Most of the readers here know by this point that I am a soccer fan. Now, I'm not going to tell you that I think soccer is better than American football. No, I still love American football and I'm sure I always will. I'm just going to tell you right now why soccer could be better than American football. And I'm not just talking about national sides (ie the World Cup), which is mostly what Americans are familiar with. I'm also talking about clubs and leagues, which, most Americans simply are not familiar with, but, if they were, would probably like soccer a whole lot more in general.
1.) It's worldwide.
People play soccer all over the world. Every year, concurrent with their domestic leagues, the top teams the previous year in the domestic leagues in Europe get to play in extracurricular competitions against teams from domestic leagues in other countries. The top level competition is known as the Champions League, the second-tier competition is known as the UEFA Cup. When the season starts, everybody has the goal of "playing in Europe next year," and the really good teams, who are already playing in Europe, have the goal of winning the whole thing. (That would be AC Milan, an Italian team, with a lot of players who were so luck as to win both the World Cup and the Champions League in the span of 12 months...)
Other federations have their own "leagues of leagues" championships - for instance, South American (CONMEBOL) has the Copa Libertadores and starting next year, North America (CONCACAF) will be revamping and starting its very own "Champions League", featuring our Houston Dynamo, starting later this year. And now that FIFA has gotten its act together, we also have Club World Cup which takes the champions of the champions and pits them against one another (Milan won that one last year, too).
Not only does being worldwide mean it's a sport where there truly is a "world champion" (as opposed to the NFL, and to a lesser extent, the NBA and MLB, ludicrously calling themselves, "World Champions" on the notion that since no one else plays these sports, then the US domestic champion must be the best in the world...) but it also means than a good player (or coach) can literally go play (or coach) for money anywhere in the world and not be looked at as an anomaly like this guy.
2.) Every game counts.
The Tampa Bay Devil Rays are terrible and always seem to be. As are the Memphis Grizzlies and the Detroit Lions. And what incentive to any of these teams have to improve? They don't have to win a single game and they still get a share of their respective league's lucrative TV contracts and merchandising agreements. The fat cat American professional sports team owner doesn't have to spend any money on player salaries or fan accommodations if he doesn't want to and he still gets paid. But in soccer (the MLS notwithstanding), it doesn't work that way.
In every major soccer league in the world, the worst teams at the end of each season get sent down to the next lowest level and in turn get replaced by the best teams at that level who have earned a chance to move up. Generally speaking, if you're in the top level, you don't want to move down: 1.) the lower level leagues have no places in the international competitions, 2.) the money and television exposure is obviously not nearly as good (although in England it's still not bad), and 3.) perhaps worst of all, most of the really big name players almost always have out-clauses in their contracts that free them to go play elsewhere if the team is relegated and there clearly aren't going to be any other big-name stars wanting to come replace them. Relegation is a bad thing, but every season, someone MUST go down. Accordingly, the bottom of the standings (the "table" in football parlance), where teams are fighting to stay in the league for the next season, is often just as exciting as at the top, where teams are fighting to get one of the international spots. Newcastle United, my team, is struggling heartily right now to stay above the drop zone (the bottom three) and keeps inching closer each week. Yesterday's result was not a good development.
3.) Soccer season lasts 10 months!
Around the world, soccer season starts in August and ends in May or June, depending on whatever international competitions may be going on in any particular year. Compare that to college football, which MIGHT last 4 months if you're lucky, or the NFL which might last 5 months if you make the Super Bowl. Even the NBA and MLB only go 6 months. Soccer, on the other hand, is ALWAYS going on somewhere, and in fact, there is even a play-in tournament for the UEFA cup that starts in July, the Intertoto Cup, that exists solely to give people something to gamble on in July when there aren't any other games going on!
4.) Gambling is Encouraged!
Speaking of gambling, we all know here at IAG that the US is somewhat repressive when it comes to gambling laws, which is not at all the case in the rest of the world. Dr Fro has been to games in Europe and he has seen with his own eyes that bookmakers have booths IN THE STADIUM ITSELF and take action on all kinds of prop bets and wagers DURING THE GAME!!!. TV announcers in a soccer match will regularly refer to the posted odds on a game, and because the competition among bookmakers is so intense, you can do a lot better in soccer than just lines and totals. There are odds offered for individual scoring results, odds on who will score first, odds on penalties, and countless other things surrounding the games themselves and the season and activity beyond the games. You simply don't have this with American sports!