Ask anyone how they spent the summer of 2014, and you will likely hear them mention how they watched the FIFA World Cup.

Whether it was the gripping draw between Portugal and the United States, which drew more views in North America than any game of the NBA finals, or the 7-1 blitzkrieg that was Germany versus Brazil in the semifinals, which drew 15 million views in North America even after the USMNT was eliminated, this year’s international soccer championship proved to be, as Director of FIFA TV Niclas Ericson said, “a true watershed moment” for soccer in America.

Now if you were to ask them about the other World Cup being hosted this summer, you would probably get a blank stare in return. The FIBA World Cup, basketball’s largest international tournament, suffers from a unique dilemma, as basketball’s birthplace and biggest market essentially ignores the competition.

The United States, home to 29 of the 30 NBA teams — each worth nearly $700 million on average — and a market which spends close to $1.6 billion annually on merchandise, would statistically rather tune in to reruns of “The Simpsons” or “The Big Bang Theory” than watch its men’s national team take on the likes of Finland or Turkey.

This does not come as much of a surprise, however, when one takes into account the box scores from the tournament thus far. Through seven games played across Spain, the United States sports an undefeated record, having won every game by at least 23 points, including two blowouts in which they won by 40 points or more. The level of international basketball talent simply has not reached the level of talent parity enjoyed in FIFA competitions, leading many Americans to dismiss events such as the FIBA World Cup as filler until the start of the NBA season.

After all, no one wants to see Goliath defeat David.

That is not to say that there haven’t been any improvements in competitiveness on the global stage. Long gone are the days of the 1992 Olympics U.S. Dream Team, which defeated its opponents by an average of 44 points. The NBA itself now counts international players as 20 percent of its ranks, a figure which will only continue to grow as the league expands its recruiting efforts in Southeast Asia, India and Africa. The upper echelon of FIBA has made great strides as well, as for a six-year span between 2005 and America’s 2010 Olympics gold medal, the U.S. did not hold the top international ranking.

Still, it is hard to market a tournament of 24 teams in which the biggest question is whether Lithuania or Spain will be the team to challenge the United States for the championship.

What can be done to remedy this situation? First and foremost, a change in the scheduling of the tournament is needed. Currently, the FIBA World Cup is not only an afterthought to the FIFA World Cup, but also occurs at the onset of both the NFL and European soccer seasons. On top of that, the FIBA World Cup is essentially a less-prestigious imitation of the Olympic basketball tournament held two years prior and after.

To remedy this situation, FIBA should move its contest into the summer between the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup, while at the same time, encouraging a partial return to denying professional players the right to play in the Olympics, a rule that has been implemented in soccer at the Summer Games. By making the basketball competition in the Olympics an under-23 affair, the best amateurs and professional rookies get the chance to develop and represent their countries while veteran professionals play in the more significant competition, the World Cup.

As a result, the “best of the best” global tournament becomes a once-every-four-years event, as opposed to the current two-year interval system that has seen many top U.S. players drop out of the World Cup process. This change would provide more incentive for elite players to don the Stars and Stripes at the World Cup.

From an actual gameplay perspective, it is time to take the training wheels off at FIBA and play with NBA standards. Current discrepancies in regard to three-point shot distance, the area of the inside paint and goaltending rules baby international players.

By normalizing the game according to the standards of the top professional league in the world, even in mundane aspects such as the color of the ball, the tournament will gain legitimacy among U.S. viewers.

All that said, this year’s World Cup is approaching its climax, as France upset Spain in the quarterfinals and Lithuania fell to the United States on the other side of the bracket in the semifinals. If France bypasses Serbia in its semifinal, as expected, champion San Antonio Spurs star Tony Parker and a competitive French squad will match up against a dominant U.S. squad in the championship game this Sunday.

For the sake of the competition’s future, let’s hope it’s a close game.

Max Fiege is a freshman in the School of Foreign Service. Out of Our League appears every other Friday.

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