Let me be honest, before writing this article I have underestimated the football culture here in the US, so I decided to go to a Major League Soccer game. I chose NYC vs. Atlanta game on May 7th at the Yankee Stadium.
But did the game change my perception of the American football culture? Well, you have to read this article to find out. Be aware that I'll be using the word football and soccer interchangeably in this article).
Soccer or Football (whatever you call it) is the most popular sport in the world. I would personally say it's the best sport and the statistics are there to back me up. It's consistently played by 265 million professional around the world (which is roughly the 4/5 of the US population), unlike American Football which is played only in the US. The rules are pretty simple. It's about getting the ball in the opposite net without using your hands. Also, you don't need some special equipment. Shoes are cute but not a necessity. With a ball and cones, you are ready to go, and you can play almost anywhere.
The US definitely has the infrastructure to implement soccer as a major sport, but we are still far behind compared to Europeans and South Americans countries. According to Doug Andreassen, the chairman of US Soccer’s diversity task force, one of the reasons we are behind is because "the system is not working for the underserved community." "It’s working for the white kids.” He got a point though because when you considered a country like France which has some of the best prospects in the world you realize what is missing. Some Americans are even against the idea of playing foreign-born Americans in the National team because they might not be patriot enough but I'm sure those people are not against the idea of enlisting foreign-born Americans in the military. Mr. Andreassen also can’t ignore the fact that last Women’s World Cup winners were almost all white, or that several of the non-white players on the US Copa America roster grew up overseas. The talents of some of America’s best young players are being suffocated by a process that never lets them be seen. My point is, if the US want to become great football nation, they need to make the game accessible to everyone in the country.
When the world highest paid and the world most famous athlete is Cristiano Ronaldo, a soccer player, you would expect Americans to start embracing the beautiful game since Cristiano Jr (Ronaldo's son) is an American born citizen. But, why Americans are not entirely embracing the beautiful game?
Maybe it is because we are not good at it and we are not used to playing the role of underdogs (Yes that is what we are when it comes to football). Or is it because Football is not ours like Baseball, Hockey, Basketball, and Amerian Football are? Anyway, whatever the reason are, we need to realize that football is more than a game it is also a way to unite people around the world even if it every four years.
When it come to my initial question, I would say the game I went to watch at the Yankee Stadium change a little bit my perception of the soccer culture in America. The main reason for his change is that it was raining that day and people were still focused on the game. They were chanting under the rain, screaming, drinking, and eating. This is exactly what you would see in some of the biggest European stadium. However, I wish the stadium was full, and I also wish a football game was not being on a baseball field. That is really not attractive and is not the best way to promote the game and attract best players into the MLS.