For years, the United States has striven to become a world power in soccer. Even as a majority of the country failed to acknowledge the sport, the die-hards in this country looked forward to the day when America’s passion for winning, combined with a population that seemed to populate every sport successfully, would lead to us competing with the likes of Brazil, Italy, and Germany.
Now, after a disastrous Gold Cup, accusations of financial impropriety from leadership in the FIFA scandal, and a domestic league that has a number of recognizable players but fails on the international level, U.S. soccer may have achieved its goal of matching a world power. That world power, however, may be England, which at one time may have been a compliment but now is a slight.
When looking at the current state of U.S. Soccer, the similarities to England are eerie:
1. The overrating of stars
For a long time American soccer fans have been overrating the “next” stud talent that would lead the country to dominance, but that obsession has shifted to current players. Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley can do no wrong and it is a crime that more international soccer pundits do not recognize how awesome they are.
Just like the long litany of English players that were supposed to lead their club to World Cup glory, the US has a similar issue exceptAmericans do not tend to turn as quickly on these players when they don’t succeed; we hold on just a little too long.
The US soccer media and public — just like the English journalists and fans — love to overhype young players that could be the next big thing, but never reach their pinnacle. Two examples are Freddy Adu and David Bentley.
2. Top heavy talent pools
Both national teams have some legitimate stars in their starting XI and areas of strength. However, when you move beyond the starters, the depth of both countries’ national teams are lacking compared to the world powers. Injuries, suspensions, and poor play lead to a drop-off in production that exposes an overall talent pool that pales in comparison to Germany, Spain, and Italy. Yet don’t mention that to either fanbase.
3. Inability to see league in wider context
Is MLS improving? Yes, but failing to win a CONCACAF Champions League title is pretty telling where the league ranks compared to Mexico. Just as English fans cannot fathom the Bundesliga (or even La Liga) being better leagues in terms of players and style of play, American soccer fans try to compare MLS against the top European leagues and not those within their own hemisphere, where the rankings would still be a disappointment.