Football or Futbol?

It happens every four years and is met with much anticipation and excitement in diverse countries around the world. I’m talking about the soccer (futbol) tournament, known as the World Cup, happening right now in Russia. Depending on where you live, the enthusiasm for this event can reach a fever pitch. In the United States, we can’t get enough of sports, from playing them ourselves to attending live events to creating an entire ritual around watching a game or match on TV our own living rooms or a local bar.

When you mention futbol (which sounds phonetically like football) in this country, however, you may be met with some confusion. More often than not, the image of oversized men in shoulder pads knocking each other down is what comes to mind. Despite having a fairly short season, football is the number one sport in the U.S., followed by basketball, baseball and ice hockey. Soccer, which occupies the number five spot, is quickly gaining in popularity. And, with the 2026 World Cup set to be hosted by a joint effort from Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, it’s possible the sport will move up the ranks even further.

If you happen to bring up futbol in Mexico, there’s never any confusion. It’s their national sport and many top-ranked athletes hail from Mexico. But it wasn’t always that way. Soccer was introduced in Mexico in the early part of the last century, but the country didn’t make too much of a mark on the world scene until the World Cup was held in Mexico City in 1970. This is when futbol officially took off in Mexico, and by the time they hosted the 1986 World Cup, their national team was far more competitive and the fan-base has skyrocketed.

The upcoming 2026 World Cup being a collaboration between the United States and our neighbors to the north and south can’t come at a better time. First, because the political climate has become so contentious, it’s critical that people have an opportunity to come together for a common goal. Sports have a way of allowing people to move past their differences and see others as teammates, not enemies. Second, as was demonstrated so well in Mexico, hosting the World Cup is likely to increase the popularity of soccer in the U.S., creating new opportunities for talented athletes. Let the futbol fever commence!

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