Fittingly, it was on July 4th, 1988 that FIFA awarded the hosting rights for the 1994 World Cup to the United States. Soccer has a longer, richer history in the U.S. than many would acknowledge, but at the very least this vote marks the beginning of its modern era. A year later the U.S. men’s national team qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 40 years. The 1994 World Cup still holds the record for largest attendance, and it undoubtedly served as a first exposure to professional soccer for untold millions of Americans. Major League Soccer, which was established as a condition for hosting the tournament, began play in 1996. In the two decades since, the game has seen slow but steady growth in the U.S.
Canadian soccer’s origin story isn’t nearly as neat. The men’s national team qualified for the 1986 World Cup, but hasn’t qualified since. They won the Gold Cup in 2000, but this didn’t lead to any further conquests. The women’s team has had much more success, but only an Olympic bronze medal to show for it. Toronto FC joined MLS in 2007, but Canada had pro teams before then. They’ve hosted FIFA tournaments, but all on the youth level, none even as big as next year’s Women’s World Cup.
At age 20, Lionel Messi scored 16 goals in 40 appearances for Barcelona. Wayne Rooney played 48 games and scored 19 times for Manchester United. At the same age, Clint Dempsey played college soccer. He played 19 games with unlimited substitutions and a countdown clock. Of the 23 members of the United States World Cup squad, 16 were developed in the U.S., and 11 of those played college soccer. I am willing to bet that they were the only 11 players in the entire tournament with college experience.
-James Rodriguez appears to be on his way to Real Madrid for a silly amount of money. The 23-year old Colombian was the breakout star of the World Cup, claiming the golden boot, and now is on the verge of joining the European champions for a transfer fee of $120 million. That’s a lot of money to spend for a player who scored just nine goals in Ligue 1 last season, but that is also the Real Madrid way. Rodriguez isn’t needed; Real already has incredible amounts of attacking talent. But Madrid loves star power, and no one’s star is brighter right now than James Rodriguez.
“I’ve finally learned to accept myself for who I am: a beggar for good soccer.”
Originally published in 1995, Eduardo Galeano’s Soccer in Sun and Shadow is, at its core, a love letter to the game. There are a lot of books that tell the history of the sport, from its roots to the modern day; this is one of them. But, unlike most others, this tells why that history matters. Soccer in Sun and Shadow conveys the joy of the game in its prose. In short, it is poetry.
So, the World Cup ended, and you’re craving for soccer. If you’re wondering “what’s next;” here’s a brief runthrough:
I want to watch something as soon as possible. Like, tonight, if possible.
Major League Soccer is going on as we speak, with a full slate of games this upcoming weekend. MLS is our league, with many members of the U.S. national team, and worth paying attention to. There are 19 teams, 16 in the U.S. and three in Canada. Below MLS, there’s an assortment of minor league soccer, including the North American Soccer League and USL Pro. Between the three leagues, there is probably a team near you. Continue reading
What can you say about a game like that? You could say that Germany beat Brazil 7-1, but can numbers possibly tell the story? Brazil capitulated, at the sport they love, on the world’s stage, in front of their own fans. To describe it as shocking would be a criminal understatement. I was reminded of the devastation felt when Liverpool gave up a 3-0 lead at Crystal Palace. But yesterday was on a wholly different magnitude. There is no adequate comparison.
The World Cup is coming to a close, and for some less creative souls, so is soccer in the U.S. Of course, this isn’t true. The game thrives on a year-round basis in this country, you just have to know where to look. There are bars in every major city where you can walk in on a Saturday morning in the fall and find crowds gathered for the Premier League. But these are small signs, crumbs in the American soccer landscape. You want soccer in this country? Why not look at the stadiums that are packing in 19,000 fans every week for Major League Soccer? It’s time to stop passing over the obvious. No, the soccer on display is not of the highest quality. But allow me to evangelize, and convince you to start following MLS.