In the United States of America, an array of globally shunned sports reign supreme within a nation heralding its indigenous games.
American football, basketball and baseball, even ice hockey, is nationally more popular and accepted compared to the beautiful game. Football, cumbersomely christened soccer in America, whilst globally cherished and is widely acclaimed across Europe, South America and Africa, is yet disregarded in America.
However, recently there has been a seismic shift and huge marketing campaigns encouraging Soccer in the States. This has been due to a variety of reasons however it is difficult to assess the longevity of soccer in America.
It is currently growing immensely, however it isn’t yet nationally accepted and loved. This paper will assess the likelihood of success and outline important factors which are essential in understanding the complex relationship between the United States and soccer.
It is strange, considering America is an amalgamation of Europeans, Africans and South Americans that such an immensely and religiously followed game has been disowned and replaced with other sporting games. The chosen sports were created in America.
This suggests that Patriotism is an incredibly welded social tool used upon the American population. In America, the top three games are, the all-American, American Football, Basketball and Baseball. Other than Basketball, and a strange Japanese obsession with baseball, these games rarely attract non-US citizens.
This can be blamed on a wide pool of reasoning ranging from demoralising soccer as “a game for commies” or suggesting it’s effeminate. This is because America have historically heralded violent, or manly, sports such as boxing and wrestling.
In recent times, NASCAR and MMA has seen rapid growth amongst American fan base and coinciding with the NFL it can definitely be suggested Americans are attracted to aggressive and high-risk sports. Soccer has historically been emasculated in the USA and this is a reason for its social fallout and outcast.
Notably, out of the three major American sports, basketball, positions an obstruction to an American embracing of soccer. Both these sports are too similar for them both to succeed. Each goes to the group of competitions whose objective is to place a ball into a net or goal.
Since both these sports are alike, each has the same type of appeal. The two are simple to understand; it isn’t particularly difficult, compared to American football or baseball, to grasp. Because of basketballs American roots it could be argued that it is far more appealing paralleled to the European and South American phenomena.
Despite hosting the 1994 World Cup, the USA never continued the hype and hysteria the tournament brought with it. The tournament didn’t inspire the next generation and yield soccer stars ready to embrace Europe.
The United States, despite their continual efforts, lacks a superstar to cement soccer into American culture. Landon Donavon has been the best player within the MLS however he never took a permanent step to play European soccer. In the states needs a home grown role model in order to boost popularity and appeal. This is because in ‘Footballing Nations’, there is always at least one superstar player who inspire the next generation of bidding countrymen.
In Brazil, currently, it’s currently Neymar. Argentina have Messi and Mexico have Javier Hernandez. The USA have however already attempted to cultivate a superstar player and it ended embarrassingly. In 2004, MLS side DC United signed 14-year-old Freddy Adu.
“The teenager once dubbed "the next Pele" but Adu failed to reach the lofty expectations set for him by the American media”.
Nike endorsed a million dollar sponsorship contract prior to his fourteenth birthday and caused a global media frenzy. However in 2014, now at 24, the player is a free agent and was declined a contract from an English second-tier team, Blackpool FC.
His underachievement echoed and underlined an American disappointment with the sport, as the country continues to await a true soccer great. Despite not yet developing such a prestigious player the United States have excellent facilities and funding injected into youth sports and definitely have the infrastructure to produce world class players.
This definitely allows a growth and high-level of competitive games within good learning environments. This is an essential to allow soccer to flourish in America.
Prior to the current, there were previous glory days for soccer in the United States. The shocking transferring of Pele, to the National American Soccer League’s New York Cosmos in 1977, was rightfully met with a wave of support and attention.
One of the greatest, often cited as the greatest, footballers in the world glorified the NASL and the Cosmos, and in turn, attracted the largest following The New York Cosmos were cited as “the most glamorous in world football ” during the late-Seventies.
This huge American sports franchise were a footballing and financial force in America and attracted legendary players such as Pele and Franz Beckenbauer. This was short-lived however their former player spoke out in 2006 and encapsulated the project. "We transcended everything, every culture, every socio-economic boundary, we were international, we were European, we were cool, we [sic.] were Americans from the Bronx. We were everything to everybody."
In 2007, with the arrival of David Beckham to Los Angeles Galaxy, Football relived the spirit of the Cosmos. This created a hysteria similar to that of Pele’s arrival. Since, other European names such as the much-achieved Thierry Henry and the less-so Robbie Keane. David Beckham’s British cool was integral and promoted coolness into American psyche surrounding soccer.
This was arguably the next attempt, following the ’94 World Cup and ridiculous claims regarding Freddy Adu. The MLS is fortunate to attract players of pedigree similar to Thierry Henry; who followed Beckham with career paths. The attractive lifestyle America offers is an underlying factor which entices players to the MLS can’t be undermined as a deciding reason. Moreover, Major League Soccer is able to match wage demands of high-profiled players.
This accessibility to world-class players to transfer, the franchises buying and the fans being able to watch will boost attendances and in turn destabilise stigmas associated with the sport.
Another reason for the rise in acceptance, is because, American company EA, and their subdivision EA Sports, have aided the astronomical rise in the sport’s popularity. Before soccer and video games intertwined, the game was nationally viewed as an activity to preoccupy children as an exercise routine.
No joy or passion was ever associated with playing soccer. FIFA games on the PlayStation and XBOX changed that completely and the two divergent domains of video gaming and soccer collided. Celebrity endorsements, mainly from rapper Snoop Dogg and American sporting names such as NFL’s Victor Cruz. Usain Bolt has also been to Twitter where EA Sports promote and advertise coolness together with FIFA to America.
This has been hugely successful and has even inspired gamers to play soccer. Moreover, American businesses rely heavily upon Football internationally and are seeking to maximise profits and marketing ‘Soccer’ as a consumer good will achieve incredible financial rewards for transnational companies such as Nike.
Nike currently produce revenue at $24.128bn and this is owed hugely to the marketing of sports stars and selling replica kits within the international world of soccer. Nike are joint-leaders with Adidas in this field and Nike proudly represent players such as Cristiano Ronaldo. If the United States can continue to promote soccer, they will be able to generate and yield larger profit from the sport. Companies such as Nike and EA Sports are successfully marketing football in the States and this will aid its acceptance within the Nation.
Overall, soccer’s upward trajectory in acceptance is slow and steady. However, it’s progressive rise suggests it could be the dawn of a new-era of American sport. The immense growth of support cannot be overstated due to the overall national reception regarding the sport.
The longevity of soccer, in America, is uncertain however they certainly have the financial muscle, sporting equipment, technology and competitiveness to successfully excel. The MLS will continue to rely on the arrival of, arguably washed-up European stars, however these players bring experience and class which will continue to attract sport.
Moreover, FIFA has been revamped, pleasing its American audience, with the recent release of ‘Next-Gen’ consoles; the PlayStation 4 and XBOX One. Soccer will continue to rise and could rival all-American sports within the next twenty-years.
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