By Lacy Scarmana
Team USA beat Ghana on Monday in its 2014 World Cup debut, after being eliminated by Ghana in the past two World Cups.
But perhaps even more startling is the nearly 200,000 tickets Americans purchased to this year’s games, the second largest amount bought by a country, trailing only behind the host country Brazil.
Nielsen ratings indicate the United States’ triumph over Ghana attracted 15.9 million American television viewers, which set World Cup viewership records for both ESPN and Univision.
This week’s Noon Edition discussed the rising number of soccer fans in America — and Indiana — and how the World Cup plays into that trend.
Michael Cassady, owner of the Uptown Café in Bloomington, has a passion for soccer that has spilled over into his business.
“My boys started playing, and I was the ultimate soccer dad,” he says. “A light went off and I started a love affair with the game that has just grown and grown.”
Since Cassady became a fan, the bar at his restaurant has become a hub for international soccer fans to watch games. More than 175 fans packed into his restaurant to watch the United States defeat Ghana this week.
Two years ago, American fans voted Uptown Café among the best places in the country to watch soccer.
Chris Doran, who broadcasts for the MLS team the Columbus Crew, has been involved in the soccer community through broadcasting and coaching for many years. He has worked as a television soccer announcer for the Chicago Fire Soccer Club, FOX Sports and BTN in addition to coaching for Bloomington South and North High Schools and youth leagues.
He suggests that the internet now provides immediate access to international sports teams and athletes, which has allowed a new following of younger American fans to enjoy soccer in ways that weren’t possible in the past.
Doran also offers a couple of explanations for why the World Cup is so appealing to Americans.
First, it falls at a perfect time for American sports fans, as professional hockey, football and basketball are in the offseason and baseball hasn’t quite reached the All Star break. This lends more time to following the various World Cup matches.
Second, as seen in the excitement surrounding the Olympics, Americans enjoy rooting for their country in global competitions.
“America loves the red, white and blue on an international stage,” Doran says. “Any chance that Americans have to wrap themselves in the flag and compete against other countries, all the better and all the more exciting.”
Doran predicts Team USA will advance to the next round, but Cassady isn’t as confident. They both agree Netherlands has high chances for success and mentioned Germany, Costa Rica, Colombia and Italy as possible contenders to advance to further rounds of the World Cup.
The United States faces Portugal on Sunday at 6 p.m.