One question after U.S. team’s wonderful World Cup title game -- now what?

SHARE One question after U.S. team’s wonderful World Cup title game -- now what?
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Carli Lloyd celebrates after scoring her third goal Sunday night.

The participatory revolution has been upon us for years, with millions of American children now playing organized soccer. The viewing revolution, the one in which people take their disposable income and buy tickets to watch games, has been a no-go.

But after the United States demolished Japan 5-2 Sunday to capture its first women’s World Cup since 1999, it’s time to trot out the requisite question:

Is it go time?

And the requisite answer: Probably not.

If any single game could make the American public start watching women’s soccer, it would be this one. The U.S. roared to a 4-0 lead Sunday, with three of those goals coming from Carli Lloyd, who can expect to become a national star on the level of Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain’s bra. There was a gorgeous goal by Lloyd off a set piece within the first three minutes of the game. There was constant pressure on Japan’s goalkeeper.

But if you’re looking for a sentence to capture the bigger meaning of the U.S. victory, it would have to be, “Yay for us!’’

Soccer and patriotism hook up every four years, then go their separate ways — women’s professional soccer to its relative obscurity and patriotism to its next Toby Keith concert.

After a game like Sunday’s, the burden will be placed on the viewing public: What are you going to do about growing this sport, Mr. and Mrs. Consumer, now that your flag-waving arm is getting a rest?

If your answer is “nothing,’’ it’s quite all right. Because it’s really not up to you. It’s up to soccer to sustain whatever high you might have about the women’s game. It’s up to soccer to take whatever momentum comes out of Sunday’s blowout and translate it into more interest in the sport at the professional level.

The Red Stars are Chicago’s team in the National Women’s Soccer League. Their owner, Arnim Whisler, criticized the media in Sunday’s Chicago Tribune for a lack of coverage of the league. Whisler can swing his mallet of guilt all he wants, but it’s up to him to offer a product people want to buy. Here are the Red Stars’ attendance figures for its three games so far at Benedictine University’s 3,071-seat facility: 2,368, 2,136 and 1,402. Another game was stopped because of rain. The team’s biggest home crowd this season was 16,017 on May 9 against the Boston Breakers, and it came as part of a doubleheader with the Chicago Fire-Real Salt Lake game at Toyota Park.

Given that the Fire’s average attendance is 15,590 this season, it’s fair to speculate that the crowd didn’t show up to see the Red Stars that day.

Before you label me a soccer hater, know that I had a conversion last year during the men’s World Cup. Being in Italy at the time and looking at the game through locals’ eyes gave me a new appreciation for the sport. That led to watching English Premier League games on Saturday mornings. I like it.

That puts me about a million miles away from being an expert. But I do know it’s not the media’s job to increase attendance or raise interest in the game. That’s up to the people who own and market soccer teams. So far, they haven’t been selling the women’s game well enough. It’s either that, or it’s not that interesting. A sport rises and falls on its own merits or failings.

All the people trying to figure out how to monetize Sunday’s game need to strap on their thinking caps. Right now, thousands of girls who watched the U.S. victory want to be Lloyd when they grow up. Now, how to get them to want to watch Lloyd in person with the Houston Dash? The gap between playing the sport and watching the sport is huge.

Why is that?

Why is playing in a 1-0 game a lot more fun than watching a 1-0 game?

That’s what professional soccer needs to figure out. You can’t ride a wave if you don’t know what a surfboard is.

In the meantime:

We’ll know women’s soccer has arrived in the U.S. when we don’t have to take its temperature every two minutes.

We’ll know it has arrived when we’re no longer talking about the game’s standing in the sports world.

We’ll know it has arrived when the media isn’t being blamed for the sport’s lack of broad appeal.

We’ll know it has arrived when we’re talking about a 5-2 victory – and nothing else.


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