Sports in the United States has always been about the NBA (Basketball), Major League Baseball, NFL (American Football) or the NHL (Ice Hockey). Despite having beaten England 1-0 in the 1950 World Cup (at soccer), it remains a mystery as to why soccer has never reached the popularity of say, American Football. Since decades, sporting excellence in the United States has always been measured in terms of a ‘Home run’ or a ‘Slam Dunk’.
Hosting the 1994 Fifa World Cup was an initiative taken by the U.S Soccer authorities to help give the game a boost in the country. It did help to some extent, as hosting the World Cup helped give soccer the much required media coverage and popularity that was necessary in the U.S.
Also, bringing in retired stars like Pele (Pele played for the New york Cosmos) to play in the MLS (Major League Soccer) was the start of a trend of European soccer stars finishing off their careers in a club in the U.S (David Beckham and Thierry Henry are other notable examples). David Beckham and his move to Los Angeles Galaxy was probably more of a marketing stunt, rather than Beckham wanting to finish off his career at Galaxy. Even Thierry Henry, who was at the expected end of his footballing career, was signed up by the New York Red Bulls for marketing purposes and media attention.
Additionally, the United States has become a mainstream soccer nation over the years with the U.S national team now ranked 36th in the Fifa rankings; also, the influx of top class talents like Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey to Premier league clubs, shows that the level of soccer in the United States has gone up by a notch. This can be credited to the fact that world class soccer academies and coaching systems exist in schools and college levels, which has helped the game develop and has also thrown up prodigies like Freddie Adu (Adu was a part of the IMG soccer academy).
Currently, U.S soccer seems to be on the right track for 2 reasons: First, Premier League clubs have a great deal of American players but also the fact that European clubs are increasingly showing interest in the growing American soccer market. This increasing interest in the U.S soccer market is a proof of prosperity, both in terms of quality and quantity (number) of players.
For soccer to be treated with a status in line with the NBA and the NHL, the first step for U.S soccer authorities will be to focus on the strong grass root system which produces more of prodigies like Adu. As it is said “Catch ‘em when they are young!”. Lastly, with better marketing efforts and a better organizational system in place, future of soccer in the U.S certainly looks promising.
For all you know, there may be a time in the near future when America celebrates a ‘goal’ as passionately as a slam dunk or a home run.