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.

47 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. Who gaf bout soccer when the British brought it to USA we pick the ball up like a man and invent football a good sport

  3. I like how you forgot to mention how many more teams compete in the men’s World Cup than women’s, and just how obviously more difficult and competitive the men’s is. Oh yea the women’s “championship” team lost to a bunch of 15 year old boys. I bet u forgot to mention that too.

  4. Women had advantage because US puts more money into the Women team. Also women aren’t held back in this country, also USWNT have no real competition

  5. Well its also because the mls is at the same time as the world cup so players would have to leave their teams

  6. A large part is that many schools spend larger amounts of money on football rather than soccer so many don’t have good coaches

  7. its because we would rather play baseball basketball and football, soccer is mad boring compared to those except maybe baseball but soccer isnt our national past time

  8. Men’s team would destroy the women’s team. Just like a U15 boys team beat the autralian Woman’s national team. Men are better at soccer than women (in general) but men play much much more skilled teams than the women’s team.

  9. Here's the problem. I played soccer for my town travel team. Lots of other kids played on the club team but I didn't cause the cost was ridiculous. The same guy who ran the town program ran the popular club team, and used the town program to funnel kids into the club program. Eventually, by the time I was in middle school, they got rid of the town team at my age cause most kids were playing club. Now kids who couldnt afford the club program couldnt play anymore. This is the problem with soccer in America. It's only for rich kids. And in other nations a lot of the talent comes from poorer communities (its the same with us, but with football and basketball).

  10. I guess the USMNT is truly an accurate image of how dysfunctional America is as a country (JUST KIDDING) LOL

  11. I know why…. it's the right amount of testosterone pumping…. football is aggressive and testosterone PUMPING BABY!

    Basketball, pressuring and testosterone PUMPING!

    football…. ehhh, it is, like you can get something…. just not like those other sports.

  12. I know why. The men couldn't play because they want to make them look bad. Its not because they're bad its because its political.

  13. It’s simple… because All American athletes exists soccer at a young age and enters basketball and American football. Also other national powers have a “canteras” or youth programs from the profesional Clubs. They have 10 Divisions: the first division would be 1st team would be the team that plays Professionally.

  14. I don’t know what reporting you’re doing but Voc you’ve got this really wrong. The men aren’t bad because of some leagues 100years who. We are bad because we are a Nation that prefers Baseball Basketball and Football that spreads out the talent pool of American soccer compared to other nations where soccer is #1 next to maybe rugby.

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