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Outback Observations: County sports may soon be dominated by futbol season

Traditionally fall sports are dominated by the prospect of football season, but based on growing trends it may be time to consider it futbol season as well.

More commonly known in the states as soccer though internationally celebrated as football or futbol, the name football is illogically associated here with our American version despite the feet almost never connecting with the ball. The sport of soccer/football has been growing faster in popularity in North America than any other sport, becoming one of the most common activities youth participate in since the 1980s thanks to heavy investment in local youth soccer programs identifying the game as great exercise for kids. This growth is overwhelmingly obvious here in Lake County, where over 200 kids have been participating in the AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) annually, Lakeview High School is funding soccer this fall and extensive fundraising has been ongoing all year to construct a proper soccer field to replace the barely functional makeshift utilization of the LHS baseball outfield as a soccer pitch.

While for many here in Lake County soccer may be considered a secondary sport behind the big four major professional leagues of MLB, NFL, NBA and the NHL, the growth of Major League Soccer, popularity of the World Cup, and development of youth soccer programs across the nation indicate soccer’s impending rise to match that of the traditional big four powers.

The great game is often considered the original modern sport, with its origins commonly traced to the 14th century in England, though historical evidence points to a game involving the dribbling of leather balls kicked into small nets played as far back as the Han Dynasty in China (2nd and 3rd centuries B.C.). Whatever its specific origins, the influence of it as the foundation leading to the evolution of nearly every popular sport since is undeniable, and the appetite for the game among fans around the world remains insatiable. The World Cup, held every four years, the most recent edition happening just last month in Brazil, is far and away the most watched event in the world. World Cup television ratings consistently far exceed that of the Olympics and Super Bowl combined as the most watched television events in history.

While the MLS may not be on par with the European leagues in talent or popularity, the noted bitter rivalry and popularity here in the northwest of the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders has often been called the greatest soccer experience in North America, providing a close resemblance to a European football match atmosphere. To the rest of the world football is a religion unto itself, while here it is seen by adults largely as a means to get the kids away from the TV for a bit and get some exercise. But not so for many youth, as current icons such as Ronaldo, Kaka`, Beckham, Rooney, Neymar, Özil and USA’s Landen Donavan carry nearly as much of a sports celebrity status as LeBron James or Peyton Manning. By the way, the biggest professional athlete contract in the world doesn’t go to Tiger Woods or Robinson Cano, it’s Lionel Messi, a soccer player (FC Barcelona – 8 yrs./$343,000,000).

Fact is, the soccer revolution is coming to this country, the youth have embraced the sport wholeheartedly far beyond a passing fad, and with time the game’s popularity will only grow further, both here in Lake County and across the nation.

The construction of the new soccer field in Lakeview will give rise to increased participation in the sport among youth players here, perhaps even spawning adult leagues much like softball.

While I love watching American football as much as anybody, the seasons are changing…Watch out football, futbol is coming.

-— Kurt Liedtke

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