New Polling Shows Americans Really Want Biennial World Cup — I’d Like To Speak To The Manager

Do American soccer fans really want a World Cup every two years?

As FIFA continues to float the idea of a biennial men’s World Cup — bucking nearly a century of norms to hold the tourney twice as often — most everyone with any sort of stake in the beautiful game has come out against the idea. And yet, we continue to see polling data suggesting soccer fans actually want a World Cup every two years. 

On Wednesday, Morning Consult released new data showing American fans are among the most eager for a biennial World Cup, with 61 percent of respondents favoring such a drastic change. I want to know who these people are.

Morning Consult polled 400-789 people who self-identified as soccer fans from 12 of the most populous nations — though curiously not China — asking whether they oppose or support changing the men’s World Cup from every four years to every two years. It was a fairly straightforward poll, not fraught with questionable techniques as FIFA’s own polling in September was. While the polling size was small, it produced a margin of error of just plus-or-minus 3-5 percent. 

Countries in Western Europe mostly opposed the move (though not by as much as you might expect) while other nations — chief among them India and the U.S. — supported the move. Just 15 percent of Americans oppose a biennial men’s World Cup, easily the lowest of the countries polled.

The initial thought looking at the polling data is that traditional soccer-playing countries want to stick with tradition, and non-traditional soccer-playing countries don’t care about tradition. Germany, France, the UK and Italy all oppose a biennial men’s World Cup while India, the U.S., Canada and Australia favor it. But Brazil and Argentina both had more fans in support of a biennial men’s World Cup.

The fans polled from Japan, meanwhile, appear to actually be from the Neutral Planet in Futurama, neither supporting nor opposing the idea. 

Morning Consult tried to make sense of the results by saying American soccer fans are often younger (without sharing the ages of said fans), then making the assumption younger people are more willing to move away from tradition. Every American soccer fan I’ve ever spoken to thinks a biennial men’s World Cup is the dumbest shit ever, but maybe I need to start hanging out around more kids? (No, no I don’t; keep your Roblox and Fortnite to yourselves thanks.) Young people have a lot of bad ideas — my nephew wants to eat ice cream for dinner every day — but does that mean we should listen to them?

Unfortunately, we don’t know more about those polled other than they self-identify as soccer fans. No data was provided as to the ages of these fans nor how closely they actually follow the game. I know a lot of people who tune in to watch the World Cup when it’s on TV every four years but otherwise don’t pay any attention to soccer; are those people considered soccer fans? Of course they’d want World Cups played more frequently.

Despite every soccer fan The18 has spoken to not wanting a biennial men’s World Cup, we keep seeing polling data that suggests otherwise. While polling is a science, it isn’t entirely precise. Americans remember Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election despite polling that suggested more Americans favored Hillary Clinton (though to be fair, Clinton comfortably won the popular vote). While we may find it hard to believe these biennial World Cup poll results — as many found it hard to believe Donald Trump won a presidential election — there are clearly people who support a biennial men’s World Cup.

Alas, none of this polling has any real lasting merit because FIFA doesn’t even know what a biennial men’s World Cup would look actually like. Until then, it’s hard to really say whether a biennial men’s World Cup would actually be any good. You’ll note I keep making a point to say “men’s World Cup” and that’s because FIFA has completely ignored the Women’s World Cup in all of its clamoring for a biennial World Cup. By playing a men’s World Cup during even-numbered years and major continental competitions (Euros, Copa América, Gold Cup) in odd-numbered years, there are no years to give the women’s game the focus it deserves. 

Worse yet, FIFA continues to pump out ideas for a biennial men’s World Cup that are absolute batshit, such as suggesting nations cannot qualify for consecutive World Cups. 

The truth is, a biennial men’s World Cup faces a massive uphill battle to actually come to fruition. UEFA and many of its members have threatened to quit FIFA or boycott a biennial World Cup, and a World Cup without Europe would be one few people want to watch. It’d be like holding the Champions League without English clubs.

A biennial men’s World Cup would make more money for FIFA, which has promised more money to smaller nations that don’t have any chance at ever qualifying for a World Cup. But UEFA has said its clubs would be adversely affected by the increase in World Cups. There’s a finite amount of advertising and sponsorship money in the world, and just because there are more frequent World Cups doesn’t mean the entire soccer world would see benefit. 

Personally, I’m not against changing things. I think world football would benefit from more outside-the-box thinking, such as a European Super League that isn’t so exclusive or Liga MX and MLS merging. I just don’t think fucking over women’s soccer is the right outside-the-box idea. 

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