When David Beckham moved from Real Madrid to LA Galaxy in the summer of 2007 few could have predicted just how great an impact it would have on football in America.
The former England captain's move set a trend for aging players looking for one last hurrah. Since Beckham's move big names such as Robbie Keane, Clint Dempsey, Kaka and David Villa have all made moves to the MLS.
The result has been a drastic increase in the popularity of soccer in the country.
THE GROWING POPULARITY OF SOCCER
Soccer has never been as popular in America as it is on these shores. America is a nation dominated by the 'big four': American football, basketball, baseball and ice hockey. Soccer has always played second fiddle but it appears that it is starting to pose a real challenge to America's most popular sports.
Last years ESPN Sports Poll Annual Report showed that soccer had caught up with Major League Baseball in a survey of 12-17-year-olds. 18% claimed to be soccer fans.
The NFL may have come out on top in the poll but catching up to at least one of the 'big four' shows genuine progress is being made, especially when you consider that the 12-17-year-old demographic is one of the most difficult to win over. So what has caused the increase in popularity of soccer?
THE PREMIER LEAGUE
In America, Premier League matches are now more widely available on television. This means that American's are more aware of soccer than ever before. By watching the English game people are able to get a feel for the sport which makes them more likely to support their own nation's league.
The growing popularity of the sport in America has led to suggestions that some Premier League fixtures could be played over there.
The player and brand that is David Beckham undoubtedly had a great deal of influence during his time at LA Galaxy. He is the biggest name of the modern era to make the move to MLS and helped lay the foundations for the league's future success.
Since Beckham's arrival the league has expanded from 12 teams to 20. Average attendances also increased by 3,000 during the Beckham era.
By the time Beckham departed in 2012 merchandise sales had increased by a staggering 231%.
PERFORMANCES OF THE NATIONAL TEAM
The US national team managed to reach the round of 16 in the last two World Cups. However it was the team's performances at the latter tournament that really captured the fans imaginations.
The group stage match between the US and Portugal registered 18.2 million viewers on ESPN making it one of the most viewed sporting events in the channels history.
The US put in a heroic performance as they exited the tournament losing to Belgium after extra-time. The result may have been disappointing but the entertainment value was there for all to see.
This was reflected in calls for goalkeeper Tim Howard to be made the new Secretary of Defense following the game.
HOW WILL THIS HELP THE NATIONAL TEAM?
In England there are worries that the influx of foreign stars into the Premier League will negatively affect the national team's chances. However in America the national team could well benefit from the foreign stars that are moving to their league.
It's clear that since big name players started moving to the MLS the popularity of soccer has increased dramatically. Some may be concerned that the league may become overrun with foreign stars, however this doesn't look like becoming the case. Most teams in the MLS still have a good contingent of home grown players, significantly better than many of the Premier League's top clubs.
The increased popularity of the MLS will likely lead to more youngsters taking up the game instead of more traditional American sports. Statistics show that the number of high school soccer players more than doubled between 1990 and 2010, highlighting that increasing amount of young Americans are being coached in the game.
Last year 3,055,148 players were registered to play Youth Soccer, an all time high. It's clear that soccer is becoming more popular among young people in America. This will greatly benefit the national team in the long run.
If more people are taking up the game at a young age then the US could potentially have an excellent generation of players coming through. It is after all a huge nation and among all those young people there must surely be some world class talents that will be ready to emerge in the future.
Any success the national team achieves will of course depend on trends continuing. If there is a slump in the popularity of the MLS then it wouldn't be a surprise to see those Youth Soccer numbers decline.
However as long as the league continues to attract the players then such a slump seems unlikely.
If the popularity of the sport can hold then it would not be surprising if we see an extremely competitive US national team in the not too distant future.
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