June 16th, 2011
05:22 PM ET

Shouldn't the United States be better at soccer?

Freddy Adu was touted as the next big thing in United States soccer but has so far failed to break through.
Freddy Adu was touted as the next big thing in United States soccer but has so far failed to break through.

Is it just me or should the United States be better at soccer?

With a population of over 300 million and with a large percentage of immigrants from countries where football is king, it is my belief there should be more talent in America.

When Team USA lost to Panama and then had to battle long and hard to beat Guadeloupe in the Gold Cup, I thought it was time for a reality check. To be defeated by a team ranked 67 in the world and then barely beat another not even officially affiliated with CONCACAF, the regional football body that covers North and Central America and the Caribbean, is surely not good enough.

Back in 1998, after a dismal World Cup campaign, the U.S. Soccer federation created "Project 2010", a blueprint to make the national team a legitimate football force by that year. Resources were allocated to produce talented players and give them a structure in which to excel.

Fast forward to 2011, and it is fair to say the project has failed. Team USA made the quarterfinals of the World Cup in 2002 during that period, but since then, they have failed to make their mark on the world stage. Advancing to the round of 16 at the last tournament in South Africa last year wasn't exactly what they had in mind.

As worrying as the lack of success has been for the team as a whole, equally as worrying is the failure to find a phenomenon. Landon Donovan is a very good player, don't get me wrong, but with all the sons and grandsons of immigrants from Latin America and Africa, how has the system not produced at least one superstar?

I remember all the fuss that was made around Freddy Adu. He was amazing with the American youth teams in his teens, even signing with the MLS as a 14-year-old. People in States said he had the talent to become the next Pele, but that never happened. Where is Adu these days? He belongs to Benfica of Portugal but spent the last season on loan in the Turkish second division.

In my view there is one key factor which means America will never be a force in world football, and it is quite a simple one. Soccer is not part of the country's culture. I lived in the States for nine years and although I saw many kids playing the game when they were young, they never saw it as a possible career. Most adults actually consider it to be a "soft" sport, some would even say it is a women's sport.

Men in America prefer more physical sports and often dismiss soccer as a "game for sissies." Furthermore, in the States, there are many other sports that football will never be able to compete with. American Football, Basketball, Baseball, NASCAR and golf, for example, all get more coverage and more attention than soccer.

So, if there is one thing football officials would have to do to change all of this it is to market football in a different way. They don’t have to spend money bringing the likes of David Beckham and Thierry Henry to their professional league, they have to go around schools with DVDs of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and company and actually show them how cool the sport can be from an early age. Perhaps this could be the foundation for a new generation of footballers, a "Project 2020" if you will.

Changing the image of football will lead to changing the people who play it. The best athletes then may prefer to kick a ball rather than throw it.

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Filed under:  Football
soundoff (77 Responses)
  1. Ryan Scails

    Some pretty diluted, and generalized comments we have here. Not great journalism by any means.

    June 16, 2011 at 6:58 pm | Reply
  2. Jay Hipps

    Shouldn't we be getting better commentaries about American soccer by now?

    This is the same sort of analysis I've seen time and again by members of the foreign media who take five minutes to look at soccer in the U.S. and start drawing conclusions.

    I could point the author in the right direction to discover the reality of the sport's progress here, but when I read this broad, simplistic analysis, I really don't think it would be worth my time.

    Your readers deserve better.

    June 16, 2011 at 7:01 pm | Reply
  3. Man Utd 4 Life!!!

    US National team needs to get rid of Bob Bradley and his boss, whoever/whatever his names is... + there isn't enough money in soccer like it is in American Football, Basketball, Baseball etc... Americans claim this sport to be for sissies??? I would love for those people to try playing for just 30mins not 90mins and see if they still think that way...

    June 16, 2011 at 7:11 pm | Reply
  4. Jim

    I could not disagree more with your "it's not in our culture" comment. I have played american football, men's League and college rugby, and men's league soccer and soccer by far is the roughest. Soccer requires a skill and finess that can not be made up for with raw athletic ability. As a left back I can run, attach the ball in the air and tackle all day, but I have nothing approaching the skill and deft touch of the midfielders. I find that men who play soccer have very litle patience with trying to explain the game to people who have not. when a generation or two grows up playing success and popularity will follow.

    June 16, 2011 at 7:12 pm | Reply
  5. Patrick

    I agree that we should be better and we haven't achieved all we wanted by 2010 but in 2009 the men's national team beat the best team in the world (Spain) at the Confederations Cup and went toe to toe with Brazil in the Confed Cup Final. Not to mention, Major League Soccer is picking up steam and a soccer game is a real event in Seattle, Portland and Philly. It's getting there.

    June 16, 2011 at 7:55 pm | Reply
  6. 99socrr

    We ran into a problem. It is the USSF and specifically Sunil Gulati! . I wish I had a picture of him at the moment FIFA announced the US had not won to host another World Cup! It was priceless. He was frozen in shock. He dictates who the MNT coach selects and plays. Much of the blame must go to his coaching selections. Rongren was the U21 coach for many years. He is responsible for "chasing away" several very good young prospects now playing for other countries. Again a very arrogant close minded individual. The youth programs and leagues are money based and "win at all costs" to make the club and coach look good in order to attract the "best" players with money to inflate the club's accounts. None are about player developement and retention. Politics are a huge problem in USSF. Wrong people running this "so called" powerful organization. Sounds like our U.S. government. Specifically, Bradley does not possess player evaluation and game management skills. Not to mention player communication skills. He always takes the "safe" road. His lack of allowing "creative play" and "1 2 quick one touch passing triangulation and penetration is obvious and very alarming at this level. My U19 team plays a better system of play than our MNT does. There are huge numbers of very capable and talented coaches and players in the U.S. The USSF is a close minded "click" and relies on it's "own" to provide information on players and coaches rather than allow all avenues of information to get to the decision makers within.

