This summer is proving how popular soccer is, not just soccer in Portugal and other countries where the game has traditionally been played, but also in neophyte soccer nations such as the U.S.
While the European Championships are being played in France, there’s been soccer in the USA with a twist. Copa America, the championship of South America decided to have its 100-year anniversary tournament, its “centenario,” in the U.S. The tournament so far has been wildly successful, with huge crowds and upsets of traditional soccer powers such as Brazil and Uruguay.
While the U.S. is relatively new to the game of soccer, at least on a large scale, it has been the top sport in many European and South American countries for more than a century. Organized soccer has been played in England since 1848, when the first rules of the game were formed at Cambridge University in 1848. Other countries have been playing for a long time as well. Soccer in Portugal has been around since 1875, and Italy’s national football association was formed in 1898.
International football in the form of the World Cup has not been around nearly as long, having begun in 1930 with the first World Cup in Uruguay. The home team won the championship over Argentina. Despite being thought of as a newbie in the soccer world, the U.S. actually finished third in the 1930 World Cup. That result remains the highest finish by any nation outside of Europe or South America.
These days, the World Cup continues to be dominated by teams from Europe and South America. Germany won the last World Cup in Brazil, which was the first time a European country won the cup outside of its own hemisphere. Teams typically do better when the cup is on their own continent. Host countries, even ones without a strong national team, usually do well when they host, although South Africa failed to advance to the knockout round when it hosted in 2010.