Exhibition Soccer in America a Huge Hit This Summer
It's funny, anytime anything even remotely interesting happens in the world of soccer, someone always asks "is this the moment that will spark American interest in soccer?"
I always roll my eyes when I hear that question, because it has had a cult (and not the bad, Penn State loyalist cult) following in the States for some time now. The last few days have proven that, after a number of exhibition matches featuring high profile European teams have drawn huge attendance numbers.
On Sunday, English side Chelsea took on France's Paris Saint-Germain in the first soccer match in the history of the new Yankee Stadium, and a part of this year's World Football Challenge, pitting teams from all over the world against one another in the United States. I was lucky enough to attend the match with my girlfriend, taking the train to the stadium. We were amazed at the amount of Chelsea blue on both the ride there and back. The match drew over 38,000 spectators.
"It's too bad nobody in America cares about soccer," I yelled out as Chelsea fans bellowed songs in support of their Blues, who drew PSG 1-1.
On Wednesday, Fenway Park played host to another World Football Challenge match between England's Liverpool FC and AS Roma of Italy. Roma won the match 2-1 in front of over 37,000 fans. One of Roma's goal scorers was American Michael Bradley, son of former US national team coach Bob Bradley.
Also on Wednesday, the MLS All-Star Game pitted the best of Major League Soccer against Chelsea. A PPL Park (home of the MLS' Philadelphia Union) record 19,236 fans were in attendance as the MLS All-Stars won their first game against a foreign team in four years, a 3-2 thriller that was claimed on a 91st minute goal.
There are still six World Football Challenge matches left to be played this summer, with Chelsea playing one more (vs. Italy's AC Milan in Miami's SunLife Stadium), PSG playing at the MLS' DC United, and Spanish champions Real Madrid playing four matches, including one at Yankee Stadium (August 8). The event is a great way to showcase the level of talent in international soccer but, more importantly to me, it shows how devoted American soccer fans are.
As for that one moment that will spark American interest in soccer? You must have missed it. Soccer is alive and well in the States.