Tuesday’s column: U.S. still not a soccer nation

i-18a6c311b662ab55f453f7f8fcda586f-humbled.jpg“Empty feeling:” U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard reacts after Saturday’s Gold Cup final defeat (AP Photo).

Soccer fans in the U.S. like to think the sport is growing and it is, incrementally.

Last year pubs and bars in LA were packed with soccer fans watching World Cup games, last week a stunning 45,000 or so showed up for a regular season MLS game in Seattle and last weekend there were more U.S. fans at a game against Mexico in Southern California than I’ve ever seen.

Yet, the Rose Bowl crowd was still overwhelmingly pro-Mexican, some MLS clubs still struggle to draw much over 10,000 on a regular basis and a lot of those fans watching the World Cup were, like me, immigrants to this country.

The U.S. is still not a soccer nation and let’s not kid ourselves into believing it is. And that affects performances and (should at least) expectations.

That’s the case I make in today’s column in the wake of the Gold Cup loss.

Read it here.

Incidentally, the U.S.-North Korea game is under way as I write this live on ESPN. It’s 0-0 as the game approaches the 25th minute mark.

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  • Brian

    Many people in this country love soccer. They just haven’t embraced the domestic league (I’ve done my part to convert a few to MLS) or worse yet, many haven’t embraced their NEW countries national team. Despite popular belief, the majority of Mexican supporters at the Rose Bowl were not illegal immigrants and in fact were born in the United States. So why aren’t they supporting their countries team? I, like 99% of us, ancestry comes from elsewhere (German, Irish, and Scottish here)–but I’m a US supporter.

  • http://www.prestonm.com/brewcity/ohio.php kingsnake

    Nick, every slam you make against the amateurs who run MLS, or for that matter USSF, is fully justified.

  • EvanZ

    Nick, agree with your column.

    You talk about immigrants to this country and their love for the sport. I would venture further to say that the USSF is corrupt because of its power and has somewhat of institutional racism ingrained in its culture–going after the same type of player through the same-type of development system–while ignoring the immense resources and talents that the diversity of this country provides.

    If I were in charge of the USSF I would fire Bob Bradley immediately. My second act would be to reach out to the Latino community in the USA for player development and support. There has to be millions of Latinos who play futbol all over this country at all levels. In addition, there has got to be TONS of immigrant children playing in the inner city, but there is no outreach to them and no easy way for them to get to the national team. We have got to find a way to get more Latinos involved in the National team on all levels. Simple as that.

  • http://www.prestonm.com/brewcity/ohio.php kingsnake

    EvanZ: +10

  • UCLABZ

    Great column Nick!

    I like how you mention Edu as a someone the US has who is playing consistently for a top club. I didn’t see him on the field once during the entire Gold Cup. I guess Bob would have to pull his son in order to do that. I’m sure Bob is on the way out, but is Sunil? Who decides on Sunil’s future? Who can fire him? And why haven’t they?

    It seems to me the US’s big hurdle right now is that many Americans are used to being the best in sports. They don’t want to spend their time supporting something that isn’t the best. But how do you turn a league into the best in the world without supporters?

  • Joseph D’Hippolito

    Nick, the biggest difference is that Mexican field players are competing at the highest levels in England and Spain. Only one American, Clint Dempsey, can make that claim. At one time, few Mexicans dared cross the ocean to play in Europe, and those who did made no impact. That was a major…if not *the* major…reason for the United States’ recent dominance over Mexico.

    But the youth development programs of Mexican clubs have historically been far superior to those of their American counterparts. That accounts for Chicharito, the Dos Santos brothers and Guardado making an impact. Scratching the MLS reserve system, then bringing it back in a limited form, did soccer no favors in this country.

    Firing Gulati might make more sense than firing Bradley (although Bradley was horribly out-coached in the Gold Cup final by not finding a way to cut off Dos Santos’ runs). The USSF needs somebody who will coordinate talent development w/MLS, as well as improve outreach into Latino areas.

  • studs down

    AYSO and the immigrant population have been the impediment to the success of the pro leagues in this country. AYSO because they have fooled the owners thinking that they are reason for their being. The immigrant population because they think they know the game and because of that are not willing to financially and emotionally support the game here wholeheartedly with local products. All you have to do is look at Seattle and Portland for the formula to change the outlook of the game here.

    Scratch the youth development arguments, none of the ideas will ever produce world class players. What will make a difference is the current economic depression that is forcing the players to strive to be their best to earn a living. Competition and survival is the driving force behind advancement.

    You master controlling that stupid ball and all the rest falls in place. You become a great player, people will pay to see you and even the Mexican players will want to shake your hand and covet your shirt.