US-Canada-Mexico Win World Cup 2026 Bid

The North American delegation has won the right to lose a whole lot of money putting on a soccer tournament.

The North American delegation has won the right to lose a whole lot of money putting on a soccer tournament.

ESPN (“2026 World Cup coming to U.S., Mexico, Canada as joint bid wins vote“):

The United States might not be participating in the World Cup, but it pulled off a historic victory in Russia all the same: The globe’s biggest sporting event is returning to the U.S.

In a long-anticipated vote on Wednesday, the joint bid of the U.S., Mexico and Canada defeated Morocco, its only challenger, as 200 national soccer federations cast their ballots to cap FIFA’s annual Congress.

The three-nation bid captured 134 votes, with Morocco earning 65 from the panel and only Iran choosing neither option. Cuba, Slovenia and Spain (whose delegation was in Krasnodar, Russia, handling its coaching situation) abstained.

“This is an incredible, and incredibly important, moment for soccer in North America and beyond,” said Carlos Cordeiro, the president of U.S. Soccer.

The 2026 tournament will feature an expanded field of 48 teams — the current field has 32 — and will mark the first time in FIFA’s history that a three-nation bid has been awarded the showpiece event.

The joint bid’s plans call for 60 of the 80 games to be played in the United States — including all matches from the quarterfinals onward — while Canada and Mexico host 10 apiece. The final is expected to be played at MetLife Stadium, just outside New York.

The winnowing process was bizarre, even by FIFA standards. While it has made epic progress over the past quarter-century or so, Morocco doesn’t have anything like the infrastructure to support a massive international event. It has been reported that “Nine of the 14 stadiums included in Morocco’s bid were yet to be built, while the remaining five required ‘significant renovation or upgrading.'”

The combined North America bad is interesting, in that, put together, the three companies have the airports, stadia, hotels, and other assets to host the World Cup already in place. That’s better than having a relatively poor country having to spend massive amounts of money for what would essentially be one-time-use venues. Still, it’s going to cost big money to put on the event and the system is rigged such that FIFA gets most of the proceeds of the tournament.

At last report, the cost of staging this year’s cup in Russia is in the ballpark of $12 billion. A 2014 report by Dennis Coates, a past president of the North American Association of Sports Economists, declares,

Over the years, a wide array of independent academic researchers have examined previous World Cups, Olympics, and Super Bowls, so-called “mega- events”, and found no evidence that the benefits promised by event organizers have ever materialized. Evidence concerning the 1994 World Cup hosted in the US is especially pertinent. While the consulting firm for the 1994 Bid Committee, which just happens to be known today as AECOM, predicted benefits of $4 billion for the 1994 competition, analysis after the fact found that the “the average host city experienced a reduction in income of $712 million relative to predictions” for “an overall negative impact on the host city economies of $9.26 billion.” This means that the initial estimate overshot the mark by more than $13 billion dollars.

To be fair, there is one area where large economic benefits will likely accrue, however not to average Americans. Historically, the clear economic beneficiaries of World Cups have been international and national soccer organizations, such as FIFA, Major League Soccer, and the U.S. Soccer Federation, which are leading and represented on the Bid Committee.

The upside isn’t immediately obvious. Soccer is simply never going to be even a top three spectator sport in the United States and maybe not even in Canada. And it’s not like either country needs the prestige that comes with hosting; they’re already global leaders.

FILED UNDER: Sports
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. So how many FIFA board members did we have to bribe to get this?

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  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    FIFA is trolling Trump with a NAFTA Tournament. How long till the man-baby sticks his fat snout into this? At very least he’ll need a nice, fat bribe or he’ll try to disrupt it.

    Don’t be so sure soccer won’t be a top US sport. The NFL is in decline largely, I suspect, because you can no longer watch it without thinking, ‘brain damage.’ And with our immigrant population largely soccer-addicted, it may have a future.

