Will the United States of America ever win a World Cup and scratch its talons into history? When will the next Messi develop in great red, white, and blue? Will the United States ever become a soccer superpower? Will the United States be able to dominate soccer as it has in almost all other sports?
These are all questions being discussed by players across the country as other world leading countries, such as China, begin to step up their own development programs leagues. So how is it that a nation of over 300 million has not dominated the world stage?
The answer lies in the past. Only up until recently, has soccer become the second most popular youth sport by beating out American pastimes such as baseball and football. This would suggest a deeper interest in the world’s most popular sport, yet many players still prefer to watch more traditional American sports. In fact, even huge soccer matches like El Clasico are rarely broadcasted on public networks. Instead, in order to watch such phenomenons U.S. soccer fans have to pay for special access. This reduces exposure to high quality games and lessen many potential talents from learning from European professionals, which results in a smaller chance to improve.
Physically, American athletes are very similar to European counterparts. With a wide range of diversity, players from all spectrum are trying their luck. Often most of the talent is concentrated in where the money is: football, baseball, and basketball. Since the MLS is still under development and has wage caps, a lot of athletes focus their attention on the more profitable sports. Likewise, academies in the United States do not fund their player development and often the less financially stable are left out. This results in a loss of potential talent.
Lastly, there still remains a stigma against soccer players. In high schools across the country potential soccer players are being turned away from the beautiful game because it is seen as softer sport. Along with attachments from childhood to other sports, this notion of soccer not being a “real” sport thwarts the next Messi from picking up a ball.