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  • Andrew Helms and Matt Pentz wroteOwn Goal: The Inside Story of how the US Men's National

  • Team Missed The World Cup.”

  • The actual own goal that doomed the US in 2018 becomes a metaphor for bad mismanagement,

  • poor development, and infighting that doomed the US Men's bid

  • to qualify in the World Cup.

  • That analysis and reporting is great

  • and it hits at the big problems with American soccer today.

  • But the US soccer problem goes back a lot further than that.

  • This chart shows US Men's National Team's World Cup record.

  • At the top are the best finishes.

  • The highest dot?

  • It's third place.

  • At the bottom, 16th place.

  • And all these dots?

  • These are times the third most populous country, with the largest global wealth, failed to

  • even qualify.

  • This is bigger than an own goal.

  • And it's not because soccer isn't as American as apple pie.

  • We have proof.

  • Americans suck at the game they call soccer.

  • But they're also the best in the world.

  • These are the US women's World Cup performances since play started in 1991.

  • Champs, champs, champs.

  • It's not about American culture.

  • It's about the American men's game.

  • When you stop looking at the present and start looking to the past,

  • You find a lost golden age of American soccer.

  • You also find the reason it's been doomed for almost a hundred years.

  • In 1926, 46,000 Americans crowded into a Manhattan stadium to see Hakoah, an All-Star European

  • soccer team, lose to Americans.

  • In the paper that same day?

  • A season high Yankees baseball game - that 4,000 fewer people went to see.

  • The 1920s was American soccer's golden age.

  • But to understand it, you have to go even further back.

  • In the 1860s, soccer and rugby existed on a bit of a continuumpeople played a little

  • bit of everything.

  • In 1863, rules were finally established in England to build a game that played more like

  • the soccer we know.

  • The US diverged from the English soccer game with the first Harvard-Yale football game

  • -- which would quickly turn into American football.

  • Until then, Ivy league colleges had played a more soccer-like game, but Harvard challenged

  • Yale to a rugby-style game they'd learned from McGill in Canada.

  • That game was a hit, and Ivies like Princeton quickly picked it up.

  • That was the first split between European and American football culture.

  • By 1905, soccer was still beingtestedin America ascollege footballtook off.

  • But the tragedy of World War I slowed down European sports culture.

  • In the 20s, America started catching up in soccer.

  • In 1925, for example, when Cincinnati built a new stadium, they assumed baseball and soccer

  • would both be part of the mix.

  • Americans even stole British and Scottish talent — “enticing playersfor

  • The Coming International Sport.

  • English stadiums had the biggest crowds, but the US was part of the growing international

  • audience for the sport.

  • The 20s saw a formidable soccer presence in the US, with big attendance numbers.

  • That development helped America score a third place finish in the World Cup in 1930.

  • But that was the beginning of the end.

  • American soccer always had a weird structure, with a league - the ASL or American Soccer League,

  • and a governing association: the USFA, or United States Football Association.

  • The USFA was American soccer's liason to FIFA and the international community.

  • The USFA and ASL had a long feud that was resolved one day only to pick up again the next.

  • The ASL wanted to change soccer rules and add ideas that were uniquely American at the

  • time, like substitutions and a penalty box.

  • The USFA didn't.

  • Not clear enough?

  • Just look at the names.

  • These two organizations couldn't even agree on what to call the game.

  • And this?

  • This is what happens when acronyms take over your sport.

  • FIFA's at the top.

  • They threatened to kick out the USFA because the ASL was recruiting those European players.

  • FIFA didn't like that at all.

  • USFA agreed to sanctions.

  • ASL got mad and pulled out of a big USFA tournament.

  • Three ASL teams went over and played anyway, which got them kicked out by the ASL.

  • They whined to the USFA, which kicked out the ASL.

  • So then the ASL played without USFA approval, so the USFA made a new league with their own teams.

  • Yeah.

  • All this acronym infighting split soccer teams, players, and fans in half.

  • Civil Wars: they are not fun.

  • They patched things up again in 1929, but it was too late.

  • The Great Depression hit the financial system.

  • Teams were already weakened.

  • The Depression forced many of them to fold.

  • The United States entered a soccer dark ages while Europe and South America steadily built

  • the sophisticated leagues that people wish America had today.

  • Short-lived American leagues have had cash - but the mass enthusiasm was stuck in the 1920.

  • For women, a small fan base and lack of private development wasn't a problemdevelopment

  • of the women's game was behind the men's game across the world.

  • In the absence of a significant league business, federal programs like Title 9 in America effectively

  • mandated a women's team in schools wherever there was a men's team.

  • But for men?

  • You can rightly talk about development leagues, and bad coaching, and own goals.

  • But when you see a pie like this, you don't blame the crust, or the apple orchard, or

  • the textured aluminum wrap.

  • You blame the thing that smashed it.

  • The soccer wars put the United States on the sidelines, during a crucial half century in which global

  • sports acquired fans, talent, and cash.

  • Can American men catch up today?

  • Maybe.

  • But it's a long shot.

  • So, if you want a slightly less depressing look at American soccer, check out this video

  • from our friends at SB Nation.

  • They chronicled the historic 1999 US Women's National Team Victory.

  • It's pretty amazing.

  • I'm gonna take a shower now.

Andrew Helms and Matt Pentz wroteOwn Goal: The Inside Story of how the US Men's National

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Why Americans suck at soccer (well, the men)

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    Samuel posted on 2018/06/28
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