US Soccer Superstars?

The WSJ just recently published this article on the lack of US supremacy in the futbol world.

The author, Matthew Futterman, states that the US is losing out on excuses on why we do not have a bonafide soccer player (aka a Lionel Messi of our own).  Futterman argues that there is still a long way to go before we see a superstar.  I would agree, but I also believe that Futterman has missed a major point: motivation.

Does anyone watch anything else on Sunday?

It is true that a larger number of individuals are playing the sport, and thousands of kids play each year, however from a younger person’s point of view there is still a lack of wanting to take his/her skills to the ‘next level’.  Why?  Simply because the US does not focus on soccer.  Television is dominated by Sunday football and weekly basketball/baseball/hockey.  There is a huge sport saturation due to the existence of the Big Four.  The youth are watching these other superstars and not the Messi’s or Ronaldo’s of the world.

In contrast, the rest of the world focuses on soccer as its primary sport.  Therein lies the disconnect.  The motivation to be on TV, the veneration by the US masses on a consistent basis, and the promise of money (with the MLS as the main US soccer league, there is little money to be earned compared to the other sports) encourages up-and-coming atheletes to chose a Big 4 sport.

So unless the US starts to focus more and more on soccer (which we are currently seeing due to the halo effects of last year’s world cup), we will still see a lack of elite soccer superstars.

Is Clint Dempsey our current superstar?

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3 Responses to US Soccer Superstars?

  1. Evins says:

    The reason we don’t have a “star” is because we dont see the sport on TV on a regular basis. You can’t create soccer sports idols if you don’t see them. Look at the NY Cosmos of the 1970s, they spurred an explosion of soccer in US… including matches in Yankee Stadium and Giant Stadium with over 70,000 fans and broadcast on network TV. However, the league grew too fast and went belly-up, leaving us a void for pro soccer exposure. Now that cable and internet have increased availability of international soccer, us soccer players will be able to have the Messi & C. Ronaldo models to follow. Look at the ticket sales when Manchester United, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Barcelona, and Real Madrid visit the US… there IS a soccer audience in the US for first tier soccer. Problem with MLS is that it is still considered a Minor League to the EPL, Serie A, Bundisliga, and La Liga. However, the MLS has begun it’s “FREE Academy” initiative… which allows MLS teams to sign two players per season out of their academy program…and the academy program is free for the participants. While these academies will be detrimental to the high school and college game, it will provide vital exposure of US players to professional players/coaches starting at a young level… and we are already starting to see fruits of the academy program in players like Andy Najar.

  2. saul says:

    So how do you explain nowitzki, ginobli, parker, kirilenko, gasol jsut to name a few. Those players may not be lebron james but you could consider them NBA stars. Those countries are Germany, argentina, france, spain all have soccer as their most dominant sport and kids idolize the soccer superstars. I gurantee you that you can find a soccer game much easier on tv in the usa than a basketball game in those countries. Those same countries have an abundance of sports that compete for athletes just like in the usa. So if other countries can produce players with star qualities for sports that dont have much tv audience and minor leagues why cant the USA?

  3. Andrew says:

    That’s definitely a factor, but I don’t think it’s the main one. Soccer may not be a glamourous sport in the US yet, but there is definitely enough youth interest to create good players – I don’t have a source, but I read that soccer, when you combine all the foreign leagues, is the fourth or third most popular TV sport in the U.S. Plus you have to take into account the huge number of young kids play soccer.

    The primary reason for the lack of a true American star yet is that our youth soccer programs suck. Soccer, unlike Basketball and Football is a sport where, on the highest level, technique triumphs over athleticism. American youth programs don’t realize this yet so they focus their attention on the kids that are the tallest, fastest, and strongest and teach them to be taller, faster, and stronger. That works really well on the youth level because no one has technical skill yet and athletic kids can be a lot more athletic than others. After youth, though, those players don’t have much technical skill and are, at most, just barely more athletic than the others. Meanwhile the rest of the world’s youth is learning fundamentals from top class organizations (not a community coached team) and they are able to dribble circles around our players that only know how to be big.

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