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OPINION - Soccer gets its close-up

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU) I'm blogging while watching the Brewers play baseball in a foreign country where a green carpet suffices for grass. So today's blog should clearly be about soccer.

Even if you're not a fan of the game, it's undeniable that 2014 is the year soccer became a major TV product. Soccer doesn't have nearly enough scoring for me, and I don't understand the subtleties of game strategy -- so it's always going to be a marginal sport for me. But the trend is moving the other way. And I can see why. This year's World Cup had three-times the viewership of hockey's Stanley Cup finals (15.9-million to 6-million).

Consider: the Hispanic population is 7-million larger since the last World Cup. and is up nearly 11-percent in a scant four years. Soccer is a national obsession in practically every country of their ancestors. This is also the World Cup where soccer kids of the 80s and 90s came of age. They're in their 30s and 40s now, and were just as likely to be playing tiny-tykes soccer as Little League when they were kids. Now they're old enough to appreciate the skill and athleticism that's on display in Brazil.

That's not to say soccer doesn't have its problems. The TV pan shot still doesn't capture the footwork and individual talent of the players. Soccer is also not advertising-friendly, with no natural breaks in the action for commercials. But if there's an audience, there's a way. And this year's World Cup tells us that there is an appetite for soccer.

Chris Conley

IMAGE: Belgium's Vincent Kompany (C, red) shakes hands with Jermaine Jones of the U.S. after their 2014 World Cup round of 16 game at the Fonte Nova arena in Salvador July 1, 2014. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci via wsau.com