Why Americans suck at soccer (well, the men)

Why Americans suck at soccer (well, the men)

Andrew Helms and Matt Pentz wrote “Own Goal:
The Inside Story of how the US Men’s National Team Missed The World Cup.” The actual own goal that doomed the US in
2018 becomes a metaphor for bad mismanagement, poor development, and infighting that doomed
the US Men’s bid to qualify in the World Cup. That analysis and reporting is great and it hits at the big problems with American soccer today. But the US soccer problem goes back a lot
further than that. This chart shows US Men’s National Team’s
World Cup record. At the top are the best finishes. The highest dot? It’s third place. At the bottom, 16th place. And all these dots? These are times the third most populous country,
with the largest global wealth, failed to even qualify. This is bigger than an own goal. And it’s not because soccer isn’t as American
as apple pie. We have proof. Americans suck at the game they call soccer. But they’re also the best in the world. These are the US women’s World Cup performances
since play started in 1991. Champs, champs, champs. It’s not about American culture. It’s about the American men’s game. When you stop looking at the present and start
looking to the past, You find a lost golden age of American soccer. You also find the reason it’s been doomed
for almost a hundred years. In 1926, 46,000 Americans crowded into a Manhattan
stadium to see Hakoah, an All-Star European soccer team, lose to Americans. In the paper that same day? A season high Yankees baseball game – that
4,000 fewer people went to see. The 1920s was American soccer’s golden age. But to understand it, you have to go even
further back. In the 1860s, soccer and rugby existed on
a bit of a continuum — people played a little bit of everything. In 1863, rules were finally established in
England to build a game that played more like the soccer we know. The US diverged from the English soccer game
with the first Harvard-Yale football game — which would quickly turn into American
football. Until then, Ivy league colleges had played
a more soccer-like game, but Harvard challenged Yale to a rugby-style game they’d learned
from McGill in Canada. That game was a hit, and Ivies like Princeton
quickly picked it up. That was the first split between European
and American football culture. By 1905, soccer was still being “tested”
in America as “college football” took off. But the tragedy of World War I slowed down
European sports culture. In the 20s, America started catching up in
soccer. In 1925, for example, when Cincinnati built
a new stadium, they assumed baseball and soccer would both be part of the mix. Americans even stole British and Scottish
talent — “enticing players” for The Coming International Sport. English stadiums had the biggest crowds, but
the US was part of the growing international audience for the sport. The 20s saw a formidable soccer presence in
the US, with big attendance numbers. That development helped America score a third
place finish in the World Cup in 1930. But that was the beginning of the end. American soccer always had a weird structure,
with a league – the ASL or American Soccer League, and a governing association: the
USFA, or United States Football Association. The USFA was American soccer’s liason to
FIFA and the international community. The USFA and ASL had a long feud that was
resolved one day only to pick up again the next. The ASL wanted to change soccer rules and
add ideas that were uniquely American at the time, like substitutions and a penalty box. The USFA didn’t. Not clear enough? Just look at the names. These two organizations couldn’t even agree
on what to call the game. And this? This is what happens when acronyms take over
your sport. FIFA’s at the top. They threatened to kick out the USFA because
the ASL was recruiting those European players. FIFA didn’t like that at all. USFA agreed to sanctions. ASL got mad and pulled out of a big USFA tournament. Three ASL teams went over and played anyway,
which got them kicked out by the ASL. They whined to the USFA, which kicked out
the ASL. So then the ASL played without USFA approval,
so the USFA made a new league with their own teams. Yeah. All this acronym infighting split soccer teams,
players, and fans in half. Civil Wars: they are not fun. They patched things up again in 1929, but
it was too late. The Great Depression hit the financial system. Teams were already weakened. The Depression forced many of them to fold. The United States entered a soccer dark ages
while Europe and South America steadily built the sophisticated leagues that people wish
America had today. Short-lived American leagues have had cash
– but the mass enthusiasm was stuck in the 1920. For women, a small fan base and lack of private
development wasn’t a problem — development of the women’s game was behind the men’s
game across the world. In the absence of a significant league business,
federal programs like Title 9 in America effectively mandated a women’s team in schools wherever
there was a men’s team. But for men? You can rightly talk about development leagues,
and bad coaching, and own goals. But when you see a pie like this, you don’t
blame the crust, or the apple orchard, or the textured aluminum wrap. You blame the thing that smashed it. The soccer wars put the United States on the sidelines,
during a crucial half century in which global sports acquired fans, talent, and cash. Can American men catch up today? Maybe. But it’s a long shot. So, if you want a slightly less depressing
look at American soccer, check out this video from our friends at SB Nation. They chronicled the historic 1999 US Women’s
National Team Victory. It’s pretty amazing. I’m gonna take a shower now.

