Back in 1913, Americans from all over the country gathered in the Astor House Hotel of New York to lay the ground work for what we now know as the United Sates of America Football Association. It’s strange to think that soccer is officially 100 years old in the United States, as compared to our more traditional sports, such as American Football, Hockey, Baseball and Basket Ball, soccer has never seemed to be much of a contender in terms of popularity, and it’s certainly been a rocky road for the sport since then, with leagues coming and going, and the professional level of the game rising and falling in tandem.
Back in the Day
Despite the centenary celebrations, the sport was actually being played in the US way back in the late 1800’s, with a national soccer league being drawn up sometime around 1884, so in fact, the sport is even older than 100 years! This is of course, perhaps no real surprise, as we inherited the sport from our European cousins. It wasn’t until the 1966 world cup though, that soccer in the US really started to be taken seriously. The formation of the United Soccer Association, sanctioned by FIFA, gave the game a bit of a boost on our shores, but the problem was that all the teams were composed of European and South American players, with the team name being changed for the US. This association was later merged with the unofficial National Professional Soccer League and went on to form the North American Soccer League, or NASL. This league was fairly short lived too however, with crowd numbers and TV audiences never really reaching sustainable amounts, the League ended up crumbling in the mid 80s.
Now of course, we have the MSL, and the sport is slowly gaining more recognition and coverage, as well as fans, along with all the sporting action and drama that brings. Soccer players are pretty notorious in Europe, especially the UK, for their flamboyant lifestyles, huge pay checks and battle with addictions. While we don’t always have the same level of media coverage of American players over here, and you’re probably not going to find half of the New York Arrows frequenting New Jersey rehab clinics anytime soon, followers and fans of American soccer have been on a steady increase since we hosted the World Cup back in 1994 (and we’re making a bid to host again in 2022), no doubt in part due to watching our team perform on the world stage. It looks like the audience is set to grow too, with the ease of access of the game, and an increasing interest from America’s youth, it might not be that long before we’re seeing huge six figure transfers of our players to European teams.
The Future of American Soccer
So, with coverage and fan support on the increase, things are looking good for the MSL, and lets not forget the women’s leagues too! Women’s soccer has been growing in popularity in the European leagues, and the States looks set to follow that trend. One look at the National federation of State High Schools Associations figures from a few years ago shows that the number of girls playing the sport is not that far behind the boys. When you take these figures in tandem with the recent ESPN poll on soccer popularity, then it looks like American soccer might even overtake the more traditional sports in time. Social scientist Rich Luker, who is the man behind the study, says there is something unique about US soccer fans, and that makes it a very unique community: ‘It is a true community. The only group that comes close are college sports fans or followers of the Grateful Dead. They embrace soccer as a communal lifestyle as opposed to a personal experience or a community that exists only on game day.’ So there you have it, not only is soccer gaining in popularity but the fans are great too! If these predictions are on course, then we may see American players dominating the world of soccer before too long. Why not check out some of the action for yourself, and get in on the rise of what could be America’s next greatest sport.