My USA vs. Japan “Prediction”

Tomorrow the FIFA Women’s World Cup comes to an end with the grand final between the USA and Japan. I’m here to give you my prediction but it has little to do with the final score. It’s about how American media will treat this match in the days ahead.

I believe the US will win in a hard-fought contest, and the media will turn this side into the media darlings over the next few months. As much as the American women have been sensational to watch and have shown to be the best team in this tournament, their time in the spotlight will sadly be short-lived.

You see, once again American media has suddenly stumbled upon the USA women. Have you ever heard so much about Abby Wambach in your life? Everyday I’ve heard guys on Around the Horn, SportsCenter, PTI, etc. shout that “Wambach is a beast!” as if it came out of nowhere. Wambach is the team’s 3rd all-time leading scorer so I’m pretty sure she’s established. Once the interviews on all of the talk shows (filled with soccer know-nothings if not sports entirely) are done over the next few months you won’t hear her name until either the 2012 Olympics and then not again until the start of the 2015 Women’s World Cup. This is how soccer coverage works in the United States and this applies to the men, too.

The media will also beg the question “Is this the time when soccer breaks through in America?” for at least the umpteenth occasion in the last several years. They asked it when Landon Donovan scored against Algeria, the 2002 World Cup, probably David Beckham’s move to MLS, USA ’94, USA ’99 (Women’s WC) and they’ll ask it again in 2011. The short answer is “no”. For as much as an achievement it would be for the US Women to triumph in soccer again, it will do very little in the long-term for the growth of the sport here. Women’s Professional Soccer has all of one weekly game on Fox Soccer Channel and it won’t change any time soon. The last time the US won the World Cup the WUSA promptly folded a few years later. There just isn’t enough interest in women’s pro sports leagues to merit a rise in viewership. And the women’s team winning will not inspire people to watch MLS, either. The fact that Manchester United vs. Chelsea can air at 7:45 AM ET and outdraw a primetime MLS match during the NFL/College Football offseason tells you everything you need to know about domestic interest. We love to laud our winners and then drop them as soon as they show a little weakness in the next tournament.

Lastly, your media will hack into Pia Sundhage’s voicemail completely forget the sorry state of our men’s team. For the time being the women’s stellar performance is a great and much-needed distraction from Bob Bradley’s mess, but these folks are all about the feel-good stories and soon they’ll forget all about that CONCACAF Gold Cup wreck, losing to Spain 4-0, and the sheer existence of Jonathan Bornstein.

But that’s just me ranting, enjoy the game tomorrow no matter who you support. It would be a joy to see Japan win the World Cup not only as an underdog story but with all of the tragedy and destruction they suffered over the last few months with the earthquakes and tsunamis. I’m sure they are the sentimental favorites tomorrow and even as an American I would love to see them pull off one more memorable upset in this tournament.

Enjoy the game, folks.

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