"For decades, there was this wariness about soccer within U.S. culture and wariness that affected people at the top," said Jay Coakley, a professor who examines sports' role in society. "Now, that wariness is disappearing. People at the top are seeing soccer as a means of marketing their own interests."
Video games, fantasy leagues, highlight shows, the steady stream of Ronaldo, Messi and other stars, both on the field and in advertisements, keep the sport in touch with the American mainstream in a way it hasn't been before.
"Walking down the street now, you see kids wearing Manchester United jerseys and Chelsea Football Club jerseys and Barcelona, and I didn't even know what those were as a kid," said Mike Helfand, a 42-year-old Chicago attorney who has traveled the globe watching U.S. teams play.
Though America's major league, the MLS, has work to do to bring its level up to the European leagues, the league's steady expansion, improving talent level and fan-friendly pricing will keep the sport on the radar after the World Cup ends.
Since 2010, the number of adults attending a big-time soccer match in the United States has increased by 87 percent.
The farther the U.S. goes in this year's World Cup, the higher than number could rise over the next four years.
All of which has Forget looking to expand his soccer-pub business.
"I've had people come to the pub because a friend dragged them down here," he said. "They'll spend two hours watching a game and they'll walk out the door and say, 'I'm coming back next week.' It can be a defining moment for people. It's very, very different than what we've been used to here in America."
Associated Press writer Leanne Italie in New York and AP Sports Writer Anne M. Peterson in Portland, Oregon, contributed to this report.
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