    June 16, 2011 at 8:27 pm | Reply
  7. J Rivera

    I wish I knew how to get young US talent over to clubs overseas like Barcelona, or others with youth academy programs. That would be a start to help the US mens national team. I for one would do anything to send my youngest son overseas. I have a few boys, but my youngest who is 6 adores the sport, and those that see him play know he has a future in it. If soccer was important in the US I knew he would be noticed for an academy program like you find in England, and Spain.

    June 16, 2011 at 10:58 pm | Reply
  8. lmperea

    As an American-Argentine, I would like to say: "Welcome to the club". Having watched Argentina win two world cups, only to be surpassed by Brazil, Germany, and Italy, you need to understand that this is one prize you can not win by using PowerPoint slides, or throwing money at it.. u need to bleed for it. It's not just another trophy, not just something u can take away for the weekend. This is a life long thirst that no one will let u just take home. If u want it, then earn it... Otherwise, keep acting like u dont care about soccer anyway...

    June 17, 2011 at 1:30 am | Reply
  9. WhoNeedsForwards

    Sir, read Soccernomics by Simon Kuiper please, then get back to me about why the US doesn't win at football.

    June 17, 2011 at 5:30 am | Reply
  10. The Big Boss

    Not sure why there is such a emphasis on the sons and grandsons of immigrants from Africa and Latin America. Plenty of people are sons and grandsons of immigrants from many other places with great soccer teams. Sounds a bit racist

    June 17, 2011 at 7:25 am | Reply
  11. Billy Idol

    Soccer is still a game?

    June 17, 2011 at 8:03 am | Reply
  12. derek

    Do you know anything about the sport? We are much better than we were 10 years ago with almost all of our players playing in the best leagues in the world here in England or elsewhere in Europe. We won our group in last year's World Cup and are favoured to win the Gold Cup. Living in London, I can tell you that no English person was happy to have to play us in the WC last year and everyone was happy to come out of it with a 1-1 draw. We are so much more respected now than we were 10 years ago but stupid articles like this are a weak attempt to keep our image at mediocre. Perhaps it's because more due to the fact that soccer is hardly an inner city sport in America, as Basketball reigns supreme, but it is with the middle class of America that can be seen kicking a ball around. That, combined with heavy snow in the northern parts make it difficult to play in the winter time unless there is an indoor facility nearby and this is typically reserved for the serious players. Oh, and did you really just compare soccer's popularity with NASCAR, a whitetrash competition that in no way should be honored with being in the category of "Sport". It's no different than bowling or darts...tell me Dale Earnhardt could have ran a mile without a Marlboro. Highly unlikely.

    June 17, 2011 at 8:20 am | Reply
  13. Christian O'Hare

    No, it shouldnt. Soccer is anti sport today – acting, horrible reffing and a manipulative political system running it.

    Let US soccer be US soccer, and leave world soccer to itself.
    US is the homeland of sport, keep it that way. Leave the feudalistic, overspeending to European soccer.

    June 17, 2011 at 8:23 am | Reply
  14. Rami

    You can't buy football!! Especially on a national level. Every game has to have the heart and devotion of the players for it to become a success. 300 million people means nothing! China is the second biggest economy and has 6 times the population of the US... doesnt mean it will win the world cup, India same story. Apparently every country is good at certain things be it sports or other stuff.

    So I do believe that the U.S. should be way better due to the factors you listed, but once more its about loving to play the game and nothing more.

    Have you seen how the Spanish played? Do you watch big European clubs competing or even the quality of the Spanish/English/Italian/German leagues ... when there is a football match the weekly stuff people take a break and head to the stadiums or gather with friends to follow up. Because its a culture, but so far I do not see that in the US!

    June 17, 2011 at 8:30 am | Reply
  15. Coruja

    calling it football may be a good start...

    June 17, 2011 at 8:46 am | Reply
  16. Erik

    The reason that soccer is not popular in the U.S. is because it is a mans sport. Unlike any other sport soccer requires a true athlete with real talent. Soccer is a test of skill and strength that goes non-stop for two 45minute half's. That is just it, soccer goes non-stop were you don't stop for a Budweiser or Doritos commercial and broadcasters can't get sponsors which means no money. No sponsors, no coverage, no money equals no sport. The truth is some of the highest paid athletes in the world are soccer players. The bottom line is more people watch the World Cup than all the Olympics combined. Soccer is the worlds sport and the U.S. is finally coming around.

    June 17, 2011 at 8:52 am | Reply
  17. Bill

    Soccer will never succeed in the US, because there are no time-outs for commercials on TV.

    June 17, 2011 at 8:58 am | Reply
  18. lulz

    Anyone who lives in the US could have already told you this. Flat out no one cares about soccer in America, and why should they? How fun is it to watch a game for 3 hours only to have the final score 0-0? At least in hockey people beat the crap out of each other......but in soccer all people do is fall down and pretend that they were hit to get a yellow/red card. If I want to see bad acting, i'll go watch a movie with January Jones.

    I'll write another article complaining that since we have so many Chinese descendants in America, we should be pro at pingpong.

    June 17, 2011 at 9:53 am | Reply
  19. Demóstenes

    Americans don't understand football (it's called football and not soccer).
    They like sports where they can be undefeated. Where they cand call themselves world champions although no one else in the world plays that sport.
    They also like sports that have a lot of time outs. That way they can relax in the sofa (or in the stadium) and get something to eat (their favourite sport). They don't understand football because they lack the ability to see beyond the shell. They come to Europe and what do they do? They go to the nearest MacDonald's!
    To be a great football player, you must start from an early age playing it with your neighbours. Never mind colleage sport, it's in the streets where the big names of the sport are made. Americans think that Football is boring. One would think they never saw a baseball match! The timeouts of the game are bigger then the game itself.
    On the other hand, football doesn't need the americans. Who needs them anyway!

