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Luke Graham: Can soccer succeed?

Luke Graham.

For the average soccer fan, the World Cup introduced the sport to so many. It was fun — yikes, "fun" and "soccer-watching" in the same sentence.

And overall in the United States, the World Cup has to be viewed as a success for soccer in a country where lots of people don't watch the sport. Of course, the World Cup continues through July 11, but for me, it ended Saturday with the U.S. loss to Ghana.

That game was well-watched. It seemed every person around wanted to know the score and wanted to know how things were going.

But can the recent success of the World Cup make soccer an American game? Can soccer move into the big sports with football, baseball, basketball and hockey?

In short, I don't think so. I'm a casual fan. I followed it since the qualification last year, knowing the World Cup was coming.

Like many, I watched all the World Cup games, getting up early and watching on the edge of my seat.

But here are the prime reasons soccer still won't take off for the casual fan. I could see why it might, but the bottom line is I don't think it will.

■ None of the best players and best teams play in America. Outside of getting teams together for the World Cup, all these players play for their respective clubs across the world. Most of those teams and leagues are outside of our borders. It's tough for a casual fan to follow the English Premier League, or teams in Spain, France or Italy. Plus, it's easier for Americans to follow something when we consistently can watch the best players in the world.

■ Major League Soccer still isn't quite there. The MLS isn't a top-level brand of soccer when compared to the rest of the world. Although a good portion of the United States' players spent time in the MLS, most now play overseas. Until the level of professional soccer, and the money, start to approach the level in Europe, the MLS will just be more of a Triple A professional league.

■ Lack of success on an international level. All Americans were heartbroken on Saturday after losing in the round of 16. While getting that far seems to have been a success, it just isn't enough. Until America can put together a team that legitimately can challenge for a spot in the semifinals or finals of a World Cup, the sport won't really take off.

■ There are still too many things many American fans don't like about the sport. Too many ties, too many yellow cards and too much diving by players. How there can still be just one, main referee on the field is beyond me.

— To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229 or e-mail lgraham@steamboatpilot.com