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Commentary: US national soccer team at risk of losing popularity

Courtesy of MCT

Every four years a sporting event comes around that unites the world for a month of fun, friends and football – or as its known in the U.S., soccer.
The World Cup, coming again in 2014, is one of the most well-viewed sporting events in the world. With 32 countries worldwide taking part, it brings people together in a way no event besides the Olympics truly does.
Even in the United States, a country where soccer generally takes a backseat to football, basketball and baseball, the World Cup is an event that draws many sports fans and patriots.
But with an aging group of stars and a tight race in World Cup Qualifying, the status of United States soccer fandom could potentially hang in the balance this summer.
Without a Confederations Cup spot this summer to help boost its reputation, like in 2009 when the United States upset Spain, 2-0, qualifying remains the only outlet for U.S. national team fans to cheer on their team.
Sitting in third on goal differential in Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) World Cup Qualifying’s final round after three matches, the U.S. team’s qualification chances could be on the line when Mexico comes to Columbus on Sept. 10.
But much more than that, soccer’s growth over the past few years could also be at risk in this qualification cycle.
This is a country of short attention spans, and if a sport isn’t keeping its attention, it will move on. If the men’s national team fails to make it to Brazil in 2014 then it might be in danger of being forgotten.
In recent years, the U.S. has reached an unprecedented level of success, making it to six straight World Cups, dating back to 1990, but the team is a state of flux. Although stars like Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan are still with the team, many players are getting older and might be participating in one of their last World Cup cycles.
Without an attention-grabbing team, or even star, the U.S. could find itself in a precarious position of slipping into obscurity.
Fortunately for the U.S., this is all just speculation. It is too early in the final round of qualifying to start talking about what will happen if the goal of a World Cup isn’t achieved. But once September rolls around, who knows? A win against Mexico could mean everything to the team.
Will there always be a small group of loyal U.S. soccer fans? Of course, but for a sport that has been trying to break into the mainstream in this country for years, it is incredibly important not to slip up at one of its most vital moments.
The U.S. is set to continue its qualifying push on a road game against Jamaica on June 7.

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