World Cup soccer will thrive domestically, despite no U.S. representative | PostIndependent.com

World Cup soccer will thrive domestically, despite no U.S. representative

As time ran out on the U.S. Men's National Team's 2018 World Cup hopes back in October 2017, a 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago, the excitement surrounding the World Cup in Russia seemed to deflate around the country, considering it was the first time the USMNT missed the World Cup since 1986.

Many national pundits questioned if soccer fans in the United States would even watch the World Cup now that the USMNT missed the out on the tournament. However, as the World Cup gets closer and closer — kickoff of the 2018 tournament in Russia starts Thursday as Russia takes on Saudi Arabia — there's a general buzz surrounding the upcoming one-month tournament, at least in soccer circles.

Over the last 10 years or so, the United States has become a soccer country, of sorts. Sure, fandom for soccer isn't anywhere close to the same level as football, baseball, basketball or hockey. But being a fan of soccer in the United States is no longer niche. Soccer fandom is thriving in the United States, with the MLS, as well as leagues like the Premier League, and La Liga in Spain, garnering a ton of attention here in the United States.

With all the attention paid to those leagues since the early 2000s here in the United States, fans have become familiar with some of the biggest names in soccer, with the likes of Brazil's Neymar, Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, Argentina's Lionel Messi, Germany's Thomas Mueller, and even someone like David de Gea from Spain.

Look at those five names. While none of them are U.S. players, they're stars here in the United States, and they're all soccer players. Ten years ago, that probably would not have been the case. But with current technology, they've gained the fame they deserved in the United States. Building off of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the excitement around the tournament is only going to grow stronger this year, even if the United States isn't part of the World Cup.

At least, that's how it is for me. Ten years ago, I didn't care much at all for soccer. I was knee deep in playing football, and spending every waking moment thinking about football, from both a fan's and player's perspective.

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But at some point, I found soccer again. The game was my first love as a child. I played soccer from 3-6 years old, before quiting the game to pick up football. Back home in Western Pennsylvania, youth soccer happened to be at the same time as football. I was given a choice by my parents at that age to decide what I wanted to do. I chose football.

At times, I missed the game, but that never became more prevalent until my first year in Glenwood Springs working as the sports editor at this fine paper. Covering some tremendous soccer programs here in the valley rekindled that love for the game. In fact, this year's run to the state semifinals by the Glenwood girls made me become aware of just how immersed I was in the great game of soccer once again, whether that was getting up early in the mornings on a Saturday or Sunday, making coffee and settling in to watch my beloved Liverpool FC in the Premier League, or diving headfirst into books on soccer tactics and biographies on past greats in the game.

Which leads me back to the World Cup, which starts later this week. I can't tell you how many pieces I've read on World Cup previews. I've tried to get my hands on anything and everything I can read about the month-long tournament in the last month or so.

I even went out of my way to complete a bracket with full predictions for each pool play game, as well as knockout stage games. I'm riding the Spain hype train this year. My final four consists of Uruguay, Spain, Belgium and Germany, with Belgium clearly in front of others as my favorite national team to watch, outside of the United States.

Hopefully, others are just as excited as I am to watch this great game on the world stage for a month. It's an excuse to use up recording space with OnDemand, making sure you don't miss any action.