A United States fan shows his support before the first half of the Gold Cup semifinals against Honduras at Cowboys Stadium, Wednesday, July 24, 2013, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

After all these years trying, the Americans seem to have finally got the hang of that there Soccer game.

Alright, so they had to rename it in order to not get confused with the armoured Rugby they call Football, which consists of, in the main, carrying or throwing the ball with their hands.

They also have a very popular sport called Baseball. In the UK it is called Rounders and is played, almost exclusively, by very strong schoolgirls.

So it was about time that a real sport was introduced that will eventually become more popular than either of the aforementioned, as it has in virtually every other country in the world.

In actual fact Football has been around in the States for a very long time. Going back to the World Cup of 1950, America beat England 1-0, so either England were bad even then, or America were starting to take the game seriously longer ago than was initially thought. Whichever one you care to believe it was a major shock. If that scoreline were repeated now it would not be a shock.

Now, of course, with the MLS in full swing and big name players choosing to go there, some even before reaching retirement age, the future looks bright.

It isn’t like the days of the New York Cosmos, Tampa Bay Rowdies or Los Angeles Aztecs when players would see it as a kind of elephants graveyard. When Pele, George Best and Franz Beckenbauer went to the USA to play in the NASL it was seen more as a circus than a serious sport. Hence the demise of that league which, phoenix-like, has risen to become the MLS which everybody is now not only taking notice of but taking far more seriously.

Even Sky TV, who would have loved the NASL with all it’s bells and whistles and fanfares and fireworks, have contracted to show live matches to it’s mainly British audience. The popularity of these games is encouraging considering that, because of the time differences, they are shown at all kinds of strange times of day and night.

There has been, to my knowledge, only one casualty so far. That was the Los Angeles side Chivas who were disbanded by the MLS at the end of last season. New to the league for this season were NYCFC or New York City Football Club and Orlando City. In 2017 two more new teams will join. One from Los Angeles, replacing Chivas and Atlanta United, so the league appears to be going from strength to strength.

Then there is the hope that David Beckham can put a stadium and a team together in Miami. So far this project is looking quite positive.

So it is not unrealistic to think that America may have enough good players to, one day, challenge seriously for the World Cup. I actually hope they do because the USA is a great nation, speaks our language and is making very serious attempts to play our game, for this it deserves our admiration.They deserve to be competing with the rest of the world in a sport which, not only has no equal, doesn’t even have a serious rival in most countries.

So keep up the good work. I watch the MLS games when possible and the standards seem to be improving almost weekly. Also the standard of the homegrown American player seems to be better now whereby Jurgen Klinsmann has a decent squad to choose from. It’s just a pity that the squad doesn’t have a decent coach to choose from.

All in all the future is looking very bright for the teams and fans of the MLS. If the two continue to grow by the amounts they are currently growing then Soccer will, at some stage, overtake Armoured Rugby and Rounders as the most popular game in the States.

  1. reidldavis says:

    Good summation. As an American and student of the game, I’d actually point out that the history goes even deeper. “Proper” football initially started catching on here about the same time it did in the rest of the world — both the US Open Cup (our FA Cup equivalent) and the US Football Federation (now the US Soccer Federation) started in 1913, and the Cup was a successor to various amateur cups that started being contested in 1884. The US national team traveled to the first World Cup and an American, Bert Patenaude, actually scored the tournament’s first-ever hat trick. (I keep this image of the 1930 USA team as my computer desktop wallpaper: http://www.si.com/longform/soccer-goals/img/10_pic3.jpg.)

    Ultimately, however, and for reasons too long and involved to go into here, the sport was eclipsed and faded into the shadows for a long time, outside of a few largely-ethnic enthusiast communities in places like New Jersey and St. Louis. The 1970-80s NASL represented the true rebirth of the game here, as lots of kids like me grew up on Pele’s exploits (I’m 44) with the Cosmos and then had that curiosity cemented by hosting the 1994 World Cup plus the dawn of local youth leagues from coast to coast.

    Thus far, in my estimation, this country is still punching far below its weight as a footballing power. The bulk of those who play are predominantly middle- and upper-class, and suburban, because “pay to play” is the model for 99% of youth football here. As soon as we get the poor kids from urban areas playing the game as a ticket out of a tough life (a la the NFL and NBA), it’s over.


  2. YourDirtyMind1 says:

    Great article, but just so you know, the term soccer was actually coined by the Brits. It was a slang term/contraction for “Association Football”.


    • Quite right. In England in the sixties we would often go for a game of Soccer, or Togger as we sometimes called it, although the origin of this one is more obscure if it is known at all.


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