    June 17, 2011 at 10:00 am | Reply
  20. TedAj

    I'm from Asia and I love football. Went to America to study for two years and was both surprised and disappointed, football-wise. Surprised to see so many people (including Americans) actually love soccer. I played every two days and the field/court was always full. Disappointed with the fact that nobody actually cares about the development of the sport. After all, I love the US and have always supported their national team.

    Somebody has got to do something about this.

    June 17, 2011 at 10:06 am | Reply
  21. Diogo Forte

    Great post Pedro, as a Portuguese citizen myself I also share your vision on the development of "Soccer" in the United States. With the amount of talented athelets on highschools and universities USA should easily be able to develop to it's full potencial in soccer...but as you say, the problem is not with the athelets, it is with the mentalities. I guess Americans just don't understand how beautiful the game is and how real competition in that sport really is exciting.
    I hope American kids of this next generation can bring up this culture and mature in to something the US can be proud of.
    Also, as a Benfica fan myself I would like to express my deep admiration of Adu's talent.

    June 17, 2011 at 10:11 am | Reply
  22. Mike James

    We have the same problem in Australia. Passion, tradition and media enthusiasm are missing where soccer's concerned. The US has none of this, so will struggle in mens' soccer.
    Winning a big international championship is the only thing that will give the mens' game a boost in the US.

    June 17, 2011 at 10:19 am | Reply
  23. Riccardo

    Im an italian/american, lived in the states for 7 years in chicago when i was younger, and yea, FOOTBALL didn't get much of the attention it deserved... specially in high school, i cant tell you how blatantly obvious it was that the sports teams budget was basically divided up like 60% to the American Football team, 30% to basketball and 10% to the soccer team......... Sissy sport... pfff, like a lot of you said, id like to see those people play for 30mins!... The fitness required for an all out 90min game on an 11 man pitch is just staggering... One last thing, half the, uhm, "athletes" in baseball and american football really shouldn't be regarded as such.... if your gonna play a sport professionally and get paid huge sums of money for it, then A. lose weight and get fit B. actually give it your all when playing :p Sorry for the rant 😀 FORZA MILAN!

    June 17, 2011 at 10:52 am | Reply
  24. DarkJourneyTheMovie

    Soccer wasn't always a soft sport...it's the current generation of diving prima-donna players, crying out for the referee's attention when they've barely been scratched, that has given it this image.

    As for American success in soccer, don't forget that the US knocked out future world champions Spain in the 2009 Confederation Cup semi-final and were still drawing with Brazil at half-time going into the final. I don't call that a sign of a bad team.

    June 17, 2011 at 11:09 am | Reply
  25. Stefan Glavce

    This is the problem we have in The States. Many people don't understand the game. You can't go from bad to amazing with money. It's a mental and physical challenge. The U.S. Team lacks this. Hopefully we'll get better as the generations go on. Hopefully more people will understand the game.

    June 17, 2011 at 11:11 am | Reply
  26. dip

    so should china and india......

    June 17, 2011 at 11:54 am | Reply
  27. Worrell

    You talked about snow in the winter months being a factor, but are you not aware that European countries also suffers from the same winter condition. I think a lot has to do with coaching. Kids are coached from early and it limits their natural ability. Skill intensive sports cannot be tampered with just tweaked.

    June 17, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Reply
  28. Worrell

    Freedy Adu was touted as the next Pele- by whom. American coaches. nuff said. When I saw him play I laughed, and wondered what the americans saw that was pele like.

    June 17, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Reply
  29. H. Plasma

    I wonder if the journalist who wrote this knows that the US women soccer team is actually a force to reckon with. Ranked top in the world. (see link below) from the FIFA site:


    Goes to show what consideration they show to women in sports. 🙁

    June 17, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Reply
  30. Carlo

    The structure to have fantastic local and national soccer teams has been in place in the USA for a very long time. Tell me one town, schoo or company that doesn't have some kind of team in place. Towns and cities have great fields and set up leagues for children as young as 4, elementary and high schools have their teams, the towns team structure and in many cases intramural teams; and the same for colleges and companies. So American children, young adults, men and women love watching and playing soccer.
    Why don't we have a great national team.... soccer IS a very physical sport. 2 continuous 45 minutes of play.... it's hard to squeeze commercials into a game with few (if any) disruptions.
    The lack sponsors for TV means lack of endorsements for players and lack of tv stations that are willing to cover live games...
    Given a choice of playing professional soccer where you have the financial limitations, or something else.... what would you choose?

    June 17, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Reply
  31. Eddie

    Soccer (football) is not a sport that is part of the North American culture. This sport is still taking baby steps trying to embedd itself into the Americana mainstream. All around the world, football is a part of the landscape, from the most empoverished country to the most afluent. You cannot simply take 10 years of publicity and make this sport part of the national past time. The US has made tremendous strides in their team's performance and has adapted well to the multinational styles of the game but still lacks the passion that the rest of the world has for the sport. It may have the financial backing but without the drive it will not move forward.

    June 17, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Reply
  32. Bert (Not the one from Sesame St)

    Looks to me like it's all about money. Why play a sport that doesn't pay as much?

    The US womens team seem to be pretty good. But then what other choice do they have, cheerleading for a mans sport maybe?

    June 17, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Reply
  33. Maria

    Cristiano Ronaldo as a role model? Really? He is the last soccer player I would want anyone looking up to (expect for Maradona). He's a terrible teammate and his personal life is abominable. He's incredibly talented, don't get me wrong, but his arrogance is repulsive.

    June 17, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Reply
  34. godanov

    American men hate soccer, and f their is no support their is no World Cup.

