You couldn’t get into Cavanaugh’s Rittenhouse and Headhouse, Fado, Tir Na Nog, Misconduct, Brauhaus Schmitz, O’Neals and several others

By Mary Cunningham

Was the World Cup popular in the United States?

The numbers aren’t in yet for television ratings, though it appears Univsion didn’t even better than ESPN, if that seems possible.

The big winners locally were the handful of soccer bars, especially in Philly.

You couldn’t get into Cavanaugh’s Rittenhouse and Headhouse, Fado, Tir Na Nog, Misconduct, Brauhaus Schmitz, O’Neals and several others.

The United States men’s soccer team gave its fans — old ones and millions of new ones — an exhilarating ride in the World Cup.

The squad defied the odds and survived the so-called group of death, aptly named because the three other teams in that bracket — Germany, Portugal and Ghana — were considered favorites by many to ensure the United States didn’t advance out of the group-stage round.

But the U.S. fought through and made it to the second round, an elimination round, where their dreams were dashed by Belgium in a 2-1 game that went into overtime.

The U.S. men’s national soccer team fell to Belgium in the knockout round of the World Cup. But will their run help popularize soccer in America?

The team’s showing was exceptional, and so was the number of Americans who tuned in to watch and followed along on social media, often offering views about a sport that is not exactly America’s pastime.

As the Associated Press pointed out, the last time the U.S. played in a World Cup in Brazil, “just one American reporter was on hand, using vacation time and paying his own way. Sixty-four years later, about 100 credentialed U.S. media members are covering the tournament — and that doesn’t even include staffers from the networks broadcasting the games.”

Whether American soccer advocates can parlay this into something bigger remains to seen. Hopes have arisen and been crushed before. While millions of children in the United States are involved and even passionate about soccer, the world’s most popular sport has had trouble sustaining that success on the professional level in this country.

The naysayers tend to trot out the same old arguments, mainly that there is not enough scoring in the game. But anyone watching these World Cup games can see the sheer excitement in low-scoring affairs, when two teams are evenly matched or when one gets superb goalkeeping, as the United States did against Belgium.

U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard made save after save in the final match but was finally beaten in the third minute of extra time. Belgium added a goal shortly after, but, true to its World Cup form, the United States didn’t go quietly. Nineteen-year-old Julian Green became the youngest American ever to score a Word Cup goal, and the U.S. nearly tied the game with time winding down. But it was not to be.

Nevertheless, with this strong World Cup showing, the United States clearly gains respect in the sport and moves closer to the ultimate goal of winning it all. It will happen one year; the next chance will be four years from now in Russia. Wouldn’t that be something?

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