by Manuel Muniz
With the Tokyo Olympics in the rear-view mirror, the world’s eyes are focused on Paris. This is especially true for the men’s USA soccer team, which failed to qualify for their third consecutive games.
Beijing 2008 was their last appearance, and it was not a good one. They failed to move on from the group stage. It is also important to mention the USMNT (U.S. Men’s National Team) has only attended one of the past five summer games. For a force like the United States, this is unacceptable. Add the failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and USMNT had, to take a hard look at the country’s soccer progress.
The Olympics men’s tournament has been an under-23 championship since the ‘90’s. It is used as a parameter of a nation’s ability to produce young talent. Surely the United States should not have an issue, right? After all, the USA is the richest country in the area, and arguably, the entire planet. Not to mention having the best infrastructure in the region by far. But even with that advantage, our southern neighbors continue to outshine the USMNT.
Which begs the question, why is American soccer lagging? The answer is not as simple as one would think. Many reasons contribute to the sport failing.
One reason is the soccer infrastructure especially, the high cost, including the pay-to-play model. It is a very inexpensive sport that, unfortunately, has been made into a business. Low-income families are highly limited. In many countries, the sport is played barefoot. All that is needed is a ball and goal posts. Goal posts can be replaced by anything from trashcans to whatever is accessible. But in the United States, that is not the case. Everything is turned into profit.
Another strong reason is cultural. Americans, in general, do not have the passion for the game like Latin Americans or Europeans do. As a result, they lack the fervor to play in parks and streets without structured environments.
Americans have a fixation with traditional sports such as football, baseball and basketball. Soccer is seen as boring because of the lack of understanding and rate the success of a match based on goals and scores. But the true beauty of the sport may not directly result in a goal.
|Average Salaries by League, 2020|
|Average NBA salary: $8.32 million |
Average MLB salary: $4.03 million
Average NFL salary: $3.26 million
Average NHL salary: $2.69 million
Average MLS salary: $410,000
The strongest reason and the root cause of why American soccer is falling behind comes down to money. Even though there’s still millions of kids growing up playing soccer in the country, many athletes are lured away into other sports. There is a reason the phrase “soccer moms” was coined, but many children gravitate to a viable sport with more attractive rewards. If you take a look at the salary structures of the four major American sports, you will see how Major League Soccer pales in comparison.
As an athlete, you are going to dedicate a huge chunk of your life in order to make it into the professional arena. So why not shoot for the stars, or in this case, the millions instead of thousands? If American soccer wants a shot a greatness, it is imperative that changes be made.