100 thoughts on “Why Americans suck at soccer (well, the men)

  1. If you picture a soccer ball looking like this ⚽, you're not alone. But back in the early days of television they looked very, very different. Watch: http://bit.ly/2tf3RP5

  2. The really big issue between FIFA and the ASL was not hiring players from across the pond. It was hiring players.
    Back then, FIFA had this weird ideal that players should be amateurs.
    Unlike american football, which on the top level was played by college teams, i.e. by people from wealthy backgrounds, who did not need to have a day job, association foootball was a working class sport. The distances teams needed to travel in the US were to great for amateurs. They simply would not be back in time for their jobs after an away game. So the ASL wanted a professional league.

    By the 20es, the bigger european leagues (England, Germany…) were also slowly professionalising. They just had an easier time covering that up.

    So FIFA forced its rules on the USFF, which made it extremely unpopular in the isolationist US of the late 20es. The popularity of the game plummeted.

  3. number 1 pulisic is an all world talent number 2 the women's team lost to a 15 boys club from dallas soooooooooo… stop pushing an agenda and actually report

  4. First of all, you call it soccer, you can't change the name of a worldwide sports because you think you have a sport with the same name, which by no means resembles the real one. Second, you're on difficult grounds as you have yo share with countries that live for the sport itself. It takes time…and a huge investment.

  5. The main reason we're not as good at men's soccer than other countries is largely in part because, in other countries, their top athletes play soccer way more than the US's top athletes. Soccer is undeniably the largest sport in South America and Europe, while in the US, American Football, Basketball, Baseball, and Hockey all recruit our best youth athletic talent. Imagine if Michael Jordan, or Labron James, or Tom Brady, etc all grew up in a soccer-centric culture? Imagine if they were soccer stars instead? The US would dominate the World Cup if Soccer was as popular in the US as it was in Europe.

  6. The MLS is growing at a rapid rate with crowds now filling NFL 60,000+ seat stadiums. The sport is exploding has already passed the NBA and NHL in average crowd attendance numbers as of 2018. More and more kids are starting to fall in love with the sport. That will brew an American youth soccer talent pool that we have yet to have ever seen. The US will be a force in world soccer in the decades to come. It's simply a matter of time. There will be many more Christian Pulisic's to come!

  7. Honesty where I live I would argue that soccer/football is more popular. My highschool, which I will start to go there in a week doesn't have a strong American football team. As i am 14, most kids my age have played soccer/football instead of american football. I live close to DC in maryland and we have something called MSI. But i think more people especially adults follow American soccer and the super bowl. Most kids who play classic or travel just know that it's a hobby that they will eventually have to give up. During gym we NEVER have played american football, it's not convenient and most kids who don't play sports as a hobby can play soccer/football.

  8. Tried, but could not develop an interest in soccer… found it too borrrrriiing… having grown up in hockey & basketball speed & scoring often… vs. the “thrilling” 1-0 final scores of soccer… good for those that do enjoy !

  9. The US finished 3rd in a World Cup lool that can't be true 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂these guys can barely play the sport lol

  10. The reason the women do good is because women in America have been able to play sports for a long time while some countries are just creating women’s teams

  11. 1) USA finished 4th*** at 1930 World Cup
    2) Only 13 teams competed, compared to 32 teams at 2018 WC
    3) Qualification wasn’t required for the 1930 WC and because of its location in South America, most European teams chose not to play due to the high costs associated with travel

  12. One thing that Vox should’ve probably mentioned is the fact that soccer is the most competitive sport on the planet and it’s not dictated by physical size likewise basketball or football or even baseball. Anybody 5 feet over can technically excel in soccer since it’s a game on the ground. This argument can’t be made for the NFL where physical size does matter even though that game is on the ground. Soccer is the most competitive sport on the planet because it can’t be dictated so much by size. That’s one thing Americans fail to understand despite the Kobe’s and Lebrons of the world believing that if they all played soccer as a kid, America would mysteriously have a World Cup win. Nope not even close. It doesn’t work that way like it does in basketball.

  13. Our youth national teams actually perform on par with the best in the world. We've been able develop elite youth players but the problem is when they transition into 18-22 age groups and their development takes a hard downturn. In fact our U17 National Team beat Brazil 4-0 in 2016 to win an international tournament. A number of those guys are struggling to be effective at the pro level. So there's a very significant misstep going on post youth level.

  14. We have more exciting sports to care about. Not everyone wants to watch a game hours long that consists of men kicking a ball around just to possibly have it end in a tie.

    By the way, the name “soccer” was originated by the Brits.

