Going Forward: What’s Next For Soccer?
The Women’s World Cup final was played July 14. The United States lost to Japan in a penalty shootout. The two teams ended regulation tied 2-2, but the Japanese outscored the U.S. 3-1 on penalty kicks. The U.S. lost leads of 1-0 and 2-1 which led to the penalty shootout.
So despite a valiant run the U.S. women came up just short. This is not good for their sport and American soccer. The women needed to win in order to have any real chance for their sport to grow in this country. Now, after four long years of preparation they have failed to create the momentum needed to raise fan interest.
Both men’s and women’s professional soccer have struggled for years to take hold in America. For many reasons. The game does not have enough home grown star players for fans to follow. There is really no interest in college or minor league teams in the United States. There is not enough scoring. And there is no element of speed or power to draw fans to the game.
The game is very popular among young people and their parents as soccer leagues and complexes have sprung up all over the country. But this has not translated to more fan interest in the professional game. From a public relations standpoint the game has done all it can. It has reached out to its fans. It has gained recognition on television, newspaper and social media. It has donated time and money to youth. But soccer just can not break the stranglehold that football, baseball, basketball and hockey have on America.
Many people have come up with ideas as to how soccer can do this. Most of them concern changing the rules of the game. But the rules are not soccer’s problem. Soccer’s problem in America is that it has no genuine U.S. superstar.
Every sport in America that has become popular has had an American born athlete who transcended it with their stardom. From Red Grange in football and Babe Ruth in baseball back in the 1920s, to Gordie Howe in hockey in the 1960s and 70s and Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in basketball in the 1980s. When boxing was popular it was because the heavyweight champion was an American. Since the championship belt has gone overseas, interest in boxing has waned.
Women’s soccer will never really be more than a niche sport, but it could rival women’s tennis and golf with the right athlete as its front-line star. Mia Hamm was that person back in the early 2000s, but she wasn’t enough to keep the sport going.The women need someone to do for them what Cheryl Miller did for college basketball in the 1980s. A player who is so dominant that people can’t help but watch.
As for the men, they need a dominant player also. A player with charisma who can score and bring fans to their television sets and the stadium. And he has to be American born. The sport tried with David Beckham, but it just didn’t work out. The English-born Beckham came with a high price tag and never really lived up to his billing here in the states. Sports fans who did not follow soccer took a wait and see approach with Beckham and decided he was not worth their time.
No, the U.S. needs someone who starts out as a child prodigy and works his way up through the ranks on American soil. He must be so good that international teams want him. And the United States must get him to stay.
In return, this star player has to do the one thing which might vault soccer into America’s conscious. He must lead the country to a World Cup final. And win it.
Until the U.S. men win a World Cup championship with a home-grown superstar it will never reach the status of the sports Americans watch today.
In conclusion, American soccer has reached a nadir point due to some abysmal performances in the past and it is high time that it bounces back into the big league and reclaim its credentials at global level by hiring competent players. It is not that difficult as there is talent brimming all over the states, despite fierce competition, and the platform is quite big. A few excellent players and we would see David Beckham meeting Nasser-Al-Khelaifi for the next FIFA world cup.