Football fever has finally hit the United States of America in the wake of their World Cup campaign. However, the question is sadly not whether the sport has the potential, but whether it will be allowed to grow.
In spite of the overwhelming patriotism shown by US fans who made the journey south to Brazil 2014, echoed on the pitch by Jurgen Klinsmann’s men, it is thought that the long-standing, wealthy institutes of NFL, baseball, and basketball, are reluctant to see their monopoly dwindle.
Large swathes of the country – once thought of as the land that football forgot – tuned into watch America battle hard against Belgium, only to succumb to a 2-0 defeat after extra time. Nonetheless, Tim Howard led from the back as the side won almost universal praise for their gallant efforts in getting to the last 16.
So much of their rise has been put down to the appointment of Klinsmann, who has overseen progress in every year since he took over as head coach from Bob Bradley in 2011. Klinsmann has turned them into an organized, formidable outfit that managed to escape from an incredibly tough group that consisted of Germany, Portugal, and Ghana.
Captain Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, and Jermaine Jones came agonisingly close to a quarter-final with Lionel Messi’s Argentina. Even without Landon Donovan, the star of the last decade, the current squad has captured the imagination of the adoring masses back home.
Even hosting the 1994 World Cup did not seem to have the same impact as this year’s tournament has done in the States.
The national team’s good fortune has also been accompanied by a quick ascent of the game’s domestic popularity. As David Beckham looks to bring his own franchise into Major League Soccer (MLS), many of football’s most famous names now ply their trade in North America.
Both Thierry Henry and Pele ended their illustrious careers with New York Red Bulls and New York Cosmos respectively, while today Jermain Defoe and Julio Cesar wear the colours of Toronto FC, the Canadian outfit that takes part in the MLS.
There is undeniable opposition to the rise of ‘soccer’ in America. Notoriously – and perhaps unnecessarily – outspoken political and social commentator Ann Coulter recently argued its ever-increasing popularity was “a sign of the nation’s moral decay”.
Yet, even apart from the game’s intrinsic beauty, its huge financial potential makes it an attractive proposition. It can only be a matter of time before it breaks the glass ceiling imposed by the States’ leading sports and into the mainstream.
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