But the United States is learning not only to enjoy soccer, but to love it as well. Saturday at Giants Stadium nearly 79,000 people attended the U.S. women's World Cup team's first match against Denmark. (Those in attendance witnessed a 3-0 U.S. win.)
I must admit that I am one of those American late comers. I only played soccer for one year as a youth and didn't return to the pitch until intramural competition in college.
I am a mere novice spectator who really never watched or enjoyed soccer until I got to the University. But the combination of minding a highly reduced miniature net at Carr's Field and the back-to-back World Cup years has swept me off my feet.
Besides it's never too late to fall in love.
Last summer's men's World Cup competition was thrilling and spectacular. Host France's run to the title was nothing short of remarkable.
Now in 1999, women's soccer takes center stage as the world's best are coming to America. So if you missed the men's showcase last summer, make sure to catch the women this summer.
Admittedly, the women's field does not have the depth of the men's World Cup--only four countries, the United States, China, defending champion Norway and Brazil, have realistic chances of victory.
Despite the lack of depth, you should watch as many of the matches as possible and especially the United States team. The U.S. is pure possession soccer. Accuracy. Control. Precision.
If you haven't seen the U.S. women's soccer squad in action, today's game is a great opportunity. Nigeria and America square off at Soldier Field in Chicago at 7:30 p.m. The contest can be viewed without commercial interruption on ESPN.
If the game itself isn't enough to convince you, then America's team is purely interesting. Mia Hamm is the all-time leading goals scorer in international history. Michelle Akers has Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS). Tiffany Roberts has 45 body piercings.
And to top it all off, the American players (and many of the world's players as well) are not a self-promoting group of athletes. Rather than focus attention on any single individual, the U.S. women point to the entire team, and to an even greater extent, women's soccer the sport.
One commercial, featuring the America's World Cup team, takes place in a dentist office. The dentist comes out of the back with one of the American players, announcing grimly that she needs two fillings.
Four other players in the lobby, including Hamm and Brianna Scurry, stand up one at a time, courageously stating, "Then I will have two fillings."
Every chance they get, the U.S. women teach young girls the fundamentals of soccer and the importance of teamwork. Giving back to the game they love is the best pay back they can give.
In today's sports-crazed time, big money and the search for a way to spell team with an "i" often portray a tarnished image of all sports. The women's World Cup and the U.S. team provide a fresh breath of air at just the right time.
It is that genuine love of their sport that has America falling head over heels in love with the U.S. women's soccer team and in turn soccer itself.
And the fans at Saturday's contest are a prime example of a fledgling love affair that can go anywhere but nowhere.
Kris Wright is a fourth-year CLAS student. Feedback can be sent to email@example.com