Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The State of American Soccer

Those few of you who regularly read this site will be aware by now of my soccer obsession. I first became hooked on the world's sport during the "soccer boom" of the late 1970's. Between playing (not very well) in youth leagues and watching the Detroit Express ply their trade in the Pontiac Silverdome, I soon found soccer just as enjoyable as any of the "American" sports. Alas, I soon burned out on youth soccer, and the Express disappeared after just three seasons. Still, my interest remained, kept alive by watching the 82 and 86 World Cups on Canadian TV, and the occasional US national team match on ESPN. As I look back, it is amazing how far soccer has come in the US since then.

For an excellent overview of this process, read this piece from the British Web site The article is quite fair, and refreshingly free of the condescension that so often permeates UK writing on American soccer:

November was the 15th anniversary of the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World”. Not familiar with this? This was what U.S. international Paul Caligiuri’s goal against Trinidad and Tobago in a 1990 World Cup qualifier was termed. The goal, a 25-yard rocket, enabled the U.S. to defeat T&T and qualify for the country’s first World Cup in 40 years. This may have been the turning point of professional “soccer” in the U.S. While big moments in the country’s football history preceded that goal (most notably, the U.S 1-0 shock defeat of England in the 1950 World Cup) and followed it (hosting the World Cup in 1994), it was 15 years ago that football in the U.S. began experiencing a sort of Renaissance or perhaps more accurately, an awakening. That goal and subsequent World Cup qualification provided the impetus for serious growth in the American game.

What has followed since is nothing short of remarkable, a fact lost upon many observers and fans who would like to see an even quicker growth maybe because of America’s insistence on instant gratification. The National team has qualified for four consecutive World Cups probably en route to a fifth. The U.S. has twice made it to the knockout rounds of the World Cup and has also successfully hosted a World Cup finals. A viable, domestic league has also been formed in the country. Major League Soccer (MLS) has just completed its 9th season and has carved out a niche in order to sustain itself. The league continues to grow and next year will add two more clubs, bringing the total number of teams to 12. Youth participation in the game is also at an all-time high and now youngsters have the ability to watch their idols play week in and week out and emulate them. Indeed, it’s a good time to be a fan of the game in the U.S. That said, though the picture might be rosy, there are still problems that afflict the game.

Read the whole thing, as Instapundit says. (Link courtesy of


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