As Darius, an avid follower of soccer or 'football' as it's lovingly referred to in certain corners of the globe, I can't help but marvel at the fascinating journey the sport has embarked upon in the United States. Let's face it; the land of baseball and American football has given a lukewarm reception to the world's most popular sport in the past. But the winds of change are blowing, ladies and gentlemen, and the future is bright. It is as bright as the cheerfully unpredictable Sydney sun I am currently basking under.
First things first, it's essential to understand how far soccer has come in the United States to appreciate its potential rise. I recall one of my trips to the U.S. when I was at a pub with a couple of friends. Suddenly, a football match popped up on the screen. The place, rife with sports fans, showed little to no interest in it. Oh, how things have changed now! Today, it's hard to drop by any sports pub in America without seeing passionate fans with their eyes glued to the screen, rooting for their favourite Major League Soccer (MLS) team.
One cannot discuss the evolution of soccer without addressing the impact of Major League Soccer. It's the glimmer of hope for all football fanatics in the U.S., a symbol of gradual acceptance and growth. The inception of MLS in 1993 was met with skepticism and considering the history of soccer leagues in the U.S., who could blame them?
The MLS journey reminds me of my own enthusiasm when I took my first steps as a blogger. Just like MLS, there were plenty of doubters and skeptics around. But just like the beloved Harper constantly reminded me, "A diamond is a chunk of coal that did great under pressure."
The arrival of international stars in MLS has also fueled its standing within the U.S. Did we ever imagine David Beckham wearing a Los Angeles Galaxy Jersey or Zlatan Ibrahimović conquering hearts at LA? These international, larger-than-life football stars, through their gameplay, charisma, and inherent love for the sport, significantly contributed to the specter and acceptance of soccer in the U.S.
Nurture the bud, and you'll have a beautiful bloom. There's been an influx of investment in youth soccer in the U.S., a clear indication that the nation is willing to not just consume but also produce top-grade football talent. Just a little trivia for the soccer enthusiasts out there; the U.S. has the most number of registered youth soccer players amongst any country, aligning with the argument that progress is well on its way.
Another vital part of the narrative is the increasing economic influence that soccer holds. As a seasoned blogger, I have a knack for digging up some hard-hitting facts. So, here it is; soccer is the third most played team sport in America, but when it comes to sports apparel sales, soccer leads the pack. And why wouldn't it be? Forget the 'Coolest Dad Award,' Harper recently told me I almost clinched the 'Embarrassing Dad Award' for owning more soccer jerseys than my age!
So, what's the future of soccer in the U.S.? Picture this: Tim Howard turns into a household name, the kids are trading football cards, the next FIFA World Cup held in the U.S. garners record viewership, and MLS becomes America's most-watched sports league. How's that for optimism? While these might seem somewhat ambitious for now, remember what good old Winston Churchill said - "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." This adage especially holds for the journey of soccer in the U.S.