Making Soccer More Appealing to Fans in the United States

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by Ryan Isley

Every time there is a major international soccer competition, the question is always raised as to why soccer has not taken off in the United States like it has in other countries. I figured that with Euro 2012 going on right now, I would look at some things that soccer could do to make the game more appealing to those in the United States.

Before you start getting all mad and telling me these changes will never happen, I know they won’t and it isn’t logical for them to take place just to make the sport more attractive to one country’s fanbase.

In fact, there are plenty of people in the United States who really like soccer and even follow the EPL and have their favorite teams and players. Admittedly, I watch soccer when it is the World Cup, Olympics, European Championship or when I am flipping channels late at night and come across an MLS game.

One of the arguments I hear the most from people who don’t watch soccer at all is that soccer is boring and there aren’t enough goals scored or even scoring chances. These are just five changes that I think would make people in the United States care more about soccer regularly and not just during the major tournaments and are in no particular order.

Make the Field Smaller:  The fields used in international competition are just too big. It allows for a lot of open space and long passes across the field that go east and west instead of north and south, leading to teams not advancing the ball at a good pace.

If they were to make the field smaller, it would force teams to be more aggressive offensively and would lead to more shots, therefore leading to more goals.

While there are some low-scoring soccer games that can be entertaining, it does get boring watching a team do nothing but pass the ball from one side to another with no advancement up the field. A smaller field would take away a team’s ability to just play keep away, especially once they get the lead.

Eliminate the Offsides Call: I know this will never happen, but by getting rid of the offsides call, it would open up the game a little bit and lead to more scoring. It would also make coaches think a little more about strategy.

While it seems easy to just let a player get in behind the defense and take off for a breakaway on the opposing goalkeeper, it would also be a risk the player would be taking by not staying back on defense if he does decide to take off early.

Obviously with no offsides penalty, there would be more scoring opportunities and more goals. And let’s be honest – how many times is offsides called simply because the offensive player trying to break away is faster than the defensive player? Why should you be penalized for simply having better speed?

In hockey, there is no penalty against a player who breaks away and gets behind the defense, but they cannot cross a certain point before they have the puck. Maybe they need to add a line to the soccer pitch similar to that line to make it where a player cannot just simply cherry pick and get easy opportunities.

Stiffer Penalties for Flopping: It gets irritating to keep watching players fake injuries and falling when they were barely touched – it has even become a topic of discussion during this season’s NBA playoffs and has turned some people off of the NBA.

When players are obviously flopping, they should not only be given a yellow card but should also be held out of play for a pre-determined amount of time – sort of like an NFL player having to be held out of a play once he is hurt.

The amount of flopping that is actually done is an embarrassment to the sport and should be cleaned up for the sake of the game. If a player is actually hurt that is one thing, but to act like you have been shot when you are barely touched has gotten old.

Change the Clock: This is one of the more aggravating things about watching soccer – the clock.

If you want to play two halves of 45 minutes each, so be it. But start the clock at 45:00 and wind it down. When it hits 0:00.00, the half is over – period. It’s a simple fix. When there is injury time on the field, you stop the clock. When play resumes, so does the clock. That’s how every other timed sport does it.

The way it is set up right now, nobody knows when the half is actually over because they add injury time to the end of the half. Plus when they add injury time, they don’t add exact time. They can say it is two minutes, but it will be one minute and 50 seconds or it could be two minutes and 20 seconds.

Could you imagine the NBA Finals or the Super Bowl coming down to the last possession and nobody knowing exactly how much time is left? That would never happen – nor should it.

No More Ties: There is a saying that says a tie is like kissing your sister. With the exception of a couple of states in the United States, people don’t see kissing their sister as a good thing.

If they are going to watch two teams go at it for 90 minutes, they want to see someone win. There are many ways to fix this:

1)      Once regulation time has expired, the two teams go to penalty kicks to determine a winner.

2)      Have a 15-minute sudden death overtime period and if the two teams are still tied following that, there are penalty kicks to decide a victor.

3)      Have 15-minute non-sudden death overtime period and if the two teams are still tied following that, there are penalty kicks.

4)      Options 2 and 3 – only there are two 15-minute overtime periods with penalty kicks following.

As Herman Edwards said – you play to win the game. Nobody plays for a tie.

Again – I know these changes will never happen but I believe if some of them were implemented, people in the United States would pay more attention to soccer. Yes, even the casual fans.

Comments? You can leave them here or email Ryan at ryan@morethanafan.net

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Ryan focuses on NASCAR - bringing readers stats, news and his opinions on the multiple series of Stock Car Racing.