7 posts later, here we are! I’ve spent the past two months writing in detail about how worldwide soccer is organized. From how players change teams to the various competitions players compete in, I did my best to dumb things down so sports fans interested in watching and following more soccer have a “guide” to channel them through what can be a very confusing sport. Since this is a podcast targeted towards American soccer fans, I used many comparisons to American sports & leagues to compare/contrast instead of just an information overload.
We’ll conclude by discussing the status of soccer in the country we all call home. It is quite evident to the average sports fan (even the average American) that we are miles behind the world’s best countries when it comes to domestic and international success. Here are a few reasons why:
1. Lack of Support
I’ll start with my most critical point - not enough Americans care about this sport. Plain and simple. It was a massive news story when we didn’t qualify for the 2018 World Cup, and many casual sports fans asked how this was possible. Take a look in the mirror. You’re part of the problem. There are avid American sports fans who just don’t give soccer a chance, and our growth will always be limited here. I’ll never forget Colin Cowherd BASHING the national team after they didn’t qualify. Ironically, he’s paid tens of millions of dollars each year to discuss sports yet he can’t name 10 players in the entire world’s most popular sport. Don’t expect incredible success if you don’t provide the support needed to succeed. I promise the rest of my points are less harsh :)
2. Other Sports
There’s a reason soccer is the most popular sport in the world. Most countries around the globe don’t have to compete with 4 other major sports in their country. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Americans watching basketball or football instead of soccer, but it is always going to limit the growth in America. Athletes in other countries are only playing soccer, here they have a dozen sports to choose from. Compare this to the women’s game - there are fewer female professional sports in America, so soccer is more appealing for women to watch and play than they are for men, and this is a direct correlation of their international success.
The growth of the MLS should be an independent goal compared to the success of our national team. We need our top young prospect going overseas and competing in leagues like England, Germany, and Spain. For our national success, we want our best players being mentored by the world’s best coaches, and they are all in Europe. For the MLS, the goal should be recruiting the top talents from countries in Central and South America (Atlanta FC are the defending MLS champions by following this model). These players will have a superior quality of life than they would in their third-world countries, and it’ll continue to improve the quality of the MLS.
4. Women vs Men
It’s unfortunate that this is a point on here, but the dilemmas with pay are going to deter some from watching the men’s team. However, the success of the women’s team has helped the sport grow in so much popularity, and I expect that to continue each World Cup.
Positives about Soccer in America
1. The Women’s Team
Our women’s program is head and shoulders above the rest of the world. “They hate us cause they ain’t us” definitely applies as the rest of the world rooting against us as we won yet another World Cup this past summer. There are young boys wearing Alex Morgan and Rapinoe jerseys now - something unthinkable just a decade ago. Controversy aside, the women’s dominance will have a lasting effect on soccer in this country for generations to come.
2. American Men Playing in Europe
We’re FINALLY starting to see a trend of more young American talents being signed by European clubs, most notably in Germany. Christian Pulisic was sold to Chelsea for $73 million this past summer while players like Weston McKinnie, Tyler Adams, and John Brooks are consistent starters in the Bundesliga. It’s a point I eluded to earlier - we need our best players competing against the world’s best players in Europe. The growth of the MLS should not be dependent on young & promising American talents.
3. More Fans Each Season
I am 25 years old and the MLS didn’t exist when I was born. We now have teams like Atlanta selling out NFL stadiums while other cities are treating their MLS teams the same way they would for the other 4 major American sports. It’s a long and patient process, but the MLS has rapidly grown the game of soccer in America in its short history.
I’ve regularly watched soccer since about 2008, and each year it feels like I have more people to talk about soccer with. Americans are starting to become a fan of certain teams in Europe and the effects are contagious. We’re slowly watching this sport become a major viewing event in America and it’s due to average fans and Americans giving it a genuine chance. For all the criticism I gave in the beginning of this, it’s your open-mindedness that’s helped this game so much already and will continue to help grow this wonderful sport in America for years to come :)
That’s Soccer 101 y’all! Start supporting your local MLS team, pick a team in Europe to root for. Soon enough you’ll be obsessed like the fellow LADS and myself.
Author: Living in Southern California, Robert Sweeney has been a fan of soccer since he played as a young child. Since then, he’s become a diehard Tottenham and US National Team fan. Rob enjoys writing about the impact soccer has had on his life in hopes that it betters others as well. Twitter: @robsweeney11