Sports

The United States’ Soccer Conundrum

By MAX LEMMON

Staff Writer

 

This summer, for the first time since 1990, the U.S. was not featured in the Men’s World Cup. For most countries it would be seen as a large accomplishment to have been part of six straight World Cups, but not for the U.S.A. Undeniably one of the most athletically dominant nations around the world, the U.S.A. has been subpar at best when it comes to soccer. So, why is the U.S.A. bad at men’s soccer?

In order to answer this question, another must be asked. If men’s soccer is so bad, then why is the U.S.A.’s women’s soccer team so good? They’ve won three World Cups, four Olympic gold medals, and are ranked as the number one women’s national team in the world. On top of that, the lowest they’ve ever been ranked was number two!

So what factors make U.S.A. women’s soccer so much more successful than its male counterpart? Well, which women’s sports are the most popular. The two most popular sports for women in the U.S.A. are basketball and soccer, and, consequently, are the most attractive and popular leagues for talented female American athletes. Since most of the tall female athletes aim for the Women’s National Basketball Association, everyone else who wants to make money tries for the National Women’s Soccer League. Thus, America’s athletic dominance is showcased through their accomplished national women’s soccer team.

Alright, so the U.S.A.’s women are extremely dominant in the sports that are most popular in the U.S.A. among women, so it’s safe to say that if being an international male soccer power was on the priority list for Americans – that is, if soccer was more popular in the U.S. – then the U.S.A. would most likely be at the top in soccer as well. Surely, if the money was there, more of America’s top athletes would pursue soccer, and then it’s basically game over for the rest of the world. So why isn’t men’s soccer that popular of a sport in the U.S.A.?

Well, of the most popular sports in the U.S.A. (basketball, football, baseball, soccer and hockey), three of them are sports that were created in the U.S.A. (basketball, football and baseball), and are also the most popular of the five. It cannot be a coincidence that the three most popular sports in the U.S.A. are American-born. Interestingly, the American sport culture seems almost xenophobic. Soccer is the world’s most popular sport by far, but is only the fifth most popular sport in the world’s most sports-dominant country. The U.S. has always had a very independent, patriotic mindset, which would understandably push them to support sports that they created themselves. It is intrinsic to American culture to lead rather than to follow, and thus soccer, a sport created outside of the U.S., is significantly less popular than the ones created in the States. The origins of soccer trace back to the mid 1700’s in England. From there, it spread to Europe, and eventually was introduced to the vast number of countries colonized by Europeans. Because of this, it makes sense that most countries would have soccer as one of their most popular sports, since most countries either are in Europe or were colonized by Europe at some point.

Because it gained its independence from Great Britain in 1776, America did not experience this diffusion of soccer until the mid-nineteenth century, when European immigrants brought the game with them to the States.

America is a very assertive country that is used to exerting its will over others rather than adjusting to the rest of the world. Over the course of history, America has led worldwide movements of all kinds, from worldwide democracy to modern beauty and fashion. The United States isn’t used to letting others lead the way, which is why soccer isn’t as popular in America as it is across most of the rest of the world. With less popularity, there is not as much opportunity to make money as there is in other sports, and thus soccer doesn’t attract as many of the U.S.A.’s top athletes. Ultimately, the American soccer program suffers simply because America is too stubborn to accept change.

 

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