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Is World Cup soccer socialist?

No, and Americans -- especially conservatives -- should embrace soccer as a democratic and meritocratic game.

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A loud roar erupted outside my apartment window. Across the city, jubilant fans poured into the streets to celebrate the victory. It was spring 2002, and I was studying abroad in Salamanca, Spain, a university town west of Madrid.

Soccer powerhouse Real Madrid had just beaten Germany’s Bayer Leverkusen to win Europe’s Champions League Cup. Real’s triumph was secured by a brilliant second-half Zinedine Zidane goal, a miraculous volleying left-footed bullet from the edge of the penalty area.

As an American, my devotion to Real was only as deep as my four months in Spain could engender. But it was easy to get caught up in the revelry.

For decades, Americans have been hearing about soccer’s imminent arrival as a top-tier spectator sport. But Brazilian star Pelé in the early 1980s and Britain’s David Beckham more recently failed to catapult soccer into the mainstream.

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