With fans and members of the media focusing their energies on the 2010 World Cup, I encourage you to take a step back and fast forward a good 10 years or so. The United States hopes to host either the 2018 or 2022 World Cup, and while this event is indeed a long way off, it’s still fun to speculate on what’s going to happen next.
Instead of going into an in-depth analysis of the player pool, potential coaches, possible stadiums, and playing styles, let’s predict the impact of soccer on the American culture a decade into the future.
So, 2018-2022. In all, will Americans still care? Will they flock to the stadiums across the country to cheer on the Yanks? I offer you a resounding yes. They may not all know it, but they will.
When FIFA awarded the United States as the host country of the World Cup back in 1994, drastic steps had to be implemented immediately – most noticeably the formation of the early MLS. In bypassing Brazil and Morocco, FIFA took a chance and hoped to increase the popularity of the sport domestically. At this time, I’m assuming about a quarter of the country was completely oblivious to the fact that soccer even existed. Simply put, competitive broccoli eating garnered more attention. But thankfully for FIFA, the tournament shattered attendance records, mostly due to larger capacity stadiums. Despite failing to advance beyond the round of 16, the stage was still set for greatness.
Fast-forward about 25 years. South Korea in 2002. Landon Donovan. The upset of Portugal. Gold Cup championships. Brian McBride. USMNT on ESPN. The tumbling of Spain. Domination over Mexico. These days, people eat, pray and love soccer.
Even if the USMNT has a somewhat turbulent ten years (i.e. Michael Bradley isn’t the second coming of Diego Maradona), their reputation of being a competitive team is widely acknowledged from coast to coast. While luminaries like Donovan and Howard won’t be there a decade from now, their impact on future players will undoubtedly be profound. Their characteristics of heart, passion and persistence consistently elevate the level of play of their teammates – a surefire recipe for future success.
By the time 2018 or 2022 rolls around, I foresee a buzz of excitement exhibited by Americans. Hell, the Yanks are even thrilled enough to lead the worldwide race of tickets bought for South Africa. Maybe it’s because soccer will finally thrive in the mainstream over the next decade. Perhaps Americans want the outside world to view us as patriotic. It’s even possible that we just want to brag to our friends about going to a soccer match. Maybe, just maybe, it’s because the doubters and naysayers will eventually come to embrace the game and recognize its inherent beauty.
A sport this good? It’s only a matter of time…