Sam’s Blog will be a weekly addition to the US Youth Soccer Blog. Sam Snow is the Director of Coaching Education for US Youth Soccer.
Soccer in the United States has progressed tremendously over the last 30 years. Yesterday, I walked into a restaurant in Warwick, R.I., and several televisions were tuned to the United States versus Ecuador men’s national team match.
I was struck by several revelations at once. First, that the match was on at all on a Sunday afternoon. It was not long ago that to see a United States match on TV you’d have to be a night owl and the broadcast would be often interrupted with commercials. Now this international friendly was on broadcast television without commercials during the match. Also, the commentators actually knew the difference between a corner kick and a goal kick and that you don’t head butt the ball.
I was also struck by the fact that the match was already playing on four TVs in the restaurant and my party, the soccer people, didn’t have to make a special request of the restaurant manager to get the game on. What’s more no other patrons complained about that foreign sport being on. As I watched the match I was impressed with the ever-improving abilities of our national team to compete internationally. Twenty or 30 years ago, we would have struggled to score a single goal against a talented team like Ecuador and now we control much of the match and score three goals.
The United States players on the pitch all play professionally, either domestically or overseas. Wow! There’s a large number of Americans playing abroad; once that number could be counted on one hand. Here at home, we have healthy professional and semi-professional teams both indoor and outdoor. Many of their matches are played in soccer stadiums. Holy kick-off batman! Soccer specific stadiums in North America are becoming the expectation. Some of those even have ancillary facilities to support local amateur soccer.
As I travel across our nation, I am continually impressed by the quality and quantity of our soccer facilities. If you build it they will come. No, they were already here. They played in parks, on the outfield of a baseball diamond, in a parking garage, someone’s yard, the beach, the mowed down corn filed, the vacant lot or the field the high school football team wouldn’t use and was sometimes used as a parking lot. Yes, they were already out there playing and because they were already playing, we built it. We now have soccer facilities to accommodate literally millions of players.
Now-a-days they will stay up till 3 o’clock in the morning to watch a live telecast of a World Cup match. And will do so in Nielson eye catching numbers. Not so long ago, you would have to drive to a distant city and pay to go in a theater to watch a closed-circuit telecast of a World Cup match. If the established order had been thinking they could have imprisoned all ‘those soccer nuts’ in one place. They, WE, have come a long way with the growth and acceptance of our sport. The soccer bashers, who once seemed to be more plentiful than stars in the sky, are now a minority.
Some sort of soccer reference shows up in more TV shows and commercials than ever before. Even Hollywood is in on the act with soccer movies. The Game of Their Lives… what a tribute to our 1950 team! Whether they care for it or not the majority of Americans know the World Cup takes place. Even the WNBA owes thanks for its acceptance to the groundbreaking success of the 1999 U.S. Women’s National Team on national television.
I bet that if the Battle of the Superstars was still going on that more soccer players would be standing next to Kyle Rote, Jr., as a champion. Alright, I really aged myself there. See you next week on this same bat channel.