    June 17, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Reply
  35. Albert

    Football, or "soccer", as you americans still tend to call it, isn't a typical logically analaizable game. You are used to deal with avarages and percentages in sports like Tennis, American Football, basketball or baseball. But "soccer" is mostly about talent and what we in europe call "in game events" wich make it one of the most unpredictable sports to ever be created. It is useless to finance a team to grow into an arsenal squad in a determined year. what you need is culture, culture that countries like malaysia or india lack with soccer and have plenty of in crickett....it's impossible for the US to gain that culture by simply importing talent from it's immigrants...it might take at least 20 years before the US becomes top 10 in the world....but that won't happen before they will become aware of the sport, and that has yet to happen, not when baseball and basketball are around...and by fair trade...you can't always be good in everything.

    June 17, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Reply
  36. Dre

    How about your team is just crap... To think its as simple as 'get soccer into the culture of the people' is so silly.. they are many countries where soccer is like a religion and their teams are still mediocre and they have few or no international 'stars' of the game.

    Your team is just crap... simple.

    June 17, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Reply
  37. BigOkieTechie

    Soccer will never be big in America also because of one other thing: money. You see networks, corporate sponsors, and fans get half-heartedly behind the sport, but the money is nowhere near what it needs to be.

    Take for instance: England. You have a country of 57M citizens and 20 Premiership teams there, and their expenditures PALES America's NFL with 30 teams and 300M citizens. A while back, Chelsea was spending 172M GBP (278.4M USD) on player wages...that's 27 players...over 10M per player average on a team.

    The highest in 2010 for the NFL was the Washington Redskins at $178.2M for about 40 players or about $4.4M per player.

    And how does US's Major League Soccer compare?

    The average pay on the highest paid team (New York Redbulls) is a bit under $450K a year per player.

    The fact is to bring talent in and develop it here, you have to have money. You can't develop a whole league of top-flight players on a shoestring budget.

    IMHO, they made a mistake paying so much for Beckham. That money would have been better spent on bring in other talent and coaches from Europe and South America.

    Get more money...get better, more notable talent, get better coaches...and, the problem will solve itself.

    June 17, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Reply
  38. dart

    futbol has to do with tradition and culture as it is with careful planning. Successful countries see it as a game, a pass time like music as opposed to a chance to show superiority. The plan to win the world cup in 2010 was a stupidly crazy idea I laughed at back in the 90s.

    Let it simmer naturally, build the tradition and results will come. The US has the strong organizational discipline, what it doesn't have is patience. Like music it needs to come naturally, just as Rock, the Blues, Jazz, Hip Hop it needs to come from the natural tendency of the people and then grow. You can't plan it, you can only nurture it.

    And please get some attractive, flamboyant chants. Enough with this USA, USA, USA shit.

    June 17, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Reply
  39. kasonde

    1)off-course the USA should be better at football/soccer. they have population of over 200 million people, most countries with large populations does well football.

    2) secondly the money, countries that do well at football are richer countries they can hire the best coaches and train the players with best services available

    3)third the USA was 3rd in the 1st world cup and did well in the 1st 20 years at the world cup. plus they have qualified and for the last 5 world cups.

    4) many big team's always say that the USMNt is very hard to beat at the world cup's they may not be the most talented but they know how to frustrate big teams

    5) Soccer/football is very much an American sport, its the most capitalistic sport there is clubs can buy many player they want and winners takes all.

    6) Americans love competitive sports and soccer is very competitive and like most sports in the USA it about heart, determination and have star player(s )to lead the team to glory and have supporting players who help the key players

    7) the only problem is that the USA have not found a playing style that suits them, they like most team's the world they have not adopted soccer into their culture. same way with the African team's and some European teams. eg

    Brazil, Germany and Italy are very successful because they understand soccer that have adapted it to their key strength

    8)Another problems is in soccer players don't go college they go to Soccer academies to improve their skills.

    9) The USA female team is the most successful team on the women's side and currently number one, if the women in the USA can do it why can the Men.

    10) My concern for the USMNT is that they do well when they have faith in themselves but once they stop believing they lose. They drew with Argentina and beat Spain when they had faith but when they played Brazil and Ghana they lost their belief. in soccer you need a fighting spirt and faith in your team and yourself to win . off-course you don't need arrogance but but respect of the game

    11) also the USA have talent, they need better scouts they should pick every type of player whether they are athletic or not whether big or small they should pick kids from all walks of life whether surban kids or kids in the streets. that's how other countries operate

    June 17, 2011 at 9:01 pm | Reply
  40. kasonde

    one more thing the USA dont need to find start player like pele or diego they need hard working and hungry players. Germany is good example of country that did not produce the most talented player but they are mos successful than Argentina, Portugal and Spain which have produced more talented players

    June 17, 2011 at 9:05 pm | Reply
  41. Keith r

    The reason football sorry soccer has not taken off is the TV stations wont push soccer is it would loose a lot of revenue on adds they run every 10 to 15 mins and in a soccer the match has to be playrd for 45 mins befor a add could be run.Hence the rest off the world love',s soccer and America is missing out, so sorry get real its al bout da money,money

    June 17, 2011 at 9:38 pm | Reply
  42. mike

    The US are not bad at soccer. I hate this unprecedented stereotype, our national team is one of the best in the world. While it may not be at the at spain's or germany's level, that doesn't make us bad. We're just as good as England, as we proved in the world cup

    June 17, 2011 at 9:48 pm | Reply
  43. Eoin

    I recently wrote an article on soccer in the US. You can read it at http://tinyurl.com/6kd4ynr

    Thank you

    June 17, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Reply
  44. its called soccer here

