World Cup cultural differences
(Mike Allen)

If you didn’t know — and perhaps you genuinely did not — the World Cup is happening, and the United States team is doing… OK… despite not winning either of its first two matches.

Occurring once every four years, the World Cup is one of the biggest sporting events on Earth. Most major the countries participate (although Russia was banned this year), and football is the most widely popular sport on the planet. “Soccer” in the U.S., however, remains distantly down the pecking order in terms of what sports fans follow, but there are some signs it may be gaining steam.

Last week, I went to a local establishment for the U.S. team’s first game against Wales, which resulted in a 1-1 draw. I was pleasantly surprised at how many fans were in attendance cheering on our team. These were die-hards, loud and rowdy, and as a casual fan it was a fun experience to observe. As affirmed by a recent bar brawl between fans of England and Waltes, I can also now definitively say that soccer fans are the drunkest people to be around watching a sporting event. I loved it.

How we measure success is a key difference between Americans and most of the rest of the world when it comes to the World Cup. A 0-0 draw versus England on Friday afternoon elicited very different reactions among the two countries. England had been a heavy favorite and expected to win handily, but the U.S. held its own and neither team found the net. That stalemate Friday, while not worth many points in the standings, was seen as a big win for the U.S. team and a failure for England. The fanbases reacted accordingly. That’s right, a zero-to-zero tie can be worth celebrating in the World Cup, which is both a surface level look into the soccer world, and a deeper dive into how the point system works in this international tournament.

If you aren’t interested yet, that’s fine, but the United States has a big match 1 p.m. Tuesday against Iran. If the U.S. wins, our nation advances, so maybe I can entice you to watch with two words: no commercials.

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