Blog: Guzan on World Cup being "turning point" for US soccer
Paul Brown assesses interest stateside with Brad Guzan.
28th Jun 2014
Blog: Guzan on World Cup being "turning point" for US soccer


Brad Guzan believes this World Cup could well turn out to be a "major turning point" in the popularity of soccer in the USA.

Historically, of course, soccer has been well below football, baseball and basketball on the agenda of sports-mad Americans.

But Chicago-born Guzan feels a wave of interest like never before engulfing the collective consciousness of fans across the pond.

Guzan is in the team bubble at present, with the USA preparing for their huge last 16 clash with Belgium on Tuesday.

But he's already seen ferocious fervour from red, white and blue supporters in the stands in Brazil.

And scanning through social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram before and after games against Ghana, Portugal and Germany, Guzan has witnessed, first-hand, unprecedented appetite for the sport he himself treasures so dearly.

He said: "The support has just been unbelievable - phenomenal.

"I think it all started to really turn for the better in 2010 when we got out of our group and into the knockout stages in South Africa.

"The buzz and the excitement from that World Cup was huge back in the US.

"This time, it's taken off much more. The support from the fans has been phenomenal.

"Our network of supporters - the American Outlaws as they're called - chartered three massive 737 planes from the States to come down and watch our matches here in Brazil.

"At each game we have had 15,000-20,000 American supporters cheering us on.That's been huge.

"But then there's been the media interest too. All the mainstream outlets have got into the World Cup drama and excitement. That's been great to see also

"Then there's the obvious social media buzz, which has been superb too. It's just been incredible.

"Every now and then down the years, if we've picked up a big win, we've had support from football-loving celebrities.

"But this year, the last couple of weeks, it's been football-fever all over the country.

"And the A-Listers I have seen - the likes of President Obama, Justin Timberlake, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Will Ferrell, Andre Agassi and Hulk Hogan just to name a few - have really taken a huge liking to it and it's been truly tremendous. It's not been lost on the guys in the locker room"

Obama

 

Agassi

 

Empire State

 

Timberlake

His opinion of growth across the pond is well founded when you look at the figures stateside.

The USA's first two World Cup group games broke records.

The victory over Ghana attracted the biggest US television audience for a football match - 16m people.

The draw with Portugal smashed that record with an average of 24.7m viewers.

You must take into account that the concluding game of the NBA Finals drew an audience of 18m as the San Antonio Spurs beat the Miami Heat, while Major League Baseball's hallowed World Series averaged just short of 15m viewers.

This week Google searches for US Soccer outstripped NFL searches for only the second time in history, while Clint Dempsey's goal against Portugal is the second biggest Twitter moment of the World Cup so far with 305,000 tweets per minute.

The latest match - the clinching encounter with Germany - had 1.7m online streams.

In comparison, there were 1.1m for the Superbowl.

Fans

Guzan believes the interest generated in soccer so far can continue to grow and propel the sport into the mainstream.

But he is more than aware that success for the team is paramount.

He continued: "I know the last game against Germany was being played during the work day - but I also know the letter that Jurgen Klinsmann tweeted, calling for US bosses let their employees stop to watch the match, worked a treat.

"The fact that so many let their guys watch us in action instead of sitting at a desk shows that the passion for the sport is really, truly there and they want to be a part of this global event.

"The fans wanted to see us get out of the group, which we did and now they want to watch us create something special and make history.

Klinsmann

"I think this could be the major turning point for soccer in the US. I really do.

"When these big tournaments come around, when you are on the world stage, people in the country start to look at the sport and think 'I can really get into this.'

"It's then about enjoying seeing us take on the likes of Germany, Portugal and Belgium and then looking for a good experience at MLS games.

"I think they might start going to an MLS game and get right behind their "team" in their specific area of the country.

"I believe this run of ours can obviously add fans to the sport.

"We know it won't happen overnight. It will still take time. It won't happen over one summer. It will build year after year.

"What's most important - one of the most vital aspects - in this evolution is the US team consistently doing something special on the world stage. That will undoubtedly help it grow.

"This tournament so far has been a big step for the sport in the US."

Guzan

The USA have certainly shown their "class, commitment and courage", progressing through the "group of death" - featuring Ghana, Portugal and Germany - and firing through into the knockout stages.

Goalkeeper Guzan wasn't particularly surprised by this advancement because he knows all about the "mental strength" of the players in the team.

He added: "It was always going to be a difficult challenge. But the key aspect of being American is our belief. We always think positively about our chances. That's part of our makeup.

"We knew the first match against Ghana was going to be huge. We were able to get the three points late on.

"The result against Portugal was very decent although obviously the way it finished was frustrating at the time.

"It put us in a strong position going into the last game to advance. We were thankfully able to do that.

"That speaks volumes about our mentality - and the attitude in which we approached the so-called 'group of death'. When you have that belief, over 90 minutes, anything is possible.

"I have read snippets since then that anything else is a bonus for the US in this tournament. But we feel we can be a surprise package. Let's wait and see."

No doubt countless US fans will be eager to find out.

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