Gary Schmitt, formerly of the Project for a New American Century, has a bizarre post up at an AEI blog in which he laments the fact that the United States upset Spain in the Confederation Cup, then further laments the fact that soccer exhibits a high degree of competitive balance, then explains that Americans don’t like soccer because its high degree of competitive balance cuts against American-style capitalism, then explains that soccer is popular in the US and Europe because it’s so socialistic. Fortunately, Alex Massie has already written the needed rebuttal so I’ll just recommend that to you.
It is worth saying that as best one can tell the degree of competitive balance involved in different sports seems related to the relative scarcity of high-level performers. Soccer and baseball are both sports in which relatively normal sized people can excel if they practice a lot and develop the skills. In other words, there are a lot of people who could be excellent soccer or baseball players. And since these are both popular sports, lots of kids learn them and attempt to excel at them. So pro clubs have a relatively high supply of good players from which to choose and the gaps in team quality get relatively small.
Basketball, the sport with the least competitive balance, is very different. There are instances of guys who are six feet tall (or even shorter) succeeding in the NBA, but they’re very rare. At the majority of the positions you need to be much taller than average, and you need multiple people who are outrageously tall. Ask yourself how many people taller than 6’9″ you’ve met in your life and then ask yourself how many people taller than 6’9″ are employed by a typical NBA team. The result is that you get a huge disparity in the quality of big men available to different teams and consequently huge disparities in team quality. Meanwhile, aside from the USA the other region of the world where basketball really caught on relatively early was Communist-dominated Eastern Europe.