10 Reasons Why Soccer is the World’s Favorite Sport

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Fans Have a Blast

South African fans enjoy hosting the 2010 FIFA Men's World Cup. Photo by GEPA Pictures/US Presswire

Soccer is called "the beautiful game," one of the few games which attract worldwide attention and participation. Just as most people recognize the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat, clubs such as Manchester United and Barcelona have strong fan bases outside their countries. Ask a foreign sports fan about most MLB or NHL teams and they likely have little or no knowledge of them. Ask the same fan about most top-flight clubs in the major European leagues and the reaction likely will be positive.

For most people, the love of soccer begins at the grassroots level, from the youth-recreational levels in which they played or watched, through the hometown clubs in the lower professional levels, to the top-flight clubs. It often culminates at the national level, where pride in "our boys" and "our ladies" are sacrosanct.

There are its detractors — often in America — who shout lame excuses as bases for their argument: the players aren't athletes like American athletes, it's only a matter of kicking the ball around with very little scoring, and not every match has a winner. They miss the beauty, however, of a field player working through defenders to take a through ball or a goalkeeper lunging to stop a shot.

While soccer in America has been strong at the high school and collegiate levels in recent decades, professional soccer has had its starts and stops. Major League Soccer, a steady presence since the late 1990's, has given Americans a taste of the game's beauty. It's also brought the sport some equal footing with the major sports as it's given younger players a dream of someday advancing past the school levels.

Now, 10 of the many reasons why soccer is the world's favorite sport.

Connect with J.J. Zucal on Twitter @BriereBear (as in Daniel Briere of the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers).

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It Doesn't Take Forever

An Australian match enters second-half stoppage time. Photo by frigginawesomeimontv/flickr

The late George Carlin once said, "Baseball has no time limit: we don't know when it's gonna end — we might have extra innings" because it has no clock keeping a time limit. Basketball, hockey and American football have overtime on top of games that can last 2 1/2, 3 hours or longer. Soccer, at the league level, is brief. With a running clock and no commercials, a match takes two hours at the maximum.

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Size Doesn't Matter

Lionel Messi, at just 5-foot-7, is surrounded by three Nigerian players during the 2010 FIFA Men's World Cup. Photo by Presse Sports/US Presswire

If soccer took the lead of major American sports, we would never have enjoyed the talents of short players such as Lionel Messi, who stands just 5-foot-7. Others who were short of stature but big on talent include the 5-foot-5 Diego Maradona and 5-foot-8 Pele.

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It Can Be Played Anywhere

The Holland Beach Soccer Tournament is played in front of the Royal Palace in Amsterdam. Photo by Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire

From local parks to farmland to the beach, soccer doesn't require a hard surface like ice hockey or basketball. All that's needed it enough space to run.

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Fans are Devoted

Fans of a Armenian club walk to a match in Yerevan. Photo by Armenicum/flickr

It might be the local club or the national team, but fans can be such strong supporters that they know everything about their favorite club, take each loss hard and profess their love to extremes.

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Men and Women Play

Mandy Haller plays the ball during the 2011 NCAA Division 1 Women's Soccer Tournament. Photo by Derick E. Hingle/US Presswire

Besides basketball and individual sports, soccer is played by both males and females, often together at the younger ages.

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Because Everyone Can Play

Young children play during a match in Riverport, Missouri. Photo by efusco/flickr

Professionals didn't reach their status after a couple of years of playing. For most, it starts at a tender age, often soon after they begin walking. It's taught then as a simple game — no offsides, kick the ball around, learn to pass, make friends and have fun.

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Multiple Talents on Are Required

Cristiano Ronaldo works through two Porto players during the 2009 UEFA Champions League. Photo by Presse Sports/US Presswire

Athletes in the major sports tend to be one- or two-dimensional: most quarterbacks pass but do not often run; baseball has its starting and relieving pitchers and power hitters. Soccer players not only have to be able to run for at least 90 minutes, they have to be quick on their feet, accurate on their passes, accept the occasional bruising slide tackle and be able to kick a shot into the goal.

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National Spirit

Carli Lloyd celebrates a goal for the United States during the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup. Photo by Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire

National teams bring national pride, especially when they perform among the world's best. Even for the lesser teams, the major events, such as the Copa America, European Championship or World Cup can bring fan support to a fever pitch.

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Plenty of Characters

Wherever he has managed, Jose Mourinho has been known for playing on the psyche of his opponents. Photo by CS PA/US Presswire

Without Sir Alex Ferguson ranting at officials, Arsene Wenger stating the understated or Jose Mourinho turning a press conference into a show as he attempts to affect the psyche of an opponent, soccer might be boring.

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All the History

Bobby Moore holds the Jules Rimet Trophy aloft after England won the 1966 FIFA World Cup. Photo by The EFP/flickr

Fans of American women's soccer may remember when Brandi Chastain took off her shirt, showing her bra, after the USA won the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup on its home soil. Ask an English fan about Diego Maradona's "Hand of God" goal for Argentina against England in 1986 and one might be lucky to escape with only a dirty look. If that fan is old enough, however, the memory of "The Three Lions" winning the World Cup in Wembley Stadium will bring smiles to his or her face.