As World Cup kicks off, Fox hopes America still tunes in
MOSCOW — As crowds for the World Cup pour into Russia, the U.S. team is a world away. The planet’s most popular sporting event kicks off today in Moscow as the host country faces Saudi Arabia, though the American men’s national team will not take part in the tournament for the first time since 1986 after an embarrassing loss to Trinidad and Tobago in October.
Though the team is missing, t he American soccer apparatus, including the U.S.’s licensed World Cup broadcaster Fox Sports, has come to Moscow and hopes that those back home tune in. When: Through July 15 Where: Russia Opening game: Russia vs. Saudi Arabia, today, 11 a.m., at Moscow TV: Chs. 45, 5
“From a personal perspective and from a business perspective it’s disingenuous for us to say that the U.S. not being here doesn’t matter. It matters it was ultimately a failure,” said Alexi Lalas, a former star of the national team and analyst.
“But there is no other country in the world that is more fit to embrace the World Cup without the home team because of diversity, because of the connections that we have.”
And even though the U.S. team didn’t qualify, American fans have bought the second-most tickets of any country after Russia — almost 90,000.
In New York, fans also have a list of options for watching the festivities that resembles the city’s United Nations headquarters, with bars, restaurants and cultural centers all hosting watch parties to support teams from Argentina to Tunisia.
American interest in soccer generally surges around the World Cup, including the women’s game where the U.S. dominates and won in 2015.
But with no U.S. men’s team to root for, the question remains — which other country deserves Americans’ support?
“Of course Mexico,” said Alejando Alamilla, a 32-year-old American citizen who lives in Florida but was in Moscow to support his native country ahead of a match against Germany on Sunday.
“Because Mexico and the U.S. have so many ties and there are so many Mexicans in the U.S.”
Indeed, on Wednesday FIFA awarded the 2026 World Cup to a joint North American bid, meaning that the U.S, Mexico and Canada will together welcome visitors from around the world in eight years.
Alamilla, wearing a cowboy hat and his Mexican jersey, was one of dozens of impromptu emissaries who gathered near the tourist center of Red Square, where within the span of 10 minutes Peruvian fans were singing, Iranians were dancing in a circle and Egyptians were photobombed by a man who opened up his jacket to reveal a Brazil flag.
“There are Americans here, but they are not cheering as loud. If America was coming I would have brought my American flag too,” Alamilla said.
For those without ethnic ties who are looking to pick a team, Lalas says that “usually the team will pick you.”
“There is some surprise in every single World Cup that has happened. A surprise player. A surprise country,” said Tony Meola, a former national team goalkeeper and Fox analyst.
Meola remembers cheering on Italy to victory as a teenager in 1982, when the U.S. also did not qualify. “If you watched the U.S. team you’re a soccer fan, and if you don’t, then watch and wait for that moment.”