The first time I was aware of the World Cup was in 1994. I happened to be making my first trip to the UK to present some work on savings at the Institute for Fiscal Studies. It was a fantastic trip, and I recall that year that the US and Ireland were in the tournament and doing well, but the English were not. You would hardly know this from fans in the pubs. They loved the game, and I drank for free, just for the novelty of being an American there while the team was doing well.
Twelve years later, I have fond memories of my trip to the UK, but I really don't care about the World Cup. Andrew Seal posts at The Little Green Blog about why Americans don't seem to be able to get excited about the World Cup. I'm probably guilty of each of his criticisms, but the reasons given are not why I don't have more than a passing interest in the World Cup.
The single reason why I don't care is that I see too many players faking like they are hurt to draw a yellow or red card for the opposing team (or to secure a penalty kick at close range). Not everyone who winds up on the grass is faking it, but too many of them are, and obviously so. Taking a dive may not be unique to soccer, but the extent to which it is manufactured and the advantage it confers when successful do seem to be larger in the World Cup than in other sports.
The sport that almost uniquely captures the interest of the American fan is football. Look at the contrast. Football is built on contact. It glorifies defenses that dish out punishing tackles and offenses that can survive the beating and score. Penalties are discrete, measured events. (The exception is the long pass interference call, which is in my view the worst part of the game in the way it is called too frequently for incidental contact.)
I'd be a much bigger fan of the World Cup if they stopped faking it for a red card, got off the grass, and just played the game.