Warming Hopeful World Cup Continues To Grow Game In US
With the United States set to kickoff its opening game of the 2014 World Cup Monday night against Ghana, soccer fever is spreading across the country and State College too.
Downtown bars are opening their doors to World Cup watch parties and jerseys for many different countries can be seen on the streets.
For some it's an event that is four years of qualifying in the making, for others it's one of their first encounters with the game of soccer. Either way, it's something Penn State men's soccer coach Bob Warming is hopeful will help grow the game in the United States.
"I think we're going to show the world that we're a lot better than some people think we are when we get down to Brazil," Warming said of the United States team. "I think ESPN and a lot of other people will hope for that too because they paid $1.1 billion dollars to cover the event this summer, just for the US market."
The United States (Ranked No.13 in the world according to FIFA) has a chance to do well. A young but talented roster led by the likes of striker Clint Dempsey and midfielder Michael Bradley will go up against a Ghana team that has knocked the United States out of two straight World Cups.
From there it's a date with Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo and then a final Group Stage meeting against a German squad that could make a deep run into the tournament. It isn't an easy road by any stretch, but after the most successful year in national team history, it's not as though the Americans are unproven heading into the World Cup.
How many points the United States can find over the next three games remains to be seen -- a second place or better finish in the group advancing them to the knockout rounds -- but Warming is confident that the sport will continue to grow either way.
"We're having record attendances across the country, we're selling out almost every soccer specific stadium in the country," Warming said. "Three years ago Kansas City was playing in a minor league ballpark in the outfield. Now they sellout 20,000 every single game and won a championship."
"The growth is exponential, the wave is coming, I don't think we've seen the crest of it but I think it's going be huge. Just like when there is an Olympics it helps accelerate the exposure to the sport, this summer is going to be remarkable for the timezone that we're in as well. Those of us who watched previous World Cup events had to get up at 3 am to watch the games. That won't be the case this year. And if somebody paid that much money to televise it, they aren't just going to televise it, they're going to promote it all summer."
Ultimately the United States isn't a team likely to make a run into the final game of the tournament, the Brazilian hosts on the other hand are very capable of bringing home the title from the world's biggest sporting event.
"It's tough to bet against Brazil. No place is more passionate about the game than Brazil. Guys took me to a 5-star restaurant two years ago in Brazil -- I had never been to one before -- and at the entrance to the five-star restaurant was a 3-on-3 soccer field, a little turf field," Warming said. "Guys in dress coats had their coats off, their shirts off, and are playing 3-on-3 soccer at a five star restaurant before they get ready to eat."
"It's just a different world, a different different world."
The United States and Ghana take the field at 6 p.m. Monday night on ESPN.