YouTube is an amazing service. As a tool, it can entertain, educate, and inform people about ideas and concepts that one would not normally be exposed to. But it can also help relive past events and put the viewer back to a specific time and place.
Looking back upon US Soccer and 2014 the perfect starting point seems to be John Anthony Brooks’ goal against Ghana at the 2014 World Cup.
While one could make the argument that 2014 was a bad year for US Soccer in terms of product on the field, the strides made off of the field have been great.
For years, soccer in the United States was about as popular as ice fishing. It was considered a niche sport, something that a few crazies enjoyed but not many others.
2014 seems like a changing of the guard. Perhaps it is because of the 2014 World Cup or that America finally has a generation of kids who grew up playing the game and have an appreciation for the history and craft of the game but there seems to be an acceptance of the game here. No longer is it a game that is linked with terms meant to belittle, soccer is now cool.
What seems to have helped is the exposure that the average American has with the game. It is no longer just a sport in the United States played on Saturdays and seen at odd hours on television.
It is a game now that can be found on pretty much every channel, where a variety of leagues and teams can be watched routinely. Cristiano Ronaldo is no longer a guy that is seen every four years; he is a player that can be watched every week live on beINSPORT or at the Big House in Michigan.
Need an example? Here is a small sample of the leagues that were available before the winter break here in the United States, either on cable or online: English Premier League, Serie A, Ligue 1, La Liga, Liga MX, Brazilian Campeonato, the Argentina Primera Division, the UEFA Champions League, Women’s international matches, and the Copa Sudamericana. Heck, even the English League Championship had select matches available on beINSPORT.
But the rise of football in this country is not just limited to the best players and clubs in the world; the domestic game has also seen a dramatic rise in interest. Supporters not only know about who is playing on the U.S. Men’s National Team, but also who is playing for their local MLS, NASL, USL Pro, or PDL team. Supporters groups are being created all throughout the U.S.
What is even crazier than support that these local teams are receiving is the improved television coverage. MLS, NASL, USL Pro and NWSL (the National Women’s Soccer League) are all regularly on television or available online.
Twenty years ago, unless you lived in the local area chances are you might be able to catch 1-2 matches of a team. Now every match is available via TV or via the respective league’s online package.
The homegrown aspect of the game is probably the most impressive change in recent years. Whereas in the past it seemed like the game was limited to just certain East Coast and West Coast cities, the game now seems to be permeating in areas where its influence might have been limited in the past.
Seeing Oklahoma City get fully behind the US Men’s National Team and the rise of the NASL’s Indy Eleven are two perfect examples of the inroads that the game has made here in the United States.
That being said, there are still issues here in the US. As people are becoming more exposed to higher quality leagues more demands are being placed upon the domestic.
Supporters are not just happy with “the little federation that could” mantra that has been given by MLS and US Soccer for years. They want answers for why Landon Donovan was not chosen for the US World Cup squad, they want to know more about the league’s collective bargaining agreement, and they want to know when promotion/relegation is going to happen.
Although these discussions can at times get too personal and too vitriolic the fact that these discussions are very loudly happening is an accomplishment for the game here in the United States. For years, these types of conversations were limited to just a few people over beers at a pub.
Now, hundreds of thousands of people are either voicing their thoughts online or working with groups like Grassroots Soccer or Nashville FC to help improve the game here and abroad.
So where does soccer go from here? The obvious answer would be to look at things in terms of winning matches and tournaments.
Having our players playing at the top leagues of the world still seems like at the top of the agenda, as well as getting the Bundesliga and the US Open Cup more media coverage.