Sixteen years ago, this week, the world's biggest sporting event came to America and over the course of a month, matches were held at nine different venues across three U.S. time zones.
I have to admit to a bout of nostalgia, as this weekend's World Cup soccer matches begin, given my personal involvement in leading a big sponsorship effort in '94 on behalf of Sprint and our partnership with U.S. Soccer and World Cup USA 1994. The accomplishments of that team of people--from Sprint and from our agency partners--was truly monumental and a proud professional moment.
The World Cup grabs the world's attention. And, while we here in the States seem to have finally figured out that this is, indeed, a big deal, it still does not command the attention given the Super Bowl or even the NCAA Mens College Basketball Tournament.
In '94, the expectation was that hosting the World Cup would be the impetus for soccer "finally" taking off in the U.S. That didn't happen. Sure, the Cup held here was the most successful and profitable ever. And, it birthed Major League Soccer. But, that league has not exactly captured the attention of fans across American and the U.S. team's efforts internationally have improved, yet have been inconsistent since '94.
Soccer in America remains a sport for children and the close to 16 million who play the sport in leagues across the country. It is a game anyone can play, when young, and is enjoyed by both boys and girls.
It's disappointing, personally, that soccer still struggles here in the States as both a professional sport and given the lack of a large fan base following our national team's exploits. Do me a favor and tune in Saturday when the U.S. takes on England. It has the potential to be the biggest match played by our boys since their stunning victory over England in the 1960 Cup.
Ole, ole, ole, ole...USA, USA!