Since its hosting of ’94 World Cup, the US has been seen as a developing country to the rest of the Soccer world. Several have tried and failed to make Soccer the fifth national sport of the US. Most recently, David Beckham, with his move to the LA Galaxy, has tried and so far failed to make it a success.
So I ask myself... What will it take for Soccer to become the success in the US that many believe it can be?
To answer this, I take a look at the countries that flourish within the world of Soccer. When you think of successful countries in the game, the immediate names you think of would be previous world cup winners Brazil, Italy, Germany, and England, to name a few. The corner stone of the success that these countries have had is based on a strong base of players at the grassroots level. To support this, all of these countries have a well-established league structure which breeds talent from an early age.
With the development of Major League Soccer (MLS) and the increasing number of teams participating, I firmly believe that the US has put in place the base from which they can build for the future. Unlike the European and South American countries, which have developed their league structure based on numbers at the grassroots level, the game in the US will only develop with the increase in interest that the MLS will bring, not just at home but also from abroad.
Along with the development of the MLS, there have also been a number of foreign imports in an attempt to raise the profile of the game. This has seen players of the highest caliber come to play on US shores. However, in order to raise the profile of the game and for it to progress, I feel there needs to be a home-grown player exported to Europe from the US that will develop into world class talent. That of which could be compared to David Beckham (LA Galaxy & AC Milan), Christiano Ronaldo (Manchester United) and Thierry Henry (Barcelona).
There have been a number of players leave the US and a small number of them have had successful careers in the English Premier League (EPL). Many people may have thought Freddie Adu (AS Monaco) was going to reach this level, but due to pressures put on him from an early age, this hasn’t turned out as many would have liked. The players that have been regarded as a success in the EPL have mainly been goal keepers (Brad Friedel and Tim Howard). Unfortunately, this isn't the most glamorous position to play and doesn’t always grab the headlines. Because of this, the attention will not be turned to the MLS until there is a striker that reaches the highest level of the game in a European country.
So what does the future hold? With the continued development of the game in the US, I believe within the next 5 to 10 years we are going to see the game reach the levels of expectation that have been so long in coming.
So on that note, when this happens, lets make sure we can all look back and say that we were the ones to help it on its way.