    Its because they are such pussies now. they barely get touched and roll around on the ground holding their leg when someone bumped their arm. They get taken off on a stretcher then hop right up when the other guy gets a card. Their just actors.
    I was really excited for the world cup then watch about half of a game and couldn't stand watching anymore because how dramatic they had to make everything. It was so much standing around waiting for guys to stop rolling around like a 5 year old that got pushed over.
    I agree, it used to be a tougher sport, but it has changed. But if you want to say its tough because they run for so long then lets all go sit around and watch guys run a marathon. They will score about the same amount of goals and they don't stop when someone scrapes their knee.
    It's popular with kids because it's cheap so parents have them play, but then the kids see that the only people that still play soccer after elementary school are the ones that got cut from every other sport.
    It will never be popular in the US. We have better things to watch. I don't care if you say football is a lot of standing around. Let's see how tough a soccer player is when he gets the ball in the NFL.
    Last thing. Cheerleaders and great beer commercials-not in soccer

    June 17, 2011 at 10:05 pm | Reply
  45. kt

    its so funny when the yanks called football a 'sissy sport'. The yanks hate soccer as you guys say it just because THE WORLD IS FAR BETTER THAN U! Soccer is a world sports unlike american football and baseball are just popular in north america. If USA is not the big countries im sure MESSI will be the highest earning among the sportsman..

    June 18, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Reply
  46. Bill

    (Hi, can you post this version instead? I made a couple of spelling and punctuation corrections. Thanks.)
    I don't think Project 2010 was a failure. If you look back to where we were, when Paul Caliguri's "Goal Heard 'Round the World" helped qualify us for the 1990 World Cup after a 40 year absence, to where we've come, with our finishing in the top 16 at the 2010 World Cup, we've come a long way. And let's not forget that we beat Spain, the number ranked team in the world, and were up on Brazil 2-0 on a couple of beautiful goals, at the 2009 Confederations Cup. Not often noted, but the U.S. team was actually one of the more exciting teams to watch at this past summer's lackluster Cup. We had two come-from-behind draws or wins, whereas the world's big three (Messi, Ronaldo, and Rooney) failed to score a single goal between them. I read one blog of a guy who said he'd never watched a soccer game in his life, but he found the Slovenia game more exciting than any football or basketball game he'd ever seen. Don't get me wrong: I love college basketball, but when soccer is good, it's hard to beat. It's actually the absence of goals and all the close calls or near goals in soccer that raise the spectator's desire and make the actual goals so fulfilling. Oh yeah: back to the U.S. team Granted we have a huge drain of our talent into football, basketball, and baseball, etc., but I don't think that can account for the U.S. not being able to break into soccer's upper echelon. I was just an average kid, but I wrote a report about Pele in sixth grade, used to practice all the time against the back of my garage and the local kickboard, and dreamed of being a professional soccer player. Multiply that by thousands of kids across the country, and I don't think you can say the interest is lacking. Perhaps, just perhaps, it is the coaching. Bruce Arena did a great job at Virginia, D.C. United, and at the U.S. National Team, but when he went to a one forward lineup at the 2006 World Cup, that didn't bode well for either the team or his job prospects. To evaluate Bob Bradley's performance at the 2010 World Cup, let's look at one thing he did great. When the U.S. was down 2-0 against Slovenia, to start the second half, he brought Donovan up as a forward along with Dempsey and Altador for a three forward lineup, ala Brazil. It paid off handsomely, with Donovan scoring moments into the second half. Yet, when we were down one in overtime against Ghana, he did not pull Donovan up. We didn't score and were duly eliminated, losing our best chance in a long time to make it to the semi-finals. Now, a larger mistake than a lack of risk taking relates to our style of play. Soccer is about one thing and one thing only, in my view: possession. Statistics show that only one shot in nine scores, so the team that has the ball the most, shoots the most, and therefore scores the most. No team in the history of the game (as far as I know) demonstrated this better than Spain at the 2010 World Cup. Sure their style of play isn't as exciting as Brazil, but the way they passed the ball against Germany in the semi-finals, as if they had the ball on a string, was beautiful nonetheless. They achieved an astounding 89% success rate for their passes, and actually passed the ball 200 more times per game than the tournament average. (For a nifty analysis of their passing, go to http://www.prozonesports.com/news-article-world-cup-2010-analysis.html.) The only time the United States played any possession soccer was during the first half against England. (By possession soccer I mean stringing together more than, say, three passes.) The rest of the time there was an inordinate amount of long balls send to Altidor and others. Long balls are not high percentage passes, for just like in basketball, the closer you are to your target, the more likely you are to hit it. So, even though the U.S. didn't get by Ghana (who did, after all, beat Brazil to win the under 20 World Cup the year before), Bob Bradley was given a fair shake and another chance to advance in the World Cup, but down the road we may need a foreign coach to bring about a change in our mindset and establish a possession game, the one thing that can perhaps take the United States to the next level.

    June 19, 2011 at 8:21 am | Reply
  47. ForeBarca

    We are poor at soccer because we are not sufficiently technical let alone necessarily. When I have watched the US players I see a rush to kick the ball as far up the field as possible. In contrast, Spain and Barcelona start their attack from behind! Our Anglo-Saxon cousins are equally inept at world football because the English value industry over grace, or graft over gift. Look at the Japanese! They now have some fine ball players playing over at Inter and Schalke, players who know to caress the football.

    June 19, 2011 at 11:21 am | Reply
  48. stevekatherman

    Its all about money. soccer has to compete with american football, baseball, and basketball for the best athletes. Most grow up playing some soccer but continue with the other sports because of possible riches

    June 19, 2011 at 11:53 am | Reply
  49. isaac

    Soccer was at almost zero just 18 years ago in the US. Now it's probably in the top 5 of team sports and growing. There's a popular domestic league that makes money, and Europe has many players from the US. The USA has been the best team in CONCACAF for the past decade, though Mexico is making a big comeback in that respect. USA went from being a World Cup non entity to making the Quarterfinals in 02, flopping in 06, to winning its group in '10. US will only get better, though it needs some reorganization at the top (not going to happen), along with a coaching change (Bradley did OK but his style has gone stale.)

