Zidane’s American Achievement

Last night during the Triple-A All-Star game on ESPN, Buck Martinez and Jon Sciambi talked about Zinedine Zidane. Today I turn on Cold Pizza on ESPN and Woody Paige is talking about the head butt heard ’round the world. Zidane did more in that moment to bring soccer to the U.S. than Pele did in years.

But everyone I talk to about the World Cup agrees with me: the rules have to change before it can go wide here. Consider that in the 15 games after the first round, the teams scored 26 goals—a meager 1.7 goals a game, leading in four cases to the farce of penalty kick shootouts. And the foolish limit on substitutions, three, meant that Germany and Argentina could play for two hours without us seeing the teenager considered one of the best players in the world, Lionel Messi. Bo-ring.

Hey we know what we’re talking about, we invented some pretty good games. Soccer could take a rule from baseball—substitute your way down through the whole roster;another from basketball—when a player fouls out you can still replace him; and another from football—keep playing in a tie till one team scores.