Butler: Presidential seal confirms there is triumph in defeat

Noel Butler
7/7/2014 9:34:17 AM
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"Clint, Tim?"

"Hello Mr. President, how's it going?"

The US World Cup campaign formally ended Wednesday with a cosy two minute chat on the phone between the President, the captain and America's latest superhero.

The team might not have scaled 2002's quarterfinal heights, but they leave Brazil with something not even Qatari petrodollars could buy.

They have changed the conversation with how old football perceives soccer's new frontier.

No one connected with the United States Soccer Federation could have dreamt that.  Or for that matter Major League Soccer.

Especially when you factor in they were drawn in a group with a nation that's made it through to 15 straight quarterfinal appearances, another still smarting from how extremely close they got in 2010 to finally become Africa's first ever semi-finalist and Ronaldo who proved in the playoffs one player could indeed carry a nation. How very American of him.

Bookies in London had the US at even money to finish bottom of the group. Defy those odds they certainly would.

It was one thing to target victory in their opening fixture and quite another, the manner in which they achieved it. Ghana should have been home and dry well before John Brooks Jr. popped up on the edge of the six-yard line in the 86th minute.

Then to discover afterwards Brooks had disclosed to a couple of team mates on the eve of the match he dreamt he'd score the winner was that Hollywood moment all of America could relate to - underlined by a visit to the victorious locker room by none other than Vice President Joe Biden.

On to the Amazon Rainforest and that much anticipated date with Ronaldo was next on the agenda. The drama that unfolded that particular prime time Sunday evening was watched by over 25 million.

To put that into a clearer sporting perspective last fall's World Series averaged just a shade over 15 million whilst the NBA Finals averaged 15.5 million.

Speaking to the beautiful game's growing stateside support that 25 million viewing audience represents a 20 per cent leap on the number which watched the US v England match at South Africa 2010.

Going into the tournament it was well established that outside of Brazilians, the US was the second largest ticket buying nation with close to 200,000 tickets purchased from US Zip codes.

What that figure didn't tell us was what percentage of those 196,000 were immigrants who would be in Brazil to cheer on their nation of birth.

That question was answered by the pictures we witnessed on match day and did not go un-noticed by the English media in attendance for US games.

Back home in the living rooms and pubs in cities right across the US it reinforced the message of soccer's growing appeal and allure.

Come Tuesday's round of 16-match against Belgium viewing parties stretched right across the MLS landscape. Fabled NFL stadiums Soldier Field and Cowboys Stadium drew crowds of 25,000 and 20,000 respectively. 

As Barrack Obama and his 200 strong staff settled in to watch the game at a White House viewing party workers across the country went on a collective dental appointment which according to Yahoo Finance would cost the US economy over $700 million.

These types of things were only supposed to happen in Asia, Europe or South America.
With the US's World Cup over, as MLS players return to their clubs and European based players finally get their delayed vacations now comes the hard work to ensure those part time fans become connected to soccer year round.

Just because someone will willingly don the stars and stripes in support of their nation doesn't mean they'll automatically transfer that emotional connection to Major League Soccer.

Certainly as in previous World Cup cycles MLS and its clubs will register an uptick at the box office and the merchandise store. This will be especially so for the clubs who had players who featured in Brazil.

A nice problem MLS faces will be keeping hold of the players whose stars shone in Brazil.

An entirely different one stems from yesterday's France v Germany quarterfinal. Listening into ESPN Radio a tweet was read out from a listener saying, "I'm enjoying your commentary whilst spraying my corn in Alabama.'

Last time I checked Alabama doesn't have an MLS franchise, and yet here was a soccer diehard listening on the radio whilst working on a Friday afternoon.

The defining image for me of the US World Cup wasn't a Tim Howard save, Demspey's or Julian Green's goals. Or even Jürgen Klinsmann berating the fourth official in his best Anglo-Saxon when only one minute was added to the end of extra time in the Belgium game. 

Instead it came from the twitter account of Major League Baseball.

"Looks like @ussoccer is the only thing that matters right now," was accompanied with various images from MLB Stadiums of players watching the big screens as they took in the action of the US v Belgium during batting practice ahead of that evening's MLB games.

Bill Clinton's Soccer Mom has evolved into Barrack Obama's Soccer Sophisticats.

TSN Radio is an official licensed radio broadcaster of the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ Brazil. Check for the broadcast schedule in your home town.

Noel Butler

Noel Butler

Noel Butler is an analyst for TSN's soccer coverage and his blog can be read on You can follow him on Twitter at and listen to his radio program oranges@halftime on TSN Radio 690 Montreal.


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