"The Americans know nothing about football. They bloody call it soccer for a start". A common slur which can be heard from many English fans around the country.
Going off the progress of the two nations, this sort of comment could now sound like jealousy because once again the Americans are proving they are becoming a stronger force and once again have made a better showing than England at a major tournament.
When the USA were awarded the World Cup in 1994 it was a huge shock. How could a country who do not even care about football get the greatest football show on earth? The sentiment was correct but the Americans know how to put on a show and it put "soccer" on a the map in America but still behind the obvious sports such as baseball, basketball, American football and ice hockey.
World Cup showings
Since 1994, the USA have been ever present at the World Cup. Starting with France 1998 where they did they did not even get out of the group which included Germany, Yugoslavia and Iran.
South Korea and Japan in 2002 was a much better showing under the leadership of Bruce Arena; the emergence of national legend Landon Donavon and the goalkeeping heroics of Brad Fridel especially against South Korea in the group stages where he seemed unbeatable and was unfortunate to concede were particularly memorable.
The Americans made the quarter-finals and were beaten by eventual finalists Germany. This was a major achievement for supposed minnows of the sport. Germany 2006 was not the best for the Americans as they finished bottom of the group again like they did in France '98 but they did gain a surprise draw against eventual winners Italy. South Africa 2010 was a strong showing in the group stage where they topped the group, including a draw against England thanks to a Rob Green mistake. They were knocked out by Ghana despite the game going to extra-time. This was a huge achievement again for the USA attracting more and more fans to the sport.
Now the latest tournament in Brazil was a tournament where Klinsmann and his men can leave with their heads held high because they managed to progress from one of the toughest groups in this World Cup, and were extremely unlucky to lose to Germany.
Unfortunately for the USA, especially Tim Howard, he couldn't save them from elimination against Belgium but goodness he did try. They also played expressive and quick football which made them resilient to keep the ball. If they did lose the ball it was down to the enforcers Beckerman, Bradley and Jones to scrap and win it back. Clint Dempsey (playing in his third tournament) was as influential as ever scoring vital goals against Ghana and Portugal.
What is the future for "soccer"?
With the USA having such a strong showing at the World Cup and with ten of the players from the squad playing in MLS, it's clear that the league is improving all the time. The USA has come a long way in the last 20 years with football getting more viewing time on TV and the fan base growing thanks to their strong showings at the past two World Cups.
According to former goalkeeper and Philadelphia Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz it’s a 50-year process to introduce soccer into mainstream America. “And we’re about 30 years in,” he told the Philadelphia Enquirer. “As we go through the time cycle, things are going to accelerate. We did a slow burn in the 1980s and 1990s and then picked up speed in the first decade of the 21st century. I’m sensing, partially based on this World Cup, that the next 10 years will be very good.”
The USA are now able to compete with the big teams in Europe and South America but unfortunately it will probably not over take other sports such as baseball, basketball and American football no matter how many times Diana Ross misses a penalty.
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