Soccer still has work to do

For one of the most dominant nations in sports, the United States Men’s National Soccer team has always lagged a step behind, while the women have kicked it into another gear.

Soccer has never been seen as the first choice sport in the United States had been seen as a rising spectacle following back-to-back Round of 16 births in the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cup.

However, after failure to qualify at the 2018 World Cup and a humiliating 2-0 defeat to Canada — the first defeat to the nation in 34 years — in the CONCACAF Nations League on Oct. 17, popularity on the men’s side has stifled.

According to an article in the New York Times last year, the sport has lost close to 600,000 participants with rising prices being one of the main complaints.

For a sport that has seen success in impoverished nations with rags to riches stories being a reality, something in the United States has gone wrong.

On the national front Christian Pulisic, 21 has broken out as both a rising star, and potentially the greatest player to play in the red, white, and blue.

His skills demanded a fee of $73 million — the largest transfer fee for an American soccer player, ever — when he switched from Germany’s Borussia Dortmund for England’s Chelsea FC.

After a sluggish start, Pulisic has set the soccer world on fire, scoring four goals and adding one assist in 357 minutes across five appearances.

Pulisic like many of his fellow countryman broke out while playing abroad leaving for Germany at only 16.

Since Pulisic earned his first cap with the USMNT, the midfielder has scored 14 goals in 34 appearances.

In my opinion the issue lies within the American youth set up.

Within the U.S., players are restricted to club programs that cost their parents hefty fees, and do not carry the prestige of their international counterparts.

Overseas in England, players are able to make a name for themselves in the academies for professional teams at ages as young as six.

These players are in some cases are getting paid weekly to train at an elite level, and develop their careers.

While our homegrown players are most likely paying to play for a travel team that plays on the local high school’s grass.

On the other side there are the American women who have become an unstoppable force in the FIFA Women’s World Cup picking up 12 straight wins, as well as hoisting the trophy in back-to-back tournaments.

For the women they are on another level, and have surpassed their male counterparts in accolades and prestige, but not wage.

One of the key reasons for the USWNT’s success is the fact that women’s soccer is very developed compared to their opponents around the world.

At last year’s tournament, 58 women play domestically in the National Women’s Soccer League spread across nine teams.

If the US men’s team wants to catch up on the pitch building a proper youth setup is key, and properly investing in the sport like the women’s team has done is the first necessary step.

For now, though a league like the MLS will continue to be regarded as merely a retirement league for Europe’s best, and our national team will continue battling for placement along the cusp.

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