My colleague Max Bergmann is a big soccer fan, and he’s done a hugely entertaining Progress Report on the right-wing war on soccer. That said, I’ve come to be pretty skeptical that soccer will break through with the American public even if our national team starts doing better.
Or rather I guess what I wonder is what would soccer displace if it were to become more popular? It’s not like people are spending tons of time these days sitting alone on the couch playing solitare and hoping for someone to dream up a new sport to watch. The general trend has been toward creating more and more options and more and more fragmentation of the audience for just about everything. The TV networks are in decline, the record labels are in decline, the movie studios are in decline, everything’s in decline. Not because entertainment is in decline, but because we’ve never had more entertainment options. Under the circumstances, it seems to me less likely that soccer will break through and become as popular as basketball or hockey is today than that football and baseball will see their popularity ebb down to more NBA/NHLish levels as attention continues to fragment.