The 2014 FIFA World Cup has had a record number of American viewers, and the fan reception of the U.S. men’s national soccer team has surprised even U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati.
Perhaps it’s because the USA team is doing better than expected, but regardless of the reason, Gulati is pleased with the results.
“The narrative that’s constant and consistent is that the sport is in a different place.” Gulati told reporters in Brazil on Wednesday. “What’s going on back home is completely different even than it was four years ago.
“It’s as if we’ve had 10 consecutive nights of Landon (Donovan’s) goal (against Algeria in 2010). And that means the sport is in a different place. Would that trend line be a little higher and a little steeper if we get through (Thursday)? The answer is yes. And we’re confident that will happen.”
Though Gulati acknowledged that soccer still isn’t where they’d like it to be in terms of its popularity in the States, the positive reaction and record ratings they’ve seen in this World Cup is promising for the future. And it will only get better if USA beats Germany on Thursday and takes the top spot in the Group G standings.
“It’s a huge game,” Gulati said. “Obviously the emotions of three nights ago were up and down. …We wanted to beat Ghana and get at least a point against Portugal. The way the game ended was disappointing, obviously, to all of us. But we go into the Germany game with it all in front of us, a chance to win the group, a chance to advance, and that’s exciting.
“And it’s exciting not only for the team, but it’s exciting and important for everything that’s going on back home. To be able to keep that level of interest for another four, five, six and hopefully more days, would be great for the sport.”
Photo via Twitter/@Columbia