Soccer Is America's New Game, So Is It Finally Time for It To Hold Spotlight?

Andrew PreglerContributor IIIMarch 28, 2011

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - MARCH 26:  Juan Agudelo #9 and Oguchi Onyewu #5 of the United States celebrate Agudelo's game-tying goal during the second half of a friendly match against Argentina at New Meadowlands Stadium on March 26, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

What happens when a bus full of teenagers who just finished a trip to Disney breaks down at a West Virginia rest stop?

An American with Hispanic heritage and a Korean exchange student, both sporting their new respective Arsenal and Chelsea jerseys, decide to make a soccer ball out of old clothes in plastic bags, thrown in a pillow case with a bean bag, tied shut with a shoelace.

What ensued next was what MLS and FIFA officials dream of seeing in the USA on a more consistent basis. Guys and girls were playing a semi competing game of soccer that end ended 2-1, featured weird goal celebrations, and never once mentioned American Football.

After the disappointment that was the US's performance against Ghana in the World Cup, many people wondered if the momentum soccer had created in America had come to a halt.

The MLS has tried hard to expand its notoriety with its kick off celebration, which featured prime time games that featured players like Landon Donovan and David Beckham, fans like those of the Seattle Sounders, and explosive teams like the New York Red Bulls.

But the fact remains that the US-Argentina friendly that should have excited many American fans with the performance of Juan Agudelo and a draw was barely noticed and badly hyped, if at all outside of New York. EPL is still relatively unknown in the USA with the exception of the true fans who support the big teams of Man U, Arsenal, Chelsea, etc.

Clint Dempsey brought a momentary flash of interest with his career achievement with Fullham, but again only a handful of non-die hard soccer fans noticed.

If soccer is going to become big in the USA, the time to capitalize is now. The NFL is reeling from labor issues, the NBA is being criticized for excluding smaller markets from achieving success (the jury's still out on that claim), the MLB is still struggling to find an image to the general public after the steroid era, and the NHL is left with a Canadian and Russian being the best players and face of their league.

Ultimately, the MLS offers American sports fans what each of these leagues can't: the MLS was able to reach a successful collective bargaining contract, has big city flair in LA but teams like Real Salt Lake, Seattle and Kansas City have teams with loyal fan bases that are working towards building dynastic teams, has avoided drug scandals within the US, and has prominent American stars like U.S. National hero Landon Donovan.

None of this matters, however, if Americans can't come to love the game itself. The World Cup gave a glimpse of how the game is supposed to be played, but there needs to more spotlight given to the electric and fast paced play of EPL.

The good news is that EA sports opened the door for this by producing a fantastic game in FIFA 11 that exposed gamers to soccer and, much like Madden does, teaches newcomers the basics of strategy, rules, and styles that teams can play.

A final wild card in all of this is the new direction of physical education in America. Mothers worry about the risk of concussions is leaving them looking for alternatives. Soccer is a sport that requires a total athlete who is strong, durable and fast, giving a sport to gym teachers that doesn't necessarily require expensive equipment or training, but is also filling the 60 minutes of activity necessary to help healthy development.

Couple this with the cost of other sports like football, hockey and golf as well as the almost unhealthy size necessary for professional football and basketball, and you see soccer may be the sport that fits the niche of many young children looking for a sport to play.

I'm not saying states like Texas will give up on football, but they did produce Dempsey and more and more parents seem to pushing their children to play this sport than others. The MLS and FIFA can only hope that more attention is brought to both the MLS season, EPL, and ultimately, the US qualification for the 2014 World Cup.

In order to do this, more and more fans and ultimately teenagers and young kids have to want to make a soccer ball and play while waiting for a bus at a West Virginia rest stop.