    June 19, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Reply
  50. Tyler

    Way to write an article filled with stereotypical depictions of the American view on soccer. Soccer is rapidly increasing in popularity and more and more children are following through with the sport in terms of not switching sports once they grow up... If we weren't becoming more and more soccer-aware then why would FOX, one of the major networks in the United States, broadcast the Champions League Final on national television? They certainly wouldn't do it if they didn't think anyone was going to watch it. Not to mention EA Sports' FIFA series sells more and more copies each year domestically and not to mention ESPN has made a concerted effort to give soccer more coverage.. So why don't you go do more research, then write a well informed article that makes you sound like you didn't just crawl out from under a rock... Yea maybe it was a bit unrealistic to set 2010 as a date for churning out global superstars but lets be real we're a top 20 soccer team in the world when playing at our best and the youth in our pipeline are going to do even better than their predecessors given the increases in the caliber of coaching we are currently able to provide..

    June 19, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Reply
  51. Joe shoulders

    The nonsense about soccer not being taken seriously by the American public is way off. I do agree we should be better. The problem can be related to the "Project 2010" program. The US Soccer coaching education programs have killed the creativity of American players by focusing on "coaching development" rather than player development.

    Freddy Adu is perfect example. Here's a super-talented kid with skills beyond anything we have seen the US and he has been flop because coaches (highly educated coaches), both here and Europe (where coaching education is huge) choose to focus on what he can't do rather than what he can do better than anyone.

    Bob Bradley represents the US coaching philosophy. He preference for hard-working, simple players (like his son) over less predictable talents (like Adu or Jose Francisco Torres). This type of thinking filters down throughout US Soccer resulting in a very ordinary product on the field.

    June 19, 2011 at 7:44 pm | Reply
  52. Mezzala.net

    The problem is not a lack of interest but a lack of coaching and infrastructure. England have a population of around 50 million compared to our 300 million while we have 16 mls clubs, 5 NASL clubs, and 11 USL Clubs compared to England's 92 League clubs. Just assuming that those 32 American clubs are on par with England's in terms of youth development (which they obviously aren't) this means that American clubs are responsible for approximately 20 times as many people (1/3 number of clubs and 6 times the population)

    Another factor is price. Soccer normally falls into a similar demographic as basketball does in the US, impoverished families, but in the US local clubs charge upwards of $1000 (and do so rightly as they wouldn't exist without the funding) for players to travel whereas European clubs allow free to play opportunities. This leaves most US youth playing in poorly maintained environments with uneducated coaches and all of this fails to account for the fact that this simply shows how far behind the US is to England who are having their own problems developing players right now with a dismal performance in the World Cup and the u21 European championships.

    Their are plenty of interested youth but simply no way of training them properly. Look no farther than Guiseppe Rossi and Neven Subotic for proof that these so called imigrant's children ARE REAL but they only develop because they are trained by capable hands and not just foreign parents who were fans in their own country.

    Finally, if you think athleticism is an issue than you don't even understand the sport. The US were as athletic as anyone at the World Cup but lost out to well trained skill and intelligence. You think Spain won the World Cup because they had the best athletes? (they probably had close to the worst) They won because of La Masia and the ideology of one Johan Cruyff. I bet you've heard of him.

    June 20, 2011 at 5:59 am | Reply
  53. ScudAg56

    Runners up in the Confederations Cup in 2009 (after beating Spain and almost beating Brazil in the Finals) and making the Round of 16 in the 2010 World Cup (as far as England, Mexico and Portugal got). I would say that was being a major player in world soccer. Should we be better? We certainly have the talent if they would choose soccer over other sports.

    June 20, 2011 at 7:50 am | Reply
  54. Wesszr

    Spent some money and get Guus Hiddink to coach the national US team. I guarantee you will make it to the final 4 in 2014.
    Another tip, US coaches should start in Europe as a assistant under coaches who have proved themselves.
    The US have all the potential to do well even if it's not sport number one. When it comes to competitive countries that should be able to win a world cup it should be like this, the more the better.
    There are 16 million people living here who love the game, I'm sure in a country like the US there are at least the same amount of people to be found who love football (soccer) as well. Goodluck USA.
    Greetings from Holland.

    June 20, 2011 at 9:56 am | Reply
  55. Pedro

    Until the vast majority of Americans get over themselves and realize that there are other sports being played outside of the US borders (like soccer for instance), and that they aren't the best at it, they will never be good at soccer.

    How can you expect to have a good national team when 9.5 out of 10 people do not even know that the CONCACAF Gold Cup will be taking place right there in the States in less than a week?

    Plus, why would any self-respecting American kid want to pursue a soccer career if all his peers will look at him as less of an athlete because he is not playing a "true AMERICAN sport"?

    I am willing to bet my entire bank account, however meager the balance might be, that if FIFA renamed the sport to "American soccer" the United States would win the next World Cup.

    June 20, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Reply
  56. John Hillman

    Soccer IS a game for sissies. The players get tripped, fall dramatically then stay on the ground until they are carried off after almost every play. American football is a collision sport yet does no have nearly as many "stretcher" cases.

    The "fathom" fouls abound. The "floppers" get rewarded.

    If play is stopped for an "injury" the player should be required to stay off the turf for 2 minutes (after all they ARE hurt are they not?). If they are carried off on a stretcher they should be off AT LEAST 5 minutes (again player safety) and more likely 10. There would be a lot less flopping if they know they would be off for long enough to really be checked for serious injury (they pop right off the stretcher as it is far too often).

