Creekview girls soccer coach Kerri Schmitt is one that expects the excitement to carry over to future international competitions.
“The good news is we have the Olympics next year, so there will be soccer again,” Schmitt said. “Then the year after we have the Women’s World Cup, so for the next few summers at least we will have more soccer. Then we will have one year without it, then we get the World Cup again.”
Sequoyah boys soccer coach John Zonin said he followed the World Cup closely through the round of 16, but said some of his interested faded with the elimination of the U.S. team. Still, he said he will probably tune back in for the finals.
“I watched a lot of it, but now probably not so much,” Zonin said. “To me it’s makes a big difference if the U.S. is in it, but not to other people, like the die-hard fans. I enjoy watching international soccer, but I just get more into it when the U.S. team is actually playing in it.”
River Ridge girls soccer coach Sarah Goodbread has watched the World Cup “almost every day so far.”
She said it’s good for the sport to get some attention.
“It’s been nice to see the fan support and everyone jumping on the bandwagon for the U.S. team,” Goodbread, who doesn’t recalling watching it as child, said. “I just think there are more people playing soccer and having a passion for the sport now than there was then.”
Zonin said he has been around soccer for more than 30 years and a lot has changed during that time. When the United States hosted the World Cup in 1994, he attended a match at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.
“There weren’t really a lot of people at the stadium for the game,” Zonin said. “As far as people jumping on board with the U.S. team a lot has changed.”
The 1994 World Cup remains the highest in total attendance with nearly 3.6 million attending the final tournament.
Just prior to the 1994 World Cup, the first professional soccer league in the United States, Major League Soccer, formed. It began operating in 1996 and thus began providing young soccer enthusiasts with action to watch each year. The combination of these two events — directly connected by the FIFA requirement that the U.S. began a professional league as a condition of hosting the World Cup — fueled the interest. It soon became the fastest-growing sport in the country and remains one of the most-played youth sports.
“I think a lot of the excitement has to do with a new generation of soccer fans,” Zonin said. “My generation grew up playing it and now everyone is playing it. People like we are coaching it and spreading it onto the kids. It’s just the evolution of the sport.”
Soccer offers universal appeal because it can be played in modified versions by men and women, young and old. The basics of the game are easy to grasp, yet the competition offers endless challenges.
“Football you can be limited by gender,” Zonin said. “Basketball you can be limited by size, but soccer you can be anybody and be successful.”
Evidence of soccer’s popularity can be seen on fields all around the county.
“You have kids going to play pick-up games all over now,” Schmitt said, who has been coaching the sport for 27 years. “People are getting more knowledge about it and that helps.
Because the World Cup only comes around once every four years, Goodbread is glad it gets the attention it does.
“It kind of makes up for the lack of attention every other year because you can’t miss it when it takes place every four years,” she said. “I’ve seen people, like my husband that doesn’t even follow soccer, watching every game with me this summer. It’s nice to see people that don’t follow the sport, try to get involved with it.”
Etowah will continue to host showings of World Cup matches on its videoboard. The next scheduled viewing will be the semifinals on Wednesday from 3:30 until 6:30 p.m. The third place match will be shown Saturday, July 12 at 3:30 p.m. and the finals the following day at 2:30 p.m. Admission to each match is free and fans will have the chance to purchase concessions at the field.