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  3. James Joyner says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Fair. But basketball and baseball are huge both international sports as well—the latter is probably more popular in Latin America than it is here. And, after a too-slow start, the NFL and NCAA are working pretty hard to reform the game to reduce the incidence of head injuries.

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  4. EddieInCA says:

    Dr. Joyner wrote:

    Soccer is simply never going to be even a top three spectator sport in the United States and maybe not even in Canada.

    Spoken like an old white guy. (No disrespect intended,) You are sooo wrong. Major League Soccer is already a top three spectator sport as far as live attendance.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_League_Soccer_attendance

    MLS has the third-highest average attendance among all professional sports leagues with teams in the United States, ranking behind the National Football League and Major League Baseball but ahead of the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League.

    And when it comes to Global viewwership, it’s not close. American’s are so provincial in some ways. Soccer is a global game. The NBA is on it’s way to becoming a global league – with players from 42 different countries already in the league. NFL has 3% of it’s players foreign born.

    As much as some American’s want to ignore soccer, more are turning into fans. Just look at the recent TV deals for the Premiership, Bundesliga, and La Liga. While most Americans might not know the names Ronaldo, Messi, Zlatan, Lukaku, Neymar, De Gea, it’s certain that most of the world does. In fact, those names are bigger than LeBron, Brady, Manning, or Jordan worldwide.

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  5. @Michael Reynolds:

    The decision to award the bid to all of North America wasn’t FIFA’s. That’s how the proposal was submitted several years ago when this process began. Obviously the decision to bribe the FIFA officials with tacos, maple syrup, and hot dogs worked.

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  6. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I think that the College sports is a huge barrier for soccer in the United States. In soccer you have 17 years old playing on the World Cup, in the US because of College Sports soccer players are too old when they began to play at professional level.

    I also think that Americna soccer need better integration with their neighbors. Maybe CONCACAF and Commenbol joining forces to create a large continental clubs tournament that could face UEFA Champions League.

    @James Joyner:

    But basketball and baseball are huge both international sports as well—the latter is probably more popular in Latin America than it is here.

    More or less. Basketball is the only major “American” Sport that is widely popular outside the United States. There are some countries like Venezuela and Cuba where there are people that plays baseball, but they are a minority.

    There are American Football leagues in countries like Mexico, Italy, Brazil(Where, ironically, traditional soccer clubs are supporting American Football clubs), but NFL does not seem to actively supporting them.

    Regarding the NAFTA Cup to me the problem is that the United States or Mexico alone are too large to host a World Cup ALONE, imagine these three countries together.

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  7. EddieInCA says:

    @James Joyner:

    And, after a too-slow start, the NFL and NCAA are working pretty hard to reform the game to reduce the incidence of head injuries.

    Too little. Too late. You know who’s going to kill the NFL? Mothers. Suburban mothers (like my sister) who won’t allow their boys to play football because of the head injuries issues.

    It’s only anecdotal, but in my sister’s city, they didn’t have enough kids try out for Pop Warner football to field the 8 teams they wanted. They ended up with four teams. They played each other twice for their season of six games. That was it. Meanwhile the soccer field right next door had to add age divisions because of how many kids were trying out for soccer. My brother in law wants the boys to play football. Mom and grandma said no way.

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  8. James Joyner says:

    @EddieInCA: Soccer has come a long way in the US. It’s probably more popular now than hockey, which remains essentially a regional sport. I’m not sure that in-stadium attendance is a particularly important metric; most US sports leagues make their money from TV. And MLS is a relatively minor league; the big European leagues are bigger here than MLS.

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  9. @EddieInCA:

    MLS has the third-highest average attendance among all professional sports leagues with teams in the United States, ranking behind the National Football League and Major League Baseball but ahead of the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League.

    This is a somewhat misleading statistic given the fact that the NBA and NHL typically play in venues that have smaller venues than any of the other professional leagues, and they play indoors.

    Compared to the other leagues that have outdoor stadiums and play in generally moderate weather conditions most of the time, MLS still ranks behind even the CFL.

