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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tickets Sold Out, but Americans Ignorant of World Cup

NEW YORK -- America's enthusiasm for soccer is growing ahead of the World Cup but most people still know little about it and care even less. That at least is the conclusion of an opinion poll conducted in early February and published this week which brought to light the following nuggets:


?25 percent of Americans, a higher proportion of men than women, know the World Cup is about soccer.


?20 percent of Americans know that the 24-nation tournament will be played in the United States.


?62 percent are not interested in attending matches.


?18 percent know the finals are in 1994.


The pollsters, who surveyed 1,252 adults by telephone nationwide across the United States, concluded that interest in the world's most popular sport was increasing but "most people still know almost nothing about it."


Sixty percent of those polled said they had heard of the World Cup. Far fewer knew what it was.


The last poll in October 1993 found 21 percent knew what sport was involved and just 13 percent replied that it would be played in the United States. Only 11 percent then knew the finals were in 1994.


For a country about to host the world's biggest single sport event, the results may seem striking.


After all, asking questions in Italy before the 1990 finals along the lines of "have you ever heard of an event called the World Cup?" might have indicated insanity.


In soccer-mad Brazil, regular victims of mass World Cup fever, such a questioner would meet disbelief.


In the United States, blank faces are more likely.


"This isn't Brazil," said World Cup 1994 press officer Jim Trecker, putting his case across succinctly.


"I think that, in spite of the way they have chosen to present these numbers, they are very, very positive," he added, pointing out that 20 percent of the 250 million inhabitants of America was an enormous number of people.


"That's the beauty of numbers. You can do what you like with them," added Trecker, pointing out that soccer in America had made huge leaps in awareness in few years.


"Fifty million people know about this thing, all our tickets are sold. What more can we do?" he asked, adding that World Cup organizers felt the poll understated the case.


The World Cup kicks off in Chicago on June 17 after a glittering ceremony involving such showbiz stars as singer Liza Minelli. It ends in Los Angeles on July 17.


Humphrey Taylor, president of Louis Harris and Associates Inc, who carried out the poll was downbeat.


"I was not really surprised," he said. "At least things are improving but it would not surprise me if when the World Cup has started many Americans are not particularly interested.


"It doesn't fit in with television advertising at all," he added. "Soccer doesn't stop for 45 minutes."