Watching this World Cup in the US has been a lot like watching earlier ones in England, as American fans have learnt to fear Germany, to despise Cristiano Ronaldo, and to drink large amounts of beer. In Brazil, Team USA’s travelling supporters have even been accused of rowdy behaviour.
At lunchtime on Tuesday this week Tom’s Urban bar in downtown Los Angeles was packed with fans being entertained by Brazilian carnival dancers and drummers as they waited for Team USA’s clash with Belgium to begin.
This classic American sports bar is mere yards from the home of the LA Lakers and the LA Kings. Recently, when the Kings played the New York Rangers in the final of ice hockey’s Stanley Cup, the game drew six million viewers. The concluding tie of the NBA Finals last month attracted 18 million. But when Team USA played Portugal 10 days ago, the audience was 25 million. Remarkably, Americans are beginning to call “soccer” by its proper name.
“There’s way more exposure to football in the US now,” says Tejal, a 36-year-old fan who works in the hospitality industry. “So people are far more interested in the game.” Tejal’s law student friend Charles, also 36, skipped class to watch the match.
As the Belgian goals went in, heads were clutched, groans let out and the crowd began to come to terms with its team’s inevitable fate. But there is one English experience that the Americans are yet to suffer: they have never gone out of a World Cup on penalties.