    They need to modernize the officiating. 3 officials is not enough for 22 players on the large playing surface. (see basketball – 10 players – small court) (see American football – same field 6 officials...). Replay would help identify the "ghost" fouls and the "ghost" goals.

    June 21, 2011 at 12:24 am | Reply
  57. alexgloc

    Hey, Demostenes and the rest of you "football" fans. Stop correcting us for your cheap ego gratification, OK?
    First, we chose to keep the old name others threw away – forty years ago the sport was called "soccer" in the UK, and ten years ago in Australia...and World Soccer magazine isn't published in the USA.
    Second, the Italians don't call it "football" either ("sfera del piede" or "piedepalla" or some such). They call it "calcio" after a much older native Italian sport. Go make fun of them when your country wins as many World Cups as Italy has. (And Brazil, we'll try not to giggle when you have a power outage during WC 2014.)

    June 21, 2011 at 1:15 am | Reply
  58. Napoleon

    The reason the US isn't better is due to several reasons:

    They need to attract foreign coaches who have very good technical nous to the clubs they already have.
    Bradley needs to go and coach like Marcelo Bielsa or even Villas-Boas should be brought in.Someone who will improve the US on the tactical & technical departments and enable them find what their identity is as team because I'm not sure the US team know what it is.They know what they have to live up to but they haven't found that identity that defines as a team..

    The US is no longer a growing nation or a neophyte,when it comes to football.The current FA was good in terms of getting the association to point where it is today but in terms of making it global powerhouse,they fall short.The vision needs to change if the US is to ever become a powerhouse.

    June 21, 2011 at 3:29 am | Reply
  59. jimmy

    well the talent is here believe me, i alwayys thought i was great at soccer i played in a couple of state level occer in mexico, and when i back to the united states playing in high school destroyed my mentality of being good, many white americans i encountered were just amazing, but none of them see themselves playing pro why? well why play something for the next 10 years when you can just finish college and have a real career for the rest of your life.

    June 21, 2011 at 5:55 am | Reply
  60. James

    I think Project 2010 was a success, because the USMNT is a lot better than what it was 10 years ago, but they need to make the next step.

    So, Sunil Gulati and Bob Bradley should be replaced. There is a lack of major talent from the US squad, but I believe both of these gentlemen are holding the current squad back even more. There's nothing wrong with a scrappy hard working team, the identity the USMNT has had for the last decade now, IMO. There are fundemental tactical and philisophical diffencies that accompanies this current administration. To move forward they need to set a new goal, and I don't believe that has been done.

    Also, there was a phenom in Giussepe Rossi who was born and raised in New Jersey who decided to play for Italy instead.

    June 22, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Reply
  61. Jok

    United States of America will not be better in football until they accept it as footbaal.

    June 23, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Reply
  62. pdxwilly

    I don't know much, but I blame the MLS for lack of US passion, and for two reasons.

    1) When they built the league 20 years ago, they didn't focus on already football-rabid towns. They tried to recreate city rivalries already in others, IE: New England and New York. They missed the mark by not marketing hardcore rivalries that already existed in cities like Seattle and Portland. As a result, big rivalries on TV showed empty stands and little interest. In my mind they're finally starting to change this with the addition of the Timbers and Whitecaps this year. The buzz around Portland is thick, the waiting list for tickets is long, and the experience for the fans is top flight.

    2) They tried to market the game to the soccer moms and kids, instead of to the rabid soccer fans that either grew up or spent time overseas, and hardcore supporters groups. If you look at cities like Portland, fans are coming to see the Army, and learning about the game. With some fans i've talked to, the enjoyment of watching the supporters groups has acted as a bridge to understanding the play on the field.

    I speak to this, because I am one of those people. After holding season tickets in the Army for 4 years. This last weekend at the Timbers/NYRB game I realized I was starting to understand the game when I groaned at several bad crosses and cheered for a goal-saving bicycle kick (albeit by the other team). Instead of trying to learn the chants, I was trying to juggle chanting with cheering for good play on the field, regardless if it yielded a goal. As I like to say, I came for the Army, and stayed for the Timber.

    I liked to think the MLS is finally getting the second bit better, but after the way the New England supporters group was treated in the fort last week, it reinforces that the marketing still has a ways to go.

    June 23, 2011 at 11:10 pm | Reply
  63. wladimir

    I always wondered why the U.S. does not employ a large Brazilian coach??

    June 25, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Reply
  64. Nick

    It's hard for the US. Soccer is the 4th or 5th most popular sport in the States. Give the US some time, once soccer's popularity grows we will begin to see world class soccer players. When our best athletes want to play football, baseball, basketball before soccer it puts us at a disadvantage. Its the number one sport in every other country (for the most part) so their top athletes play soccer. Just give it some more time, the US will get there,

    June 28, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Reply
  65. Tiago d'Almeida

    Oguchi Onyewu in Portugal you will win! 😀

    June 29, 2011 at 12:19 am | Reply
  66. rh

    As long as American football, baseball, and basketball exist, soccer will never be number one in the US.

    And as long as MLS clubs recruit internationally for their youth academies instead of giving American citizens a chance, US soccer will never progress. Even on the youngest RBNY pre-academy teams, you can see international players and players from well outside NYC. And those teams are a bunch of low-class, red-card getting, complaining players who would not make it on another team – because of politics they make the team.

    I agree that the people in charge are stagnating US soccer, and Sunil and Bob should go as they have overstayed their welcome. US youth soccer is going the wrong way fast, and the only way to improve is to start up residential academies for all MLS clubs, and pick players based on other factors than size and strength.

