Is the world’s most popular sport ready to thrive in the U.S.?


Newly acquired player Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates his goal during a LA Galaxy home match. Ibrahimovic was recently acquired from powerhouse English club Manchester United.

Noah Sollinger, Assistant Sports Editor

In America, the definitive four major sports leagues are the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL.  Since the emergence of professional sports as a major industry within the last sixty years, these leagues have maintained a place in the spotlight among American audiences. However, this is not the case in the rest o the world.  Soccer, heralded as “the beautiful game”, has been a staple in Europe, Central America, and South America for hundreds of years.  To the people of those countries, soccer is not just a game, but also a critical part of their country;s culture.  People live and die by their favorite team’s success, and children dream of growing up to become the next star player.

However, the world’s most popular sport is yet to establish itself as a prominent part of the American sports industry.  For many years, the U.S. left much to be desired in terms of a strong national team and a strong club league.

This was the case until 1995, when FIFA established Major League Soccer, or the MLS, as the exclusive first division professional soccer league in the United States.  The league started with teen teams and has grown over the years to become the 23-team league that it is today.  The MLS is gaining ground and finally growing a solid soccer fanbase in this country, especially in the Pacific Northwest with teams such as the Portland Timbers and the Seattle Sounders.  New expansion teams have been popping up around the country with every new season.  The most recent expansion franchises include Atlanta United and Orlando City.  This growth can be felt in New York Red Bulls have found success in their past few seasons.

As the popularity of the league increases, stars from teams all around Europe have been eager to join MLS sides.  With the arrival of these incredible players, excitement surrounding the teams only grows as many fans hope to catch a glimpse of these amazing athletes.

One of the most popular players to make the jump to the MLS in recent years is Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.  During his prestigious European career, Ibrahimovic has played for world class squads such as Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, and Manchester United.  He joined the LA Galaxy of the MLS this past March and scored two goals in his debut.

“It’s cool to see famous players such as Ibrahimovic and others like that coming to the MLS towards the end of their career,” said sophomore Kevin Nadolne.

These players truly make the matches an incredible spectacle.  As more people become interested in these exciting players, more become interested in soccer in general, which allows for an increase in youth play and national team growth.

This spike in national team popularity has been especially prominent these past few years, as many young talents have been brought up in American developmental programs.  Christian Pulisic, who hails from the small town of Hershey, Pennsylvania, has established himself as a world-class player.  Pulisic, still only nineteen years old, earned himself a starting spot on German squad Borussia Dortmund earlier this year, and has become a beacon of hope for American soccer fans.  He is one of the first ever Americans to truly compete with some of Europe’s best, and now paves the way for other young talents from the states.

Unfortunately, Pulisic’s talent did not translate to success on the field for the national team this year, as they failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, which will be held in Russia later this year.  This was a massive disappointment for many American fans, as the World Cup represents a time to display American talent on the international stage.  Nevertheless, this can be seen as a wake-up call for the U.S. Soccer Federation, who recently elected Carlos Cordero as their new president.  Cordero hope stop revamp the national team, as they look to transition from the generation of players such as Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley towards a younger generation full of stars including Politic and fellow forward Bobby Wood.

Despite the troubles faced by the national team, it is impossible to deny that soccer is becoming increasingly popular in the United States.  The most popular sport in the world is finally making its way to the States, and it is quite possible for the U.S. to establish itself as a major player with both a thriving club team and successful national team.  Although it may not happen in this generation, soccer is soon to become an integral part of American sports culture.