Will soccer eclipse football?

Cristiano Rinaldo playing for Portugal in 2012.

Cristiano Rinaldo playing for Portugal in 2012.

Today’s thought comes from my editor-friend Bill and my Uncle Johnny. As they uttered the same thought to me within hours of and unbeknownst to each other, I took it as a sign from the sports gods that I should write about it.  And the thought is this:

We have seen the future in America, and it is soccer.

This because Manchester United and Real Madrid – perhaps the two best-known “football” teams in the world – faced off this past Saturday, Aug. 2, in a match at Michigan Stadium that drew more than 100,000 fans.

This is a sport in which you can see the passion and excitement on the faces of the players, which communicates to the fans, Bill told me. Not like a certain other sport in which the players wear helmets and are bent over much of the time.

Still soccer has a long way to go to supplant that other football game. For one thing, as this article makes clear, Major League Soccer doesn’t have the $49 million that Real Madrid has to pay Cristiano Ronaldo, the No. 1 player in the world. The money’s not there – yet.

But it could be, someday sooner rather than later, particularly as America becomes a more multicultural nation. Remember that it took a long time for football to supplant baseball as the No. 1 sport in this country, as Bill reminded me. In my forthcoming novel “In This Place You Hold Me,” the second in my series “The Games Men Play,” the New York Templars’ quarterback Quinn Novak starts out in his native Indonesia wanting to be baseball pitcher. But through circumstances beyond his control, he’s plunked down in the American heartland, where the Friday night lights shine brightest. There he learns that baseball may still be called “America’s pastime,” but football is its religion.

Now soccer has invaded one of football’s most hallowed temples, the home of the Wolverines.   That fancy footwork you see may very well be the future’s footfall.