    Additionally, regardless of worldwide audiences the MLS still lacks a national broadcast contract in the United States and it’s unlikely it will get one between now and 2026.

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  10. Michael Reynolds says:

    I concede up front that my opinions on sports are worth nothing as I’ve never given even a single damn what people do with balls. Kick ’em, throw ’em, fondle ’em, I don’t care. And it goes without saying that I don’t give a puck.

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  11. @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    There are some countries like Venezuela and Cuba where there are people that plays baseball, but they are a minority.

    You’re ignoring Japan and South Korea, both of whom have strong baseball leagues. Taiwan also has a strong baseball league, as does Australia apparently. Indeed, there are a handful of Australian players beginning to make their way into the MLB just as we’ve gotten players from Latin America, Japan, South Korea.

    Granted, it’s not as international as soccer but its hardly as provincial as you are making it out to be

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  12. @Michael Reynolds:

    Soccer also has its own problems with concussion-related injuries, which has led many youth leagues to ban headers.

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  13. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Don’t be so sure soccer won’t be a top US sport. The NFL is in decline largely, I suspect, because you can no longer watch it without thinking, ‘brain damage.’

    That’s true. But there are concerns in sucker, where the head is used to control the ball, as regards CTE as well.

    I can’t imagine that Mexicans won’t be pissed off at this. 10 first round games are akin to the proverbial pitcher of warm spit. Trump will be pissed because the Mexican logo is at the center, and he’ll likely demand that Mexico pay for the whole thing. I can’t say about Canada.

    Me, I don’t care one way or another where I ignore this event eight years from now.

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  14. EddieInCA says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Additionally, regardless of worldwide audiences the MLS still lacks a national broadcast contract in the United States and it’s unlikely it will get one between now and 2026.

    You’re wrong. ESPN, Fox, and Univision all have national broadcast rights to MLS in the USA. Each TV contract has been exponentially larger than the previous contract, and there is no reason to believe – given increasing interest in MLS soccer – that’s its not going to continue to grow. You should check out midtown Atlanta before, during and after an MLS Atlanta game. You’d see first hand the energy this league is creating. Maybe not where you live, and maybe not among your friends, but it’s growing.

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  15. Franklin says:

    I’m afraid this isn’t going to happen. It would entail allowing foreigners into our country.

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  16. @EddieInCA:

    By “broadcast” I meant over the air broadcast, not cable. And the ratings I’ve seen for MLS games are nowhere near what you see for even College Football.

    But in any case, fine, it’s growing. That doesn’t mean it’s going to become a major American sport alongside baseball or football. The most likely outcome is that it ends up becoming more competitive with the NHL and the NBA.

    In any case, personally, I find the game boring, especially the MLS version, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be watching the World Cup at all. Other people enjoy it and that’s their choice. What I can honestly do without is the sense of smug superiority that soccer fans seem to be developing. It’s really quite annoying.

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  17. Timothy Watson says:

    You don’t expect FIFA, the tax-exempt non-profit with a billion dollar cash reserve, to pay for it do you?

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  18. Kathy says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Obviously the decision to bribe the FIFA officials with tacos, maple syrup, and hot dogs worked.

    The most popular taco down here has pork, cilantro, onion, salsa and pineapple 🙂

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  19. Kathy says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    But in any case, fine, it’s growing. That doesn’t mean it’s going to become a major American sport alongside baseball or football.

    No, but it might still be profitable. if, say, ten years from now 20% of the population follows it, that’s about 40-60 million people to sell advertising, beer and Viagra to.

    In any case, personally, I find the game boring,

    I’ve been puzzling for decades what the object of the game really is. It’s not to score goals, or they’d do that often. It’s not to nearly score goals, because they don’t keep track of that. It’s not to overact in front of the referee, as that rarely yields one of the coveted red cards. And it’s not watching muscular athletes run around for 90 minutes, because why would it be?

    My working hypothesis at the moment, it’s that it has the same objective as baseball: an excuse to kill an afternoon and drink beer.

