This year, soccer in the U.S. has skyrocketed in popularity with help from the FIFA World Cup, where the US National Team fought all the way to the Round of 16. The USA fought through the dreaded “Group of Death”, which included Portugal, Ghana, and the ultimate World Cup winners, Germany. After escaping the group stage, the USA was up against Belgium in the Round of 16.
The game versus Belgium was headed for extra time, and was leaving the audience on the edge of their seats. In the third minute of extra time, De Bruyne of Belgium placed the ball into the corner of the net after a run down the right wing by Belgium’s Lukaku. Twelve minutes later, Lukaku broke away again to score a heartbreaking second goal against the seemingly unbreakable USA goalie Tim Howard. It all seemed over for team USA, and many were walking away from their television sets after Lukaku’s incredible strike into the back of the net. But team USA gritted their teeth and began the 4th tap-off of the game with a new purpose. Through this newfound determination, National Team rookie Julian Green scored a phenomenal goal to revitalize America’s hope in the 107th minute.
The remainder of the game was an onslaught against the Belgian defense, forced to face the inspired Americans attempts for an equalizer to bring the game to penalties. Even with the blood, sweat, and tears of the US team draining into the soil of the Arena Fonte Nova Salvador, fortune was not in the US's favor as the final whistle was blown to end the Round of 16 match of USA versus Belgium with a score of 2-1.
While this battle might not have been won, it’s definitely helped the war for soccer in the US. A long-time underdog to other sports such as football and baseball, soccer is finally finding its way into the hearts of Americans. With Americans beating out every other country in the number of supporters who went to Brazil, the evidence is irrefutable. Soccer is on the rise in America. According to FIFA, over 26 million Americans watched the World Cup Final, which is over twice the number that watched the 2002 World Cup in Japan.
Not only this, but the USA is #1 in participants in youth soccer and soccer is the #3 sport in popularity in the US Soccer, mostly called fútbol around the world, is by far the most popular sport internationally. The most common reason for this is because of how accessible the sport is; all that someone needs is a ball. This is a large reason why the sport is practically worshipped in South America, where poverty is hard to break out of and money for expensive equipment is never available.
Unlike many American kids’ stereotypical dreams of playing in the NFL or in MLB, kids in South America dream of playing in leagues like La Liga or the Premier League. Soccer for many is both a chance for individual glory and team comradery. Names like Maradona, Pele, and Beckenbauer are almost burned into history, and this drastic leap from poverty to halls of fame is extremely enticing to those seeking a way out of their situations through hard-work.
In the U.S., the most extreme of conservatives call out soccer as a socialist sport for its redistributive tendencies of passing, somewhat restrictive rules, and its tendency to promote support for national teams. But looking at the true values of soccer, where even the lowest of the low can rise to the top and find success, one can see just how deep the essence of soccer is etched into the values and ideals of America. There is no doubt in my mind that soccer’s growth in the U.S. isn’t scheduled to end anytime soon, and that the sport has the potential to outgrow all others.