With all the festivities lined up for the start of the Women’s World Cup tomorrow here in the District, this should be a happy time for women’s soccer. Unfortunately, the elation of the World Cup will have to be tempered by the news that the Women’s United Soccer Association has folded. The timing of this announcement surprised many fans and skeptics alike, but I don’t think that the news itself, unfortunately, shocked anyone.

It didn’t surprise me that WUSA folded. I was astonished, on the other hand, that the collapse of a small, new league made me conscious of unsettling, and even startling, trends across American society in general.

The first question asks whether or not soccer is truly a marketable sport in this country. By far the most popular sport everywhere else on the globe, soccer has not made the leap to a top-tier sport in the United States. This is peculiar considering the number of people here that play soccer, especially kids. You drive through any suburban housing development and you’ll see minivans with soccer stickers parked in every other driveway. I don’t think I know anyone from my neighborhood that didn’t play township soccer.

Additionally, kids who play soccer are some of the most devoted athletes. They play year-round, indoors, outdoors, for a club team, for a school team, in the Olympic Development Program and so on. Why, then, don’t these kids want to watch soccer on TV? Beyond that, why doesn’t anyone else want to watch soccer on TV?

One of the reasons for this lack of interest is founded in simple U.S. arrogance. There is a sense that America, though certainly not as much lately, is and might always be a world power. People are accustomed to tuning in to Olympic basketball and track and field, where the United States has traditionally won scads of medals. We’re proud of our Dream Team and our gold-medal athletes. It is hard, then, for arrogant Americans to admit that the Major League Soccer is a joke to the professional clubs in Europe and even to those in Mexico. If we aren’t the best, then it seems it’s not worth cheering for. Why, though, does this translate to women’s soccer as well, when our national team is consistently one of the best in the world?

Another possibility, which I find infinitely more disturbing, could be the epidemic of ADD among the public. The Internet and the 24-hour news cycle both contribute to a lack of patience on the part of the typical American viewer. Even ESPN has 24-hour coverage. People don’t watch baseball anymore because they won’t (or can’t) sit through a game. Stadiums are built with dozens of non-baseball distractions to lure people to come to games who wouldn’t otherwise pay attention. Are these same people going to sit down and watch a 90-minute match that could very well end up a nil-nil tie? Probably not. Should this be worrisome? Probably.

The other major question (and without a doubt the more difficult) raised by WUSA’s demise is the real role that women’s sports have on TV and in America. Now let me be abundantly clear here: this is not a knock on women’s sports, Title IX or anything along those lines. Sports in general are absolutely integral to building character, teamwork and leadership in both genders, in addition to providing entertainment to all. I’m just wondering whether the people who planned and built WUSA overestimated the potential audience, sponsorship and market demographic. During its final season, WUSA averaged an abysmal 0.1 rating for nationally televised games.

The main reason behind the terrible ratings is that men don’t follow women’s sports. Seeing as men ages 18-35 are the target audience for most sports programming, this doesn’t bode well for future ventures into women’s professional sports. I’m sure that almost no guys on this campus could tell you who won the WNBA championship last week (it was the Detroit Shock, by the way). And, for the guys, the enduring image of the last Women’s World Cup wasn’t about who won. It was Brandi Chastain without a shirt on.

In the end, I don’t have the answers, and I think that’s why I find this news sadder than anything else.

It’s unfortunate that a league that gave hope and role models to young girls had to fold. What is more troubling, however, is the outlook it suggests for the general American public.

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