    You know what would be a great “sport”? Recreating naval battles, with real ships, scaled down, on real water, and mock weapons, inside huge stadia.

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  20. Stormy Dragon says:

    Should we just start calling it the Canada-Mexico World Cup now? Trump is going to pull out of it at some point to demonstrate to his base how much he hates soccer.

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  21. Pete S says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I think Trump wound up sticking his snout in already. I cannot find them now but I recall a couple of months ago him saying something to the effect of he would like to find a way to punish FIFA members who vote against the US/Canada/Mexico bid? I imagine he figures that he will be out of office by then so he will be in a great position to cash in on a corrupt organization running a $12B event.

    Maybe he will start early by making sure that any countries affected by his Not A Muslim Travel Ban that want to send teams, will make reservations in Trump Hotels.

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  22. Pete S says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Compared to the other leagues that have outdoor stadiums and play in generally moderate weather conditions most of the time, MLS still ranks behind even the CFL.

    That isn’t true in Canada. Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver all have both CFL and MLS franchises and in all 3 cases last season the MLS franchise had higher average attendance for double the number of home games. Seasons for both leagues wrap up around American Thanksgiving so weather differences really have no effect.

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  23. EddieInCA says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    In any case, personally, I find the game boring, especially the MLS version, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be watching the World Cup at all. Other people enjoy it and that’s their choice. What I can honestly do without is the sense of smug superiority that soccer fans seem to be developing. It’s really quite annoying.

    No. What’s annoying is that a small percentage of Americans continue to denigrate a game that the rest of the world loves. You don’t like that Soccer is a global sport because you don’t like or understand it. That’s your prerogative. But soccer IS “the beautiful game” for a reason. That most of the world enjoys it is a feature, not a bug. And the fact that you think soccer fans are smug about liking it is hilarious.

    So what’s next? Are you going to call Soccer the sport of the “elites?” I’m sure the people in the favelas in Brazil and the shanty towns of South Africa, where the sport is huge, will love being called “elites’.

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  24. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @Kathy:

    Me, I don’t care one way or another where I ignore this event eight years from now.

    World Cups are fun. Even if you hate soocer. ;-D

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  25. Tyrell says:

    Soccer seems to do better in some of the larger urban areas in terms of attendance and the important tv numbers. Everywhere else in rural and the suburban areas it only does well at the local rec leagues. The school teams here often need players so it is usually who ever shows up and has the right shoes makes the team. Even volleyball outdraws the soccer games. So soccer is low on the pecking order compared to the other sports in small towns.
    There are some problems I have with tv soccer.
    The fields look like they are a mile long.
    Every once in a while someone manages to score. The usual score ends up 2-1. Boring.
    The rules are confusing and referees do not explain their calls.
    The clock – no one seems to know how much time is left.
    Lack of name players. Everyone knows who plays for the Cubs, Cavaliers, and
    Cowboys. Not so with soccer.
    I don’t mind watching a game in person. But tv games just do not have much action. I will stick to MLB and NASCAR.

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  26. SKI says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Spoken like an old white guy.

    Pretty much what I would have posted. Though I’d probably add southern into that description. Change comes slowly and hard…

    @Doug Mataconis:

    In any case, personally, I find the game boring, especially the MLS version, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be watching the World Cup at all. Other people enjoy it and that’s their choice.

    And yet, you seem to be pretty incredulous that people make that choice and…

    What I can honestly do without is the sense of smug superiority that soccer fans seem to be developing. It’s really quite annoying.

    … denigrate them for liking it.

    Gotta say that seems to be a more annoying – and more smug position -that someone who likes soccer.

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  27. SKI says:

    How Tyrell‘s comment sounds to me:

    I don’t like it or understand it. It is foreign and unfamiliar and therefore yucky.

