Snobbery in football has traditionally been the preserve of the English and this characteristic has never been more apparent than when US football is under consideration.
This reached its peak when David Beckham joined Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007. The former England captain was deemed to be throwing his international career away, leaving the bright lights of the European football scene behind for a footballing ‘backwater’. That was the most generous English press assessment of his high-profile move.
Beckham’s most notable English predecessors in MLS – top flight journeymen nearing the end of their career – had established the view that the former Manchester United and Real Madrid star was taking a serious step down in his career.
The by-product of Beckham’s move was that MLS suddenly got more exposure in UK – major channels made documentaries on a league that many fans expected to be little more than a circus thanks to their knowledge of a predecessor, the NASL. Live matches and highlights became more accessible, albeit late at night.
This has enabled British football supporters to see the reality of MLS, although attitudes have been changed most by the national team – a regular, if slightly unadventurous presence at World Cups – and individuals who ply their trade in England and Scotland.
Many of the leading names of the national team in recent years – Claudio Reyna, DaMarcus Beasley, Clint Dempsey and Brian McBride – have had successful top flight British careers, whilst others have excelled in Europe, particularly in the Bundesliga. Many of the American goalkeepers to grace the Premier League would challenge for a place in the England national team.
The Red, White and Blues’ run in the Confederations Cup suggests they can be more than just bit part players in South Africa next year. By then Brits might just be giving US football the respect it deserves.