When I was covering soccer at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the online reference guide I prepared for readers before the 1998 World Cup contained only a few links.
A good number of them were to British media outlets and blogs.
As I’ve rounded up the same for the World Cup that starts on Thursday, I easily have as many tabs open on my browser now, with more to come once I clear some room.
And they’re all links to American sites, blogs and media outlets.
Some of them are as established as Sports Illustrated, which has promoted Planet Fútbol, its new soccer vertical, to the same independent status as Peter King’s MMQB that covers the NFL.
Others are as new and trail-blazing and iconoclastic as 8 by 8, which isn’t the only print-and-web glossy that’s recently been created to feed the growing, increasingly sophisticated American soccer fan base.
Drinking from this firehose of coverage — so much of it smart, well-informed, passionate, humorous and engaging from young writers, fans, former players and coaches and others — has been a most glorious way to get ready for what’s set to transpire from Brazil over the next month.
But it’s also been exhausting, and even a bit exasperating, in a good way.
There’s not a mainstream American sports media outlet that doesn’t have a World Cup preview page, special section, list of Twitter accounts to follow, podcasts, staff predictions, etc.. The age of the Web has blended into the greater maturation of social media and the growth of mobile technology, and this World Cup should be a soccer/new media junkie’s absolute delight.
As I wrote last week about soccer’s evolution on American television and other mainstream media, so much of this is also generational.
I don’t know where to start to lay out some of the links of interest I’ve found for the World Cup, so I think I’ll do this in sampler fashion.
• This will be the first World Cup for Grantland, which just noted its third birthday, and of course there’s a World Cup vertical for the audience brought together by Bill Simmons.
• Also in the ESPN family is the brand new FiveThirtyEight, which breaks down World Cup odds and makes predictions in Nate Silver-inspired fashion.
• If you need more numbers, Bloomberg has compiled its first-ever World Cup analytics rankings.
• Soccer-specific blogs and websites are as authoritative and comprehensive a source as you can find, and the World Soccer Talk vertical has loads of links about television coverage, its own previews, merchandise, videos, team outlooks and rosters and more.
• If you still haven’t put the World Cup schedule on your digital calendar, Quartz, a business site of The Atlantic, has a quick and easy way to do that.
• Twitter lists for the World Cup abound, and it has its own guide on how to the follow the World Cup. And the special flag hashtags for every nation that were such a big hit in 2010 have just been released.
• How about this print-style twist? The soccer staff of CBSSports.com is making its World Cup predictions like American football writers have done for decades in the Friday newspaper. Its World Cup vertical is fairly standard, but packed with more information than a casual fan would ever need.
• The New York Times has a terrific slow-motion interactive of Ronaldo, Neymar and Iniesta, with the ball at their feet, showing why they are global masters. If only the newspaper’s print coverage weren’t so hard to figure out. This piece from the U.S.-Nigeria friendly in Jacksonville explores the nomenclature and rituals of American soccer fans developing their own identity, including how they’ve been labeled soccer snobs over the years. Seriously? It’s 2014. They’re not newly pressed and exotic.
• A Chicago local site, The Red Line Project, has even gotten in on the interest in the World Cup.
And I haven’t even gotten to the podcasts. There are so many — again, just from American-based outlets and sites. Since I’m kind of sentimental about old-school soccer bloggers and media, I’m going to take a listen to the venerable Bruce McGuire, who has just posted podcast No. 100 on his always-excellent du Nord blog, still housed on its original blogspot URL.
It’s American soccer and a World Cup preview from someone who was doing what he still does before any of this — including longform televised FIFA-bashing on comedy TV — went mainstream.