    June 29, 2011 at 11:46 pm | Reply
  67. anonymous

    The problem isn't money (e.g: Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, even some good African teams like Ivory Coast), nor is it population (e.g: England, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands). The problem is the mentality, is to get the children to dream of playing soccer, finding teammates, the infrastructure, local clubs who will take in those children and train them, see them as an investment, to later sell them. In Brazil and in Europe, you will see players being reared from a young age, from a small club, to bigger clubs etc... They have to be interested, and they need to understand there is a possible career in the game for them. There is no formula, no "we need money and people". It's just that people need to understand there is a future. Americans need to understand that SOCCER (or FOOTBALL), is the world sport, not baseball, not basketball, not volleyball, not American Football.

    June 30, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Reply
  68. Johnny

    What Does Soccer Mean? And Dey Should Know To Be Better But Dey Cant Dey Dont Have Soul And Spirit And Love For The Sport TO Play Good.. My Opinion...

    June 30, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Reply
  69. observer

    Awful 'journalism' football has many fans in the US especially after thier good showing in the world cup. Many countries try for years and don't get past the first round or even get to play in the world cup at all. Mr. Pinto does not understand this game and therefore should not comment on what he does not know. Spain planned for years with their investment in youth football before winning the world cup. The US is not going to walk in and win, it takes an investment in the future with youth soccer which is being done now in order to have any success. You cant measure success only by winning the world cup because you will always be a failure. this sport has taken hold finally because of the efforts of the last team to play in the world cup with that last minute win to qualify for the next round. The US viewers which were in record numbers finally f felt that passion for the game and what it is all about. This blog was just a sad display of a lazy, biased and misinformed article.

    June 30, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Reply
  70. AWilson in DR

    Coaching, first. MLS farm system, second. Bradley must go. Professional system must link with youth system and create a viable farm system.

    Americans play on groomed, immaculate fields and play without passion or creativity. We teach kids a civil game, where the boundaries of pushing, pulling, grabbing is not tolerated at the younger levels. We need a new brand of football that is more urgent, agile and ruff and tumble. We need a brand that looks like the streets and is not overly sanitized. It needs to be more earthy and authentic to life.

    Sport mimic's life, drama and all, when played well: American football does not.

    July 5, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Reply
  71. Dennis


    Terrible shallow article! I hope you have an alternate career path.

    July 7, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Reply
  72. John Kaiser

    I'm from Brazil and I always questioned myself about this. USA is great at all other sports, but never did much at soccer.

    Things changed, however. I was in South Africa last year, and the biggest crowd I saw in Cape Town was the americans, even more than the english!

    I would ask them "seriously, do you really like soccer?" They would shout yes, everyone was very excited.

    Soccer is the most international sport, the most passionated, the most exciting. It's not coincidence that almost everywhere on Easth millions love it. Different races, different ethnicities, different colours, different languages, different cultures.

    USA is way better than it was 10 years ago. WAY BETTER. Was considered a good team last WC, and in the women's is one of the best. Things don't change that much in a short time. It takes a long period. But I think you'll get there. Once you show some results and there is media covering it, people will enjoy it. And support. And then you go.

    Cheers from Brazil!

    July 18, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Reply
  73. kellsbells

    I think SteveKatherman has it right. If you are an up-and-coming athlete, there is no "big money" to be had pursuing a career in soccer, unless you are amazing enough to be scouted by the premier European teams with unreal bank accounts. I bet a ton of wide receivers and centerfielders would have made great soccer players but they had to make a choice and there is simply no money to be made playing US soccer because of the lack of commercial breaks and sponsorship opportunities. It's a shame too, because it is such a beautiful, pure sport.

    July 19, 2011 at 12:29 am | Reply
  74. Alexandre

    Yes, but first of all, you should know much more about it. For instance that Corinthians is the biggest soccer club in Brazil and has more than 33 million fans only inside the country and many others around the world. We've had many brazilian soccer idols playing for the team such as Ronaldo, Rivellino and Socrates and nowadays we're trying to bring back Carlos Tevez who played for Corithians during 2005 season and also we have Adriano. Corinthians is one of the 3 biggest clubs in the world that earns more money from the sponsors. Yes you should learn more and not say or publish things that you don't know. Manchester City is not even one tenth of what Corinthians is.
    Corinthians my life, Corinthians my history, Corinthians my love....

    July 19, 2011 at 3:29 am | Reply
  75. dony

    well, another ridiculous article form the Anglo-Saxon biased CNN, first fo all the question would be why Mexico and Portugal are not yet a real force in world football??? , but talking about the yanks it has many possible answers.
    First of all, football is not only the most popular worldwide sport is also the most competitive, at club lever there are at least 10 leagues with a similar level , Serie A, Torneo AFA, Campeonato Paulista e Carioca, La Liga, Bundesliga, EPL, Eurodivise, Apertura Mexicano and so on......
    What is more, nowadays the idea of the Big 4 (Brazil, Germany, Italy, Argentina) it does not correspond with the reality ( WC 1998 was the turning point), and for that reason you have Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Spain, England, Uruguay , Italy and France like powerhouses at international level , I do not think so honestly that USA has a real chance, think in the time that Spain has to wait until win their 1st World Cup.
    Finally, about being a soft sport, I want to be a yank, brit or from any other country outside South America playing at the Morumbi, Bombonera, Centenario, with thousands of supporters chanting with fireworks, which can easily make you feel like a completely yellow.......

    July 24, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Reply
  76. morgan

    of coarse america is destined for greater skies as far as footbal isconcerned they only needs to be positive if they want to develop their game

    August 27, 2011 at 11:59 am | Reply
  77. Realist

    If the sport football/soccer is really the second most popular sport among the 12-24 demographic as per what ESPN said, perhaps there is really hope for the USA! My fearless forecast – if all goes according to plan for the American FA – is that the first (Men's) World Cup Winning Team from the USA will be comprised of kids born in the 2000s and 2010s (aka Gen Y's children).

    December 20, 2012 at 10:11 am | Reply

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