Soccer in the U.S.: Glory Days

Uncategorized Posted Jun 17, 2015 by chenpr

Recently I’ve been spending what some of my roommates have told me is an irresponsible amount of my free time playing the soccer video game FIFA.  This, in combination with everything we’re now hearing in the news about charges of rampant corruption, has sparked my interest in starting to follow Association Football, or soccer as we call it in the States.

Since I don’t have cable this has proven a bit difficult, so I’ve mostly taken to reading about the sport online. One of the first things I was curious about was why soccer never seemed to take off in the U.S.; some of what I learned surprised me.

usa soccer logo

The most remarkable thing I learned is that soccer was popular in the U.S. at one point a century ago. In fact, in the early part of the 20th century soccer was second in popularity, lagging only baseball as America’s favorite sport. The United States Football Association (USFA) was recognized by FIFA in 1913 and the U.S.’s first major soccer league, the American Soccer League (ASL), started in 1921 and was drawing large crowds in the Northeast and even stealing some top talent from European clubs.

Disputes between the U.S.’s central governing body, the USFA, and the ASL made for an uneasy relationship but soccer’s popularity continued to rise. In 1930, soccer reached an all-time high when the U.S. placed 3rd in FIFA’s first World Cup in Uruguay—a feat that has yet to be surpassed by any subsequent U.S. national team.

However, while our athletes were reaching heights of success not since seen in South America, organized soccer in the U.S. was falling apart. The conflict between the USFA and the ASL became even grimmer and FIFA intervened to discredit the ASL on behalf of the USFA, labeling them an outlaw league. Americans hated the idea that the sport was being controlled and undermined by foreign influence and by the time everyone came to an agreement, the stock market crashed.

During the Great Depression teams lost their corporate sponsorships, fans stopped buying tickets, and players had to stop playing to try and find better employment in order to support their families. By 1933 the ASL officially folded, and by the time the dust cleared soccer had fallen out of favor in America.

But hey, maybe we can make a comeback. Maybe, in a way, we already have. When I look at the recent corruption charges against some of FIFA’s top officials I can’t help but feel that we were right to be skeptical of their foreign influence, and since U.S. law enforcement are responsible for cleaning house perhaps there’s no better time than now to reassert ourselves as a force in international soccer.

And let us not forget that this is only relevant to men’s soccer. Because while the men’s teams have struggled, the US women’s national team has been a dominate force in international soccer for years. So with the Women’s World Cup currently underway in Canada let’s make sure to cheer for our women’s national team as they try to bring home their third World Cup trophy.