    I have zero concept over how anyone could find that NASCAR (turn left, turn left again, repeat over and over for hours) is more interesting than a top level soccer game. That is like preferring ham on white with mayo over a NY Deli sandwich…

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  28. James Joyner says:

    @SKI: Youth soccer is doing quite well in the South, even in Alabama. But, unlike the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL, the MLS isn’t anywhere near being the best league in the world it its sport. It’s certainly growing but I just don’t see it overtaking the NFL, NBA, or MLB anytime soon given the inertia and money. Indeed, I think they’ll be hard-pressed to overtake US fan interest in the English Premier League.

    I’m not denigrating the sport. It has a large following in my circles. I just don’t think there’s a huge payoff in hosting another World Cup. The payoff from 1994 wasn’t nearly what was advertised.

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  29. SKI says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m not denigrating the sport. It has a large following in my circles. I just don’t think there’s a huge payoff in hosting another World Cup. The payoff from 1994 wasn’t nearly what was advertised.

    This isn’t this

    Soccer is simply never going to be even a top three spectator sport in the United States and maybe not even in Canada.

    Never is an awfully long time…

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  30. Kathy says:

    @SKI:

    I have zero concept over how anyone could find that NASCAR (turn left, turn left again, repeat over and over for hours) is more interesting than a top level soccer game.

    I suppose because in the former someone might crash.

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  31. Kathy says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    World Cups are fun. Even if you hate soocer. ;-D

    No, they’re not. I’ve been around many.

    Oh, you kind of hear so much about it, some seeps through. But it would be the same if you has to take a solid month of people talking about a paint drying championship.

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  32. SKI says:

    @Kathy: Yes, they are fun. The passion of the fans, the skill of the players (particularly late in the tournament), the spectacle of it all…

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  33. SKI says:

    @Kathy: And in the latter, you mght be dazzled by amazing skills.

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  34. Kathy says:

    @SKI:

    Yes, they are fun.

    We seem to have very different definitions of “fun.”

    So I’ll let you in on a secret (don’t tell anyone): I attended a few world cup matches in 1986. I still think there’s nothing “fun” in the world cup.

    If it were a mere disagreement with a respectable majority of the world, that would be that (after all, I am right). But for some reason lots of people try to get me to get excited about this snoozefest every four years. As if for some reason it ceases to be soccer when it’s the world cup or something.

    That’s my animosity towards the world cup. The one towards soccer (or sucker as I prefer to call it), goes deeper. Simply because this sport without a clear objective goes on all year long.

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  35. James Joyner says:

    @Kathy:

    The one towards soccer (or sucker as I prefer to call it), goes deeper. Simply because this sport without a clear objective goes on all year long.

    I don’t understand this objection unless you simply don’t like sports. Soccer is essentially the same sport as hockey and not all that different from basketball or even American (gridiron) football: One team tries to put a ball into a goal while the other team tries to stop them. Whoever has done so the most times before time expires wins.

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  36. Kathy says:

    @James Joyner:

    Soccer is essentially the same sport as hockey and not all that different from basketball or even American (gridiron) football: One team tries to put a ball into a goal while the other team tries to stop them. Whoever has done so the most times before time expires wins.

    I like football, when I can block the idea of CTE from my mind.

    But you’re wrong. They’re very different sports. I’ve covered soccer (where if getting the ball in the goal is the idea, then they’re doing it way wrong). Hockey is also puzzling. I’ve seen it on TV, and once I attended an amateur game. The objective seems to skate up and down the rink, trying to pick fights with the other team (I assume that’s why the players are armed and wear armor), while allegedly chasing a mythical object known as “The Puck” that somehow is never visible during televised matches.

    Basketball I should skip, as I’ve never seen a whole game (ever), but it seems to be a pretense that anything but the last two minutes matter at all. Why not just have 20 2-minute matches?

    Football is, at heart, a ritual representation of war. You have a field divided in two sides along its length, set piece battles, a lot of hand-to-hand struggles, armor, and a very sophisticated team of behind the lines generals continuously gathering intelligence and plotting strategy.

