Skip to comments.Is Soccer in the United States Really Growing?
Posted on 03/01/2014 3:53:59 PM PST by nickcarraway
It's a common question: Is soccer in the United States really growing, beyond the mere literal sense of the word?
Answer: Yes and no though even some instances of no actually point to yes.
Let me try to explain, starting with a brief flyover of central Virginia youth soccer.
A few months ago the Richmond Strikers and Richmond Kickers youth clubs, fierce rivals and longtime members of the US Soccer Development Academy, announced that they were merging their Developmental Academy programs into a new entity called Richmond United". This new joint venture would pool both clubs' talent and coaching resources in order to improve their competitiveness and overall developmental environment. Like some (but not all) academies, players selected will pay no fees to participate.
This is a great opportunity for our two nonprofit organizations to work together to further our missions by providing the most promising male soccer players in the Richmond area in these age groups with the opportunity, regardless of financial means, to train and compete at the national level, chair of the board of the Richmond Strikers John Mumford said in a press release.
Earlier this year the clubs replicated the same arrangement for their top girls teams in the female equivalent of the Developmental Academy, the Elite Clubs National League.
Though casual soccer fans may be more familiar with the Kickers thanks to their well-established USL PRO team, in a youth context the Kickers and Strikers are peers. They're crosstown adversaries in every sense of the word, competing ferociously for primacy in a region of 1.2 million people. Traditionally there's very little love lost between them.
So why have they reversed years of history and thrown their lots in together? And why I am telling you about this in the first place?
While it's not always easy to discern, competition for places is increasing across the soccer landscape. In many contexts, this is happening on multiple levels. That's almost always a good thing.
Those two old enemies in Richmond have carved out plenty of success both in terms of results on the field and player development over the years. Yet, they've found it tough going amid the merciless nationwide competition of the Developmental Academy, where market size can be just as influential as coaching, facilities, and other root to fruit infrastructure.
The Kickers and Strikers Developmental Academy teams usually finish at or near the bottom of the Atlantic division standings, behind clubs in more populous regions with deeper talent pools in the Washington/Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York/New Jersey areas. Many observers believe that their central Virginia catchment area is simply not big enough to support two successful Developmental Academy and Elite Clubs National League organizations.
So whether or not it was mutual self-awareness that prompted them to put aside old mentalities, they've crafted a new partnership that enables them to hang together instead of hanging separately, to borrow a line from Benjamin Franklin.
Similar scenarios have played out in Connecticut, Georgia, California, and elsewhere as youth clubs form alliances. Coming to terms with the sobering reality that not everyone can be truly elite might be easier now than it's ever been. A rising tide of professionalism is ever so gradually making that term less subjective.
Another reminder of this evolution played out on Thursday when, after months of rumors and rumblings, the official news broke that Major League Soccer had purchased Chivas USA from Mexican billionaire Jorge Vergara. That choice ended a decade-long experiment that degenerated into a farce which neither MLS nor ownership could afford any longer.
It wasn't just the years of red ink, bad press and bad soccer that put to rest the vague hopes of extending the Chivas Guadalajara brand. It was the burgeoning value of MLS membership testing MLS commissioner Don Garber's patience and with good reason.
Chivas USA cost its original ownership a reported $10 million expansion fee in 2005, and last year NYCFC's entry apparently set back their investor/operators 10 times that figure. A stated desire to deny owners control of multiple clubs going forward further increases values, as the long-running MLS talking point of growing the footprint comes into clearer focus.
Many quibble, with justification, about the methods used by MLS to grow those numbers. A less selective approach to expansion in the lower divisions may or may not reinforce the point.
In the youth setting, the Developmental Academy is far from the only option for the massive ranks of excellent talent playing outside its limited confines. The issue of choosing either the Developmental Academy or high school soccer is important. There's still plenty of work to be done from plenty of organizations with a stake in the sport.
Other metrics, like year-on-year increases in USMNT interest and popularity and a tighter-than-ever race for USMNT World Cup roster spots, may be more prone to ebbs and flows, but recently suggest a positive trend line as well.
Complex realities tend to be resistant to simple observations. All the same, signs of advancing efficiency in American soccer are most welcome.
I don’t see increased interest in Soccer as a positive for the United States.
Nothing wrong with soccer. It is a good sport. However, there are many other competing team sports. So, professional soccer is competing with all them for fans, The NASL created a lot interest in the 70/80s when they recruited the top international players. I suppose they would have to do that again to “kick-start” professional soccer again in the US.
One of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen (it’s on Netflix), is called “Once In a Lifetime” the story of the New York Cosmos.
The problem with the NASL was that other teams couldn’t keep up with the Cosmos, and eventually it all fell apart.
My kids don’t play soccer anymore but it’s a good sport. Unfortunately, the people who play it don’t necessarily want to pay to watch it. They’d rather play.
Soccer has had over 35 years to make it's appearance but has failed on the professional level. Football and baseball will forever take precedence over the sport of nil vs. nil after two full halfs.............
Youth soccer is being built primarily on a club rather than a school-based system, which is a big plus for the players. More subjectively, I find the culture of soccer here in the DC area to be attractive. Football and basketball have gone thug at the professional level, and the bad influence creeps down the chain. I don’t have a particularly broad field of vision, but I find youth soccer (again because it’s club based) to be dominated by parents (in contrast to school based sports), and standards of deportment are fairly high.
Played from grade school to college, loved playing, hate watching!
Is America becoming more pussified?
Well, the feminazis are very close to destroying the NFL, and the next “acceptable” sport to the new ager is soccer.
I will never understand how anyone can get all worked up over 90 minutes of an uncontrollable ball going from one team’s possession to the other’s and wind up with a 0-0 or 0-1 score. AFTER 90 MINUTES!
The only reason why so many people are playing soccer is so they don’t have to watch it.
I remember that fondly. I lived in NY and was a cosmos fan at the time. I remember Pele, Georgio Chinalia, and Franz Beckenbauer. They were amazing players.
I was in Fort Lauderdale, when we had the Strikers: Gerd Muller, Georgie Best, Gordie Banks, Jan Van Beveren, Teo Cubillas....and we hated Rodney Marsh and the frickin’ Tampa Bay Rowdies.
Right along with the rest of the Europeanization of America.
I remember those guys too. Right you are, the NASL failed because lesser teams could not pay the dough to attract the talent. I don’t know if professional soccer is financial feasible in all parts of the country considering the other sports options available.
I don’t see soccer as very much of a “team” sport. The players are on sides, but they are not really teams. Co-operation among players on the same side seems to be ad hoc and there is no strategy.
If they kept it to maybe 10 teams in the best markets, they could have spread the talent around. They just went crazy with expansion, at least the MLS avoided it, although I do wonder if they are starting to overstep things as well.
High-level soccer requires a lot of passing which is certainly a team effort.
They just act like it!
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