Joel Reichenberger: Soccer catches on

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Joel Reichenberger

Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter and photographer Joel Reichenberger can be reached at 871-4253 or jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Joel here.

The conclusion I’m about to reach violates my own rules.

Soccer may be catching on with a wider group of fans, and I know this because of Facebook.

I hate how Facebook is used by members of the media these days when the number of people in a particular Facebook group or event is used to demonstrate trends or prove points.

For instance, on Friday I was reading a story on www.cnn.com about how one tangible result of the Occupy Wall Street protests is a ton of people pulling their money from large, nationwide banks and instead trusting it to smaller community banks or credit unions.

This is evident, I read, because “75,061 Facebook users have said they will be attending, while 16,007 will ‘maybe’ attend” a “change your bank event” that was set to happen Saturday.

Spare me.

A lot of people may well have switched banks Saturday — indeed, the story did provide some real numbers to back up that statement — but the amount of people who join a Facebook event or group supporting any particular cause is evidence of nothing more than how little people pay attention to what they click when they get one of the service’s invitations. Consider this: More than four times as many people, 364,693, like “Crime.”

Soccer is popular in the United States. How do I know? Duh, 6,460,590 people like soccer on Facebook.

I guess I’ve spent most of my life miraculously avoiding most of the 6,460,590 people because I’ve never considered that soccer “caught on” as a larger sport in this country.

Personally, I’ve had plenty of exposure, from my early days playing to the perhaps 30 games I cover annually. Soccer assignments make up a big hunk of my spring, summer and autumn work load with the newspaper.

But I’ve never known it to be popular among my high school and college friends. I didn’t know Sporting Kansas City, a Major League Soccer franchise, moved from its long-time home at Arrowhead Stadium to a new, purpose-built field, Livestrong Sporting Park.

Now it’s all my friends can talk about.

I lived in Kansas for 26 years and never once heard a mention of the Wizards, as Sporting KC was known pre-new stadium. Now they’re season ticket holders.

My friends are sweating out playoff games and trying to snag extra tickets. Sporting KC plays at 3:30 p.m. today against the Houston Dynamo, and according to my friends, it’s a huge game.

This is all great. By all accounts, the Sporting games are a blast, featuring an atmosphere “just like college football,” as one friend explained.

The MLS trend, at least in Kansas City, may not be a trend at all but more of a shift.

If my anecdotal evidence doesn’t prove that, there are plenty of numbers to back it up. Facebook counts 47,299 fans of Sporting KC.

College basketball, meanwhile, boasts just 43,109 fans.

Lace your cleats, ladies and gentlemen. Soccer has taken over.

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