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Tuesday, September 30, 2014 | Last updated: 11:01pm

Column: It's time to embrace soccer



The 2014 FIFA World Cup officially ended on Sunday with Germany topping Argentina by a 1-0 score in extra time, capping an exciting month where soccer was the what-to-watch television.

Analysts from ESPN to Fox Sports to Sports Illustrated debated over whether this was the most exciting World Cup ever. 171 goals were scored throughout the tournament, including several high-scoring games like Germany’s 7-1 victory over host nation Brazil in the semifinals.

Unheralded teams like Costa Rica and Greece advanced to the knockout stages, while powerhouses like Spain and Portugal couldn’t advance out of group play.

It was all very exciting and definitely must-watch TV, but I couldn’t help feeling like all this soccer enthusiasm in the U.S. would be gone as soon as the tournament was over. One thing is clear: It’s time for the United States to embrace soccer more than every four years.

Casual American fans supported the U.S. men’s national team as Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey led the team through the so-called “Group of Death” and into the knockout stages. While the team lost 2-1 in extra time to Belgium in the Round of 16, a nation stood behind the team as Howard put on a goalkeeping performance for the ages.

His 16 saves set a World Cup record for the most saves in a single game.

For the first time since the U.S. women’s national team advanced to the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup finals, the entire nation truly cared for soccer.

I won’t act like the biggest soccer fan, but I thoroughly appreciate watching quality club and international soccer. Where I previously drew the line on acceptable soccer viewing was Major League Soccer, which happens to be the premier soccer league in the U.S.

The MLS has never had the grandeur or draw of seeing the world’s best perform night in and night out. However, after watching several MLS stars perform admirably for the USMNT, I can confidently say I underestimated the league.

It’s time for casual soccer fans to embrace the game and treat it with much more importance than the nation currently does.

Soccer is the most popular sport in the world and should hold more weight in the U.S.

Therefore, I challenge all you casual soccer fans who cheered enthusiastically for the USMNT over the past month. Support these players as they return to club action and maybe even tune in the next time an MLS game is broadcast on ESPN.

Who knows, you may like what you see.

—Follow Roberto Payne @HouseofPayne555


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