  15. In 2017, the world-champion U.S. Women's National Team lost 5-2 against the FC Dallas Under-15 boys team. Ever notice how details like these are never mentioned?

  16. Reason why Americans are bad: The youth development leagues are all about money and politics. I grew up with a lot of Hispanic kids that were good but money was a factor. It’s who you know to. Same goes for Mexican development leagues

  17. US is not good because the kids and inner city youth( where most of our best athletes reside) don’t grow up playing soccer. They grow up playing American football basketball and baseball. Only until now are soccer courts and fields being built in suburbs and inner cities for kids to play. The kids who played soccer in my generation from America were never our top athletes they were the kids who weren’t coordinated enough to play basketball football or baseball ! Hopefully this changes I love the sport!!

  18. Just remember In Football IFAF World Championship, USA beat France by 82-0… With only division II and III NCAA players

  19. Soccer (Football) is the fastest growing sport in the US. Within 10 years, baseball will become popular. And eventually the popularity of American football will exceed.
    The future sports of US are Soccer and basketball. This is not speculation. This is because Latin immigrants are increasing in the US.
    They are raising the status of Soccer in the US.

  20. americans like to twist and complicate things around


    liters-galons(water measurement)
    meter and centimeter-feet,inch(height)

    and so on and so on.

  21. It's really a lot simpler than that. The best athletes in the US play sports like football, basketball, hockey etc. Soccer players in other countries are typically their best athletes, and play the sport their entire lives

  22. America have the greatest talent pool of the world in youth talent because they have all the world nationalities (bresilien amercain , french americain ….) if they find those talent the can be the world best team

  23. The number of Americans whining in the comment threads after being baited by comments that are clearly jokes is truly an incredible sight to behold. Just goes to show how fragile their egos are.

  24. A large portion of profession athletes in team sports in the U.S. come from "disadvantaged" or low-income youths that became adults.
    The overwhelming majority of these youths choose other sports to play such as basketball, american football or baseball.
    For the vast majority of low-income — and even not low-income, yet very athletic — in the U.S. that try hard to become a profession athlete are not trying to become professional soccer players.
    They are trying to become NFL players or professional basketball players or professional baseball players.
    In most countries, soccer (or as it is called internationally, football) is, by far, the number one choice of youths who are working hard to become professional athletes.
    They don't have 2 or 3 other sports that are beating them to the most athletic kids that want to go pro.

    It is typically the white suburban kids that play youth soccer in the U.S. and very few (from middle school age and up) are serious about even trying to become professions at all.
    Their parents expect them to go to college and into a profession. An exception is second-generation (or higher) Latino/Mexican-American youth who are U.S. citizens.

    These simple facts are very significant and were glossed over in the video.

  25. Women's football in the US is only better because there is more investment. In many countries, women's leagues are semi-professional or even semi-amateur. In Brazil, for example, women's football is not valued by spectators, if it were, the US would have serious problems.

  26. On a grassroots level, they need to start focusing on developing and recruiting players from a much younger age through club academies directly, instead of waiting for players to finish college to then draft them. At the pro level, they need to merge the MLS and USL to create a multi-tier system with promotion and relegation, preferably 3 tiers of 20 teams and then follow the exact same format the European leagues do. Every other league in the world does this apart from the US. The single entity, dual conference and play off system might work for the NBA, NFL and MLB but for the MLS it doesn't, your players, teams, league and national team suffer because of it. In the MLS, you can still finish 7th in your conference and win the MLS Cup which means there's no real incentive to finish as high as you can. Coupled with this, if you aren't playing for the Supporters Shield or the MLS Cup, your games are meaningless. The new multi-tier system will give every team an incentive to win as many games as possible in order to finish as high as possible, making the games much more competitive which will force everyone to stay on their A game and improve. As of this minute, the people in Europe call MLS the 'European retirement league' exactly because of the way it sounds. Our European players who are washed up, old and on the brink of retiring go to the MLS to finish the latter stages of their career, due to the drop in quality and competitiveness compared to the leagues in Europe. They end pretty average in Europe due to old age, but come to the MLS and end up in their All Star XI after their first season. Until player development and recruitment is changed and the MLS is restructured, the league and the national team will always be miles behind the rest of the world.

  27. This is horribly researched and thought out. The US doesn't have a good team cause it is like the 5th or 6th most popular sport in the US, so most of the good Athletes play those other sports. While in other countries, almost all of them around the world, Soccer happens to be head and shoulders above the next most popular sport. The women are good cause America dominates at their popular sports cause we have the biggest variety and amount of athletes and Women's Soccer happens to be Womens most popular sport in the US. Duhh. VOX you do such bad opinion pieces

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