It’s no secret that while soccer is thriving as the world’s most popular sport, here in the USA it’s still trying to gain a foothold at the professional level, where it competes against the more popular National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and National Football League.
But in the past few years there’s been considerable growth in American soccer. In 2010 and 2011, both the men’s and women’s World Cup teams gave their nation breath-taking moments and exhilarating victories. Some of that national team support has carried over into the top men’s domestic league, Major League Soccer.
Since 2004, eight expansion teams have been added to MLS, which now has a total of 18 clubs. The 19th franchise will be added next year in Montreal, giving Canada its third MLS team.
The growth of soccer in the USA has been voiced by several famous soccer figures. Alex Ferguson, the manager of Manchester United, commented on the increasing popularity of the American game, based on attendance in Seattle. “That’s a very encouraging sign that soccer is working here,” said Ferguson. “You could understand it from the stadium there was a great incentive to go forward from there and now you’re seeing the fruits of that.”
Another encouraging sign is the recent move by MLS clubs to build their own smaller, soccer-specific stadiums. Twelve of the 18 MLS teams play at their own venues. This helps eliminate the image of cavernous football stadiums being less than a quarter full for a professional match. The energy and following that the national teams have gained can only further the development of the game in the United States. With European powers Man U, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus making the journey to the US to play preseason exhibition matches, American fans should see this as an opportunity to advance the expansion of MLS and US soccer overall.
But, we still eagerly await the day when our professional clubs can be more than a preseason tune-up for international clubs.
This blog post written by VOA intern Nicholas Berault.