Don’t get me wrong, soccer need not change one iota and it will still remain the most popular sport in the world. I’m just saying that when people ask why it isn’t more popular here, there are some minor cultural differences that need to be overcome.
I have often wondered about the timekeeping of a soccer match. In North America, sports that have a time element, such as football, hockey, and basketball display for all to see a large and precise clock that in many cases is broken down to tenths of a second. This scoreboard clock may not be the official time, as that is usually kept by an official timekeeper who is a member of the officiating crew, but it always reflects the official time remaining even if it has to be adjusted. There can be very little doubt about how much time is left and, with very few exceptions, once the time has run out the game, or period is over. (I realize some football plays are run with no time left on the clock). Baseball on the other hand has no time element and therefore, no game clock – even if umpires try to move the game along, there is no actual scoreboard clock, or timekeeper.
In soccer the time is displayed yet it appears to me that the official time is on the referee’s wrist and only he or she is aware of exactly how much is left; and it looks as though there is some wiggle room. There seems to always be time for the players to jockey for position for that last corner kick or throw in.
So when a goal is scored with 30 seconds remaining in time added-on I have to wonder if time would have expired with the stop-time system used in hockey and other times sports.
Stranger still to a North American is that a soccer clock counts upward while those sports here that have clocks count down to the end of a period or quarter. It only requires a small bit of arithmetic to figure out how much time is left, but it’s just another quirk of soccer that we have to get used to.