL team to support.
- Play soccer. My year or so playing in a co-ed indoor league on Wednesday nights was the most sports glory I have ever achieved (we won the league championship two sessions in a row, little thanks to me, the big slow guy in the back). For real, you can do it. If you’re my age, just make sure you have good health insurance and know when to say when. I played in an all-ages league where I was routinely smoked by kids half my age, but rumor has it the old man leagues are substantially more physical. Your mileage may vary.
- Play fantasy soccer. MLS and EPL both have really fun fantasy league systems. If you’ve ever played fantasy football or baseball or whatever, you know how this works. It’s a great way to suddenly care deeply about the performance of those two inexpensive midfielders from Watford or that one overachieving forward from Bournemouth.
- SUPPORT THE WORLD CUP WINNING UNITED STATES WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM. It’s always challenging to give this enough emphasis, but the United States is a three-time World Cup winner. Three times. Three!!! Our women’s team has — without exaggeration — driven the spread of soccer around the world at both the highest and lowest levels since their first win in 1999. The 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada (we were lucky enough to see the US-Germany semifinal in Montreal!) was a turning point for parity in women’s soccer. England, Brazil, Japan, Germany, France, Canada — these teams are all powerhouses.
There’s always more you can do. Coach your kids’ soccer teams! Volunteer and get involved, don’t leave it to someone else. Join the American Outlaws. Find your local soccer bars and go to watch the games even when you can’t get there in person! Just as good: Find some other country’s soccer bars in your neighborhood and go get some culture!
Go get some soccer.