Offside: Soccer and American Exceptionalism

By Andrei S. Markovits; Steven L. Hellerman | Go to book overview

Six
The World Cup in the United States

The United States was chosen, by the way, because of all the money to be made here, not for any soccer prowess. Our country has been rented as a giant stadium and hotel and television studio for the next 31 days—and that's fine. I have no illusions about this World Cup being the breakthrough for American soccer, but for the next month we are the center of the universe.

—George Vecsey, New York Times, 12 June 1994

The sporting equivalents of uppity vegetarians, wine tasters, cineastes, dog snobs, will be telling us that soccer is a world language we simply must learn, as cognoscenti, as decent blokes and as international business dealers. …

Let's reflect on this before the T-shirts and the Cup cups arrive. Do we have to care because most of the rest of the world cares? Is there space in our crowded spectator sports schedule for more games? Is there room in our hearts for more heroes? What's in this World Cup for us?

—Robert Lipsyte, New York Times, 27 November 1993

THE WORLD CUP USA organization, responsible for staging the 1994 World Cup in the United States, had set several specific goals for the event. Foremost was the maximization of profits for itself, the USSF, FIFA, television networks, and the nine World Cup host cities. This required making each match successful in terms of attendance, security, and logistics, as well as television and press access. Additionally, arrangements with corporate sponsors and retailers, based on advertising sales and product licensing, brought in substantial revenue. 1 Another goal was to attain a respectable American television audience by utilizing a strategy that sought to attract the casual American sports viewer (as in someone who might not watch weekly NFL telecasts but watches the Super Bowl). 2 This included the requisite of bringing World Cup soccer to the attention of an American public that, on the eve of the games, was woefully uninformed regarding the event. 3 Finally, there was the stated objective of using the World Cup as a vehicle to launch a new professional soccer league that would eventually showcase first-division soccer in the United States, with mostly American players. 4

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