Imagine a world where every child is practically born kicking a soccer ball. That is virtually every country in the entire world except for the United States of America.
There is no doubt that the United States produces some of the world’s best athletes which is continually proven in every sport except for soccer. Why is this?
Don’t get me wrong, the United States has produced some phenomenal soccer players, with the likes of Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan making waves on the international stage, but the numbers are so low in comparison to countries like Spain, England, Germany, France and many others that the you are seeing American players less and less in the most competitive leagues in the world.
Things looked up for the American squad in 2002 when they went to South Korea and Japan for the World Cup.
The U.S shocked the world in their very first match by upsetting a phenomenal Portugal side 3-2. With young stars like Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley leading the charge, American soccer was finally starting to gain some respect on the international stage as a formidable opponent.
Not only did soccer gain respect on the international stage, but it also gained respect from a plethora of fans back in the states.
People who had never watched a competitive soccer match before, gathered in front of TVs at home to support our men’s national team.
Fans followed the men’s national team all the way to the quarterfinals of the tournament, where they lost a controversial match to powerhouse Germany.
Men’s soccer was starting to gain some support in the United States, and more and more young players were stepping onto the soccer field for the first time.
The 2006 World Cup in Germany saw a major drop for the United States. Not only did they fail to qualify for the elimination rounds, but they only garnered a measly one point in group play.
That one point was a tie against eventual champions Italy which was the only bright spot of the tournament for a United States squad that was expected to do much more.
In 2010 the World Cup made its way to the continent of Africa for the first time. South Africa was the host and the United States had high expectations.
Landon Donovan and Tim Howard were now veteran players with an immense amount of international experience under their belts.
I had the opportunity to go to the World Cup and actually see the United States play against Slovenia in Johannesburg, South Africa.
This was by my far my favorite moment of my two-week trip to South Africa.
Seeing thousands upon thousands of Americans from all different walks of life, and different parts of the country come together to support their team was extremely eye opening.
I always knew soccer was a fantastic sport with a decent following in the states but I never imagined for it to be like this.
The game was one of the most back and forth affairs I had ever seen. The U.S. was down by two goals at half time and things looked reminiscent of the last World Cup for the U.S. But the Americans came out guns blazing in the second half. Landon Donovan blasted a shot past the Slovenian goalkeeper to put the game within one goal.
Michael Bradley tied the game up with a beautiful finish later in the second half. The game was now level and the U.S. was playing the best soccer they have played in an extremely long time.
The U.S. would score one more goal that was called back due to the referee believing the Americans were fouling despite the replays showing that it was clearly the Slovenians who were infringing upon the rules.
The crowd was in an uproar. I had never seen so many people come together for a sporting event and truly put everything aside to support their home team.
We went through the highs and the lows with the team. We felt the devastation when Slovenia scored their second goal, we jumped in extreme jubilation when the U.S. put away their second goal, and we felt the heartbreak as our team scored a goal that was called back for unjust reasons.
High fiving the people I was with, hugging a complete stranger next to me as the U.S scored a goal, learning how to properly play a vuvuzela and being with fellow Americans watching a sport I love were experiences that I will never forget.
Being able to go to this match really opened my eyes to how American soccer was received by fans across the United States.
It may not have been the most beautiful style of soccer, but it was effective and no matter what the fans rallied behind their team, their fellow Americans.
Today soccer is becoming one of the largest youth sports in the United States and things are beginning to look up.
We are still not where we need to be in comparison to other countries throughout the world, but we are moving in a positive direction.
People who never watched soccer before are beginning to tune their televisions in to watch soccer matches from leagues around the world, and the World Cup is becoming one of the largest events to watch in the United States.
We are still not born kicking a soccer ball like some other countries, but with time maybe we’ll eventually achieve that status.
If American athletes across the various fields of the sporting world grew up playing soccer, there is no doubt that we would become a force to be reckoned with on the international stage.