Foreign sports flourish in America

James Ho, Staff Writer

Many Americans are familiar with sports such as football, basketball and baseball, since these sports dominate the headlines in the United States. In recent years, however, many sports formerly unpopular in the United States such as soccer and rugby have risen in popularity.

Soccer, the most played sport in the world, in the past hasn’t been popular in the United States. It has been gaining traction as a result of major competitions such as the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 UEFA European Championship. Additionally, many sports fans are becoming interested in international soccer, especially the prominent soccer leagues in England and Spain.

“The [league] that’s on television the most is definitely the English Premier League with the big name clubs such as Manchester United and Chelsea,” junior Yousef Latif said. “I personally enjoy watching Manchester City play.”

Another reason people are beginning to watch soccer more often is to witness the notorious rivalries. These rivalries match some of America’s greatest such as the Duke Blue Devils vs. the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Boston Celtics vs. the Los Angeles Lakers.

The most notorious ones includes the infamous El Clásico with F.C. Barcelona facing Real Madrid and the recently ignited rivalry between Manchester City and Manchester United.

“Soccer rivalries are some of the best in sports,” Latif said. “The rivalries are often really intense with a lot of pride on the line because there is so much history behind it.”

More sport fans are becoming interested in international soccer, and it is growing in America as well. Major League Soccer, the U.S. soccer league, is expanding to become an elite soccer league. With the league’s expansion, more international stars such as Steven Gerrard of LA Galaxy and David Villa of New York City FC are coming to the United States.

“[American soccer] has [become] bigger over the past few years. It is still growing,” sophomore Alexander Farjadi said. “It still has a long way to go before it catches up to the [Premier League], but it has a bright future here.”

Although soccer is still an unpopular sport to watch professionally, a sport that is even more rare to watch is rugby. It is a sport that is popular in Great Britain and Australia, but when Americans hear the word “rugby,” many consider it to be just like football only less entertaining.

“Rugby is kind of an underrated sport here,” senior Josh Nguyen said. “It’s really similar to football with its physicality and the intensity.”

The sport has been gaining popularity in the United States, especially when rugby was announced to return to the 2016 Summer Olympics at Rio. The re-inclusion stirred American interest, as the U.S. men’s rugby team had the opportunity to defend its gold medal from nearly a century ago in 1924.

“Even though [the U.S. men’s rugby team] came up short in terms of winning gold, I thought that their performance definitely helped put rugby on the map,” Nguyen said.

In years past, soccer and rugby were sports that Americans didn’t really care about; now that there is more attention to these sports, they are starting gain more American fans than ever.