Soccer is really starting to grow in popularity in the United States, with the game in the North American country going from strength to strength. With the country’s first ever win over Italy this year and a recent draw with Argentina, the national side are starting to become more of a force to be reckoned with. However, with Robbie Keane the only MLS player to have the ability to impact Euro 2012 betting odds this summer, and the nation not qualifying for the Olympics, international football still needs more attention for the game to fully blossom in America.
There is no doubt that the influx of high-profile foreign players help the MLS gain popularity and certainly will aid young American footballers coming through the ranks at their respective clubs. The likes of David Beckham, Thierry Henry and Rafael Marquez have been icons in the sport for the fans to adore, but also role models for younger players looking to play the game. The fact that the number of big-name foreign players is limited though is also a positive move for the national league, and will hopefully allow the homegrown players to prosper also.
Beckham looks likely to feature in the Olympic Games for England this year as one of their over-23 players, and as well as being an ambassador for the host nation, he will represent the MLS when he participates in the competition. The former Manchester United and Real Madrid star will likely be in contact with fellow professionals that may be considering a move to the MLS, and will be able to tell a populace of fans who do not watch the game in the United States how good the competition can be.
However, a better testament and promotion of the MLS would have been the United States’ involvement in the Olympics. With the majority of the competitors 23 or under, it would have been an excellent opportunity for some of the young stars of the MLS to go head-to-head with players from the English Premier League, Serie A or La Liga, something a number may never get the chance to do. Giving younger players who excel at club level the chance to represent their nation can only be good for their confidence and give added experience. Unfortunately, this year at least, the United States will not be present at the London games.
With Jurgen Klinsmann now at the helm of Team USA, the nation will look forward with expectancy towards World Cup qualifying, which starts in June. With home friendlies against Scotland and Brazil in the build up, excitement should be building ahead of what will hopefully be a successful campaign for the nation.
The author, Gareth McKnight, writes for Soccerlens.com.