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STAR SPANGLED BUMMER: IS THIS TURNING POINT FOR U.S. SOCCER?
Published June 23, 1998
The U.S. World Cup loss to Iran Sunday not only ended the team's chance to advance to the second round, but also the chance "to grab the interest of average sports fans and to give any kind of boost to attendance in the second half of the Major League Soccer season," according to Jere Longman of the N.Y. TIMES. Longman: "This was a game that was penciled in as a win. Instead, the Americans lost one of the most significant matches in the history of U.S. soccer. ... The [USSF]'s stated hope of winning a World Cup by 2010 seems hopelessly premature" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/23). END OF THE WORLD? The U.S. media continues to examine the U.S. World Cup performance. In K.C., Chris Cowles writes that the "blame for the U.S. team's failure should be shared by everybody from the [USSF] hierarchy down to the leaders of [MLS] who, like the federation, truly believe they are producing the caliber of players the United States needs to play at this level" (K.C. STAR, 6/23). Also in K.C., Bob Luder asks, "Now, the question is, what becomes of the growth of the 2 1/2-year-old MLS?" (K.C. STAR, 6/23). In Hartford, Jerry Trecker writes the loss "will surely mean soccer will find it harder to get mainstream media attention in the United States, a high price for U.S. Soccer having made significant errors" (HARTFORD COURANT, 6/23). In Baltimore, Lowell Sunderland: "As humiliating as Sunday's loss was, one of the things it means is going back to the drawing board, something Americans historically have been good at. And U.S. soccer architects have lots to work with" (Baltimore SUN, 6/23). In DC, William Gildea: "The American way is to accomplish immediately -- build it, sell it, build more of it, sell more of it. But soccer can be developed only over decades or chunks of centuries" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/23). In Raleigh, Caulton Tudor: "Where soccer goes from here in the United States will be one of the interesting sports developments over the next several years" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 6/23). But in Boston, John Powers writes that U.S. Soccer "knew" that it "would be a coup to even survive their" World Cup pairing group (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/23). RATINGS DOWN: All World Cup TV ratings are "down sharply" from '94. The two U.S. matches broadcast on ABC in '94 earned an 5.8/18 and a 7.8/20, compared with 4.3/12 and 4.8/12 this year (DAILY VARIETY, 6/23). Pilson Communications President Neal Pilson: "Soccer has a secure niche. It's just not the niche soccer would like to be in. The public has voted with their TV clickers; soccer has to work harder to make people familiar with its stars." Grey Advertising's Jon Mandel: "I didn't know soccer even had a future on American TV. And the Cup games without the U.S. don't draw anything" (USA TODAY, 6/23). In L.A., Mike Penner notes USSF President Alan Rothenberg's claim that U.S. Soccer is "moving forward." Penner: "What we have here, soccer fans of America, or at least those of you who haven't sworn off the sport for the more personally rewarding experience of supporting U.S. rugby, is a failure to communicate" (L.A. TIMES, 6/23). In Baltimore, Milton Kent: "After his jingoistic prediction [of a U.S. win] ... have we finally heard the last of ABC's Brent Musburger as a serious player in sports broadcasting?" (Baltimore SUN, 6/23). WORLD CUP NOTE: ABC's Gillian Findlay reported on Iranians' reactions to their World Cup win over the U.S.: "There was no gloating, no 'Down with America.' In fact, the only sour note came in a message from the country's supreme spiritual leader, who called the Americans arrogant opponents. ... It was, however, somewhat of a struggle to get our report past the censors" (ABC, 6/22). CBS's David Letterman, to his audience: "Ladies and gentlemen, please settle down. You sound like an Iranian sports bar." More Letterman: "I watched the game, and it's kind of aggravating, ain't it? And I'll tell you the worst part. It was embarrassing how Iran used the big soccer match to promote their new fall TV shows" ("Late Show," CBS, 6/22).