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Fans excited about future of sport's popularity

By Taylor Mitchell
July 1, 2014 at 2:01 a.m.

Josh Kerber, center, of Dallas, reacts with other fans after a missed opportunity by the United States during extra time at a watch party for the World Cup soccer match against Belgium at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

Mark Reyes wasn't a soccer fan a month ago.

He is now.

Reyes, 49, of Victoria, started watching the 2014 World Cup - especially the U.S. men's team - and became of fan.

"It's not being a bandwagon fan," Reyes said. "I call it being introduced to soccer."

Despite a 2-1 loss to Belgium in a Round of 16 game Tuesday that eliminated the U.S. men from the tournament, Reyes plans on watching the rest of the games.

"This has been awesome," Reyes said. "I wasn't a soccer fan, but the U.S. team has made me one."

Unfortunately, there weren't many soccer fans feeling awesome Tuesday at Sports as the U.S. came close but couldn't find one more goal to force the game into penalty kicks.

"It's disappointing," Jonathan Williams, 35, said. "But there's hope to look forward to. Whether it's in two years at the Olympics or in four years at the next World Cup, there is something to look forward to."

"It's a sad day," Willie Nunez, 63, said. "At the end, though, it was a well-played game. It was probably one of the best games in this tournament."

The game also featured what could be considered one of the best performances of the World Cup so far. U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard recorded 16 saves, the most in the World Cup since 1966.

"It was legendary," Williams said. "You can't blame him for the loss. (Howard) was amazing."

Neither side scored in regulation, but Belgium scored twice in the first 15 minutes of extra time. However, nobody inside Sports gave up hope.

"I kept my hopes up," Nunez said. "I thought with the extra 15 minutes we had a chance. They were playing aggressively, and it felt like they were going to pull it off."

Soccer growing in popularity

Nunez, who was born and raised in Victoria but now lives in Sugar Land, has traveled across the country and other parts of the world, including living in Madrid, Spain, for five years.

He said that it is obvious in his travels across the globe that soccer is the most popular sport in the world, saying that it is "night and day" when compared the level of popularity in the U.S.

But that's changing - slowly, but surely.

"Before the last 10 years I would say the popularity was non-existent," Nunez said. "If you go out of the country, soccer is what they care about the most.

"But I would guess that in four years, at the next World Cup, there will be even more fans."

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