U.S. finally embraces soccer's charms

Sat Jun 28, 2014 7:05pm EDT
 
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By Steve Keating

PORTO ALEGRE Brazil (Reuters) - After a long and sometimes arduous courtship, soccer has finally revealed its charms to Americans who have embraced the World Cup in record numbers.

With the United States through to the knockout phase and interest and television ratings soaring, soccer can rightfully claim a place at the American sporting table.

Alongside the National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association and National Hockey League, it has changed North America's Big Four into the Fab Five.

Often seen as the outsider looking in, a niche sport craving mainstream status, soccer has muscled its way into the day-to-day sporting discussion as an engrossing tournament in Brazil pulls in more-and-more soccer converts by the day.

A record 25 million viewers tuned into watch the U.S. take on Portugal in the group stage and with the Americans preparing to face Belgium on Tuesday for a place in the quarter-finals, that mark is almost certain to be smashed.

But not all Americans have joined the World Cup party.

While President Barack Obama was pictured leading the cheers from Air Force One, conservative political commentator Ann Coulter was warning that "any growing interest in soccer can only be a sign of the nation's moral decay".

Coulter's spin on the beautiful game generated predictable outrage, a few laughs and a brief social media firestorm. But it is clear that American appetite for all things soccer is growing.   Continued...

 
A general view shows Maracana stadium during the 2014 World Cup in Rio de Janeiro June 28, 2014.  REUTERS/Felipe Dana/Pool