World Cup becoming a hit in community

The FIFA World Cup is the most watched sporting event on the planet and is still growing in popularity all over the world, including the local area.

Marietta College men’s soccer coach Joe Bergin held a youth soccer camp this week and the 2014 World Cup was the talk of the camp. Some of the kids were even sporting the jerseys of their favorite countries. Bergin, who graduated from MC in 1986, pointed out that things were substantially different when he was younger.

“You could talk to 100 people back in ’86 and 99 of them wouldn’t be able to tell you anything about the World Cup,” Bergin said. “That has changed tremendously in almost 30 years. The game has grown in this town.”

So what has caused that growth?

“I think the game itself in the U.S. has gotten significantly more popular because you have so much of it on T.V.,” Bergin explained. “It’s just a natural growth and people are interested in the game. There is so much youth playing the game in this part of the state that it’s getting more popular. It’s a good thing for the game and a good thing for the community.”

Logan Bailey, 14 of Parkersburg, attended the camp this week and said he follows the World Cup very closely. He’s recorded most of the matches and has even stayed at some of his friends’ houses to watch.

In a country where football, basketball and baseball have been the main sports seemingly forever, soccer is rapidly making a name for itself and doesn’t appear to be going away.

“(Soccer) is a sport that’s basically taking over,” Bailey said. “Before it wasn’t so popular but now a lot more people are starting to get into playing it.”

Fellow camper Ella Keffer, 10 of Marietta, donned a United States jersey Thursday, the final night of camp. She said she tuned in to the United States’ thrilling 2-1 victory over Ghana Monday.

“I thought that was pretty awesome because a sub scored in the 86th minute,” Keffer said.

She was referring to U.S .substitute John Brooks, who powered a header into the back of the net to break a 1-1 tie in the final minutes of the match. It was the first goal ever by a U.S. sub in a World Cup match. That kind of magical finish by the Americans did nothing to hurt the popularity of the sport in the country.

Now, the focus will be on their next match Sunday against Portugal. The Americans are hoping for at least a draw to increase their chances of advancing to the knockout round, but the loss of forward Jozy Altidore to a strained left hamstring will make things slightly more difficult, especially with phenom Christiano Ronaldo expected to play for Portugal. Portugal is coming off a brutal 4-0 loss to the Germans.

“Portugal is gonna play desperate,” Bergin said. “If the U.S. plays within themselves and doesn’t give up too many gaps in the back, certainly three points (a win) is not out of the question. I think one point (a tie) would be a great result to set yourself up going into the final game with a chance to qualify.”

It appears the U.S. has a great chance to get to the final 16, but from there, it gets tougher.

“I don’t see them getting out of the round of 16, or the quarterfinals if they’re lucky,” Bailey said.

Bailey listed Netherlands, Belgium and Italy as teams that could contend for the championship.

The United States’ matchup against Portugal is scheduled for 6 p.m. on ESPN Sunday. You can be sure that all eyes, even locally, will be tuned in.