As Brazil prepares to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup, it has come to my attention that, for the first time in history, Americans are actually showing genuine interest in soccer. But what is it that has sparked an interest in the beautiful game? Countless factors have played a role in developing soccer in the United States for decades. Soccer’s first major step toward popularity in the U.S. took place in 1993, when Major League Soccer (MLS) was founded as a part of the United States’ bid to host the 1994 FIFA World Cup.
While the 1994 World Cup was a great success, the sport was nearly forgotten following the completion of the tournament. However, in 2002, the U.S. Men’s National team made a surprising run to the quarterfinals of the World Cup, which instilled a sort of respect for the squad here in the States. In 2006, another notable year for the development of soccer, a series of transfers saw top American players — namely Tim Howard and Landon Donovan — sign contracts with notable European teams like England’s Manchester United and Germany’s Bayer Leverkusen. As a baby chick pecks at the shell that keeps it from being exposed to the outside world, soccer fights the same battle to break into American society. The 2010 FIFA World Cup, which was hosted on African soil for the first time in history, seemed to mark the biggest year for soc cer in American culture. After two games of group play resulted in a disappointed team, USA packed its bags to head back home for an early exit. Then, the unthinkable happened. In the last match of the group stages, American star Landon Donovan scored a goal in the final seconds against Algeria — winning the game and sending the U.S. team into the elimination round of the World Cup.
The past five years in particular have been great for marketing soccer to the American public. From 2008 to 2013, soccer’s popularity has increased drastically. The first sign was when world-renowned celebrity and soccer great David Beckham signed with the Los Angeles Galaxy to help promote the sport in the United States. As a result, eyes around the world turned to the MLS to analyze the quality of American players. They put their skills to the test in order to confirm that soccer was no longer just a hobby in the United States.
The progression of soccer over the past 20 years has led us to the present day. But what does that really mean? As technology has improved, the world essentially has become a more global village. So, when Drake — yes, Drake — signed on to be an ambassador for FIFA 14, the famous soccer videogame, his worldwide fan base became exposed to the game. This reality helps illustrate that in a world where someone in the United States can communicate instantaneously with a friend in China via social media, it is ultimately inevitable that the game of soccer, a sport that is played in every part of the world, would eventually blossom in the United States. I am just glad that it gives us Americans enough time to learn about soccer so that we may show some national pride in the 2014 FIFA World Cup this coming June.