By Logan Hancock: @logan_hancock
Producer & Editor of social media video content
Member of Ball State Sports Link
Here’s a not so little secret for you.
The most popular sport in the world by far is soccer, and it’s really not even close. I know most Americans don’t like to agree or believe in this statement, but the numbers don’t lie.
Soccer has an estimated 3.5-billion fans around the world. To put this number into perspective, the NFL only has an estimated 400-million fans.
For some reason unknown to myself, I have found that most Americans don’t share the world’s intense love for the game of soccer.
“But, I watch the World Cup,” I’ve heard a countless number of my friends say.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. That doesn’t count. Everyone watches the World Cup. It’s the worlds largest sporting event without a doubt. I would hope that you are paying attention to the World Cup.
However, whenever I talk about the Columbus Crew, or anything related to Major League Soccer (American professional soccer) most people respond with “what’s that?”
Now I will say that the MLS is slowly gaining more and more popularity each season. Extended coverage from ESPN and Fox Sports has allowed many more fans (like myself) to watch MLS action live.
In addition, soccer athletes around the world are finally starting to take the MLS seriously.
Talented soccer stars like David Beckham, Robbie Keane, and recently Didier Drogba have transferred their talents to the league, and as a result more American soccer fans are starting to take notice.
Despite all of the MLS’ progress, the sad truth is that the MLS gets little to no media coverage a majority of the time.
It’s time to start giving the league the respect it deserves.
I grew up playing soccer, and I have a passion and love for the sport. Soccer is simply misunderstood and under appreciated in the United States.
I mean come on, 3.5 billion people around world can’t all be wrong can they?
The 2015 MLS Cup is being played on Sunday, December 6th at 4pm ET on ESPN. The Columbus Crew are taking on the Portland Timbers, and I personally want you to watch the match.
Here are 3 reasons you should watch the 2015 MLS Cup.
Not enough action for you? Think again.
A lot of people think that because soccer is such a low scoring game, that it’s not an exciting sport. To that I say nonsense. I was at a Columbus Crew playoff game two weeks ago when they played the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern-Conference Finals. The game was sold out and 20,000 passionate fans were screaming and cheering at the top of their lungs in 30 degree weather. The whistle sounded to begin of the match, and the Crew started off with possession of the ball.
Count to nine in your head really quick.
That’s how long it took Columbus Crew’s Justin Meram to score the fastest goal in the history of the MLS playoffs. You can check out the crazy goal yourself below.
Needless to say, the crowd went absolutely wild (including myself). How’s that for some action?
Don’t blink, you might miss something.
2. Kei Kamara, Kei Kamara, KEI KAMARA
As a Columbus Crew fan, I can’t say enough about forward and goal scoring specialist Kei Kamara. His career path to being one of the best soccer players in the MLS has been anything but a freshly paved road. Kamara is finally enjoying the most successful season of his career after being bounced around from team to team since 2006.
He is not only a phenomenal athlete, but a phenomenal human being. The MLS recently awarded him with the humanitarian of the year award for all of his off the field giving and charity work.
Simply put, he is literally impossible not to like. Oh yeah, did I mention he also led the MLS in goals scored (25) this season?
If you want goals, goals, and more goals, Kei Kamara is the guy for you. There is nothing Kamara can’t do with the ball in his possession on the pitch. Standing at 6’3, he towers over defenses and poses as an absolute matchup nightmare on corner kicks. The majority of his 25 goals this season came on headers because of his unfair height advantage. The man cannot be stopped, and he’s hungry for the first MLS Cup of his 9-year career.
They call him “Special K” in Columbus, and he sure is special. If you want to watch one of the best athletes in the country right now do his thing, then the MLS Cup is a must watch for you.
Go ahead and watch in awe, all 25 of his beautifully crafted goals below.
22 goals in the regular season. 3 in the Audi #MLSCupPlayoffs.
More to come in #MLSCup? https://t.co/9ARF2YH9WF
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) December 1, 2015
3. Late Game Heroics, Clutch Goals, and Nail-biting finishes.
The MLS playoffs this year have been filled to the brim with all three of the things I have listed above. As a sports fan, what more can you ask for?
Both the Timbers and the Crew had their fair share of “OH MY GOSH, DID YOU SEE THAT?” moments in the Eastern and Western-conference Finals.
The Crew captured the Eastern-Conference Championship trophy by a matter of inches. When I say inches, I literally mean inches.
As the clock winded down on leg-2 of the playoff match-up against the New York Red Bulls, the Crew were mere minutes away from booking their ticket to the MLS Cup to play the Portland Timbers.
However, the New York Red Bulls had something to say about that. In the 93rd (4 minutes of stoppage time) minute of the match the Red Bulls’ Anatole Abang headed in a clutch goal to cut the Crew’s lead to just 2-1 on aggregate.
Not even a minute later, Red Bulls’ forward Bradley Wright-Phillips found himself inside the box with a chance to send the match into overtime. He soared into the air as the soccer ball made contact with his head. The ball rolled right past Crew goal keeper Steve Clark and slowly started to make its way into the net.
The soccer gods had other plans.
The ball grazed against the right side of the post as Kei Kamara quickly kicked the ball out of bounds.
Talk about a nail-biting finish. I couldn’t believe what I had seen. I had to watch it on replay over and over to understand what had just happened.
You can be the judge, check out the nail-biting eastern conference finish for yourself below.
Phew. That was a close one.
The other team in the MLS Cup on Sunday, the Portland Timbers, found themselves in a similar nail-biting situation in their second leg of the Western-Conference Finals.
The Timbers were up 4-3 on aggregate with just two minutes of stoppage time left in the match against FC Dallas.
Dallas had all the momentum in the world, as they fired a shot at Timbers’ goal keeper Adam Kwarasey that whizzed just to the right of the goal post.
Mere seconds later, Timbers’ forward Lucas Melano decided that the match was just a little too close for his comfort, and he wanted a one way ticket to the MLS Cup.
Melano dribbled masterfully through the Dallas defense and made the goal keeper look absolutely silly while tapping the ball into the back of the net to seal the Timbers’ 5-3 victory and spot in the Cup.
Check out Melano’s mind boggling footwork below.
There you go. I have made my case, and I promise that you won’t be disappointed.
Sit back relax and watch the MLS Cup on Sunday in between NFL football. Try something new and different for once.
Hey, who knows, you just may fall in love with it like I did.