Over this past weekend, while watching the U.S. soccer team lose a gut-wrenching Confederations Cup final to the Samba Boys of Brazil, I had a strange insight: that being a U.S. Soccer fan is a lot like being a member of a third political party. I can only claim knowledge of what it’s like to be a U.S. Soccer fan, but the similarities seem striking.

Consider that in both cases, casual acquaintances think you’re a bit strange — it’s not that they consider your choice a fatal character flaw, but it’s obvious that you possess a very different worldview. I’ll admit that I’ve tried to work soccer into more discussions than normal conversational etiquette would recommend and I’ve observed the same thing about members of a third party (ever get caught in a three-hour conversation about the elimination of the income tax?). U.S. Soccer is always looking for a savior to lead it out of irrelevance, a player on the shortlist for best in the world. In short, it is looking for someone like Abraham Lincoln, someone who can displace one of the “big four” American sports, like Honest Abe vanquished the Whigs.

Additionally, mainstream media’s only coverage of either group comes every four years, just as the respective devotees are about to suffer another demoralizing loss in the World Cup or a presidential election. Even when they do give their token coverage of these two outcasts, they tend to show pictures of everyone in funny hats and carrying noisemakers.

This past Sunday the U.S. Soccer team had a rare moment to break that media cycle by becoming relevant to a wide audience in a non-World Cup year. While the U.S. team didn’t win the match, there were many positive the team can take away from the tournament. And while the wait for the soccer-Lincoln continues, at least there is a deep pool of capable candidates to fill Cabinet posts (Altidore, Donovan, Dempsey, Howard and Bradley).

Perhaps it’s all this talk of Obama-Sotomayor empathy that’s rubbed off on me, but I think I’ll show my third-party friends a bit more respect when 2012 comes around and keep my snickers to myself. Who says life experiences can’t have an impact on one’s judgment?

The views expressed in this blog do not represent the views or opinions of Generations United.