    It’s a game, so there are no weapons, but the object is to symbolically conquer the other side’s base by reaching it while holding on to the ball. It’s by far the most complex game played by large teams, with plenty of choices on how to advance the ball and even different means to score. I hear the closest thing is rugby, but I’ve never seen a match.

    Now, the thing about soccer, is that I constantly get pushed to watch it, as though I’ve somehow managed not to thus far. No matter how I profess to dislike it, people keep telling me to give it a chance. Ok, I’ve watched games, I’ve played as part of phys ed in school, and if I could possibly develop an interest in it, I would have by now. Worse yet, people keep expecting me to be excited by the world cup, and in particular every time Mexico plays. Why? Is it not soccer in the soccer world cup? I just find it infinitely annoying.

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  37. @EddieInCA:

    You don’t like that Soccer is a global sport because you don’t like or understand it.

    I don’t care if it is a “global sport” or not.

    As for the rest, I understand the game quite well, just as I understand hockey and basketball quite well. I just don’t find it interesting to watch on television and I am uninterested in tournaments such as the World Cup or March Madness where I don’t particularly care who wins or loses.

    And your comment is exactly what I was referring to yesterday. Soccer fans here in the US seem to have some sense of superiority over those of us who don’t enjoy the game and choose not to watch it. I see it all the time, and it’s one of the reasons why I’m even less motivated to get into the sport.

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  38. @SKI:

    denigrate them for liking it.

    I’m not denigrating them, I am expressing my frustration at that segment of soccer fandom that consistently denigrates those of us who don’t like it and insisting that we’d love it if we’d just watch a game. I have watched games, and while I’ll concede the fact that the players are excellent athletes I just don’t find the game interesting in the least.

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  39. @Kathy:

    Now, the thing about soccer, is that I constantly get pushed to watch it, as though I’ve somehow managed not to thus far. No matter how I profess to dislike it, people keep telling me to give it a chance. Ok, I’ve watched games, I’ve played as part of phys ed in school, and if I could possibly develop an interest in it, I would have by now. Worse yet, people keep expecting me to be excited by the world cup, and in particular every time Mexico plays. Why? Is it not soccer in the soccer world cup? I just find it infinitely annoying.

    Yes, this is exactly what I’ve experienced.

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  40. Kathy says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Yes, this is exactly what I’ve experienced.

    Take this current snoozefest just getting underway. At the office someone had the idea of the department chipping in to get a big screen 4K TV to watch the games, then the screen will be raffled off at the end. Not a bad idea, but 1) I don’t care to watch the games and 2) a 1 in 25 chance of winning just sucks.

    There followed six solid days of people asking me “Really? You’re not even interested in the world cup?”

    In 2006 I took my vacation exactly at the time of the world cup just to get away from all that.

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  41. Tyrell says:

    @Kathy: This same sort of discussion and behaviors happen every time the World Cup comes around. Some people will wonder why everyone else did not watch the game)(that came on in the middle of the night). And all the predictions that soccer is growing and will surpass the other sports. The local kids rec soccer will see some increase in numbers. Then two weeks later it’s all gone and everyone is back on college football predictions.
    “in the former someone might crash” – my mother used to say that. “the only reason people go to those things is to see someone wreck.”

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  42. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Kathy:

    I think the big draw of football is that the play is broken up into a series of discrete pieces, which allows the teams to coordinate much more complicated tactics than most other team sports, while also making it easier for the spectators to analyze and appreciate those tactics.

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  43. Kathy says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    That’s a big part of the attraction for me. I would like to say it goes for most fans, but I suspect most just want to see players hit each other.

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  44. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Kathy:
    One of my other favorite spectator sports is curling, for the same reason. The play is broken up into pieces and there’s a lot of tactical coordination going on between each piece.

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  45. Tyrell says:

    @Stormy Dragon: “play is broken up into a series of discreet pieces” : those are also called “commercial timeouts”

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  46. Kathy says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I’ve heard of curling.

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