Soccer: The World’s Game, yet Despised in America

European, African, South American, and Asian soccer teams have called the United States Men’s National Soccer Team a laughing stock of soccer players. Americans do not help change this ideology about American soccer. People in the United States do not like soccer. For some reason, soccer has received the reputation of being a weak and wimpy sport without any contact. Yet, soccer is all but weak and wimpy without contact. In the 2006 World Cup match final between France and Italy, after angered by a comment, Zinedine Zidane headbutted Marco Materazzi, causing Zidane’s ejection from the game. Also in the 2006 World Cup, during one of the United States Men’s National Team matches, American Brian McBride suffered a blow from an elbow above his eye, causing a deep cut, which McBride wore a bandage to cover it so he could play the rest of the game. Soccer clearly is not for the weak as most Americans would like to believe. It is one of the hardest sports. Players often stay on the field for the entire 90 minutes with only a five minute break during halftime. Soccer should be integrated into accredited high school and college sports because soccer is very beneficial to students, and with more focus injury and concussion prevention, the integration would give America more opportunities to win the World Cup, yet Title IX makes it close to impossible.

Noticeably, American players have less skill than all other players in the World. For those Americans who watched the 2010 World Cup and then a month later watched the Major League Soccer teams, a distinct difference in the speed, intensity, and level of play should be apparent. Most American players and teams lack the skills, speed, and level of play that European players and teams possess. This gap has been created because American interest in the world’s most popular sport lie elsewhere in other sports, such as baseball, basketball, and American football. In order to compete with the rest of the world and have a chance at winning the World Cup, Americans need to give soccer more importance in society by integrating soccer into high school and college sports. More skilled players will come out of the United States and be able to compete with the rest of the world. If the United States Men’s National Soccer Team won the World Cup, Americans would realize that soccer is not a wimpy sport or a sport simply for those not big enough to play American football, tall enough to play basketball, or good enough with their hands to play baseball, then more Americans will want to play soccer, which will produce much more highly skilled players and create awareness about important topics concerning soccer.

All of America’s highly skilled soccer players venture over to Europe to compete and play soccer where their abilities and skill have greater importance. These highly skilled players comprise of a very low percentage of the total number of American players. Of those American soccer players who European clubs sign, a number of the players return to America to play because they still cannot compete with the European level of soccer. American soccer does not attract a lot of young notable players. Kasey Keller played a great international career for several teams, and chose to come back to play in the United States for the Seattle Sounders. Keller wants to help start a soccer revolution and make soccer more popular in America than ever. In an interview with ESPN before the opening game of the 2011 MLS season, Kasey Keller, who will retire after this season, told Julie Foudy, “I’ve been disappointed with the way people from Europe have regarded MLS and have thought, ‘Ok this is a semi-paid vacation.” Major League Soccer seems like the league where players, and not just American, come to play during the last leg of their soccer careers and retire, or if the players cannot succeed in other international leagues because of skill level, they will come play for an MLS team.

football, as it is called internationally, has the highest popularity of all sports, and for a very long time has been the world’s most popular sport. Internationally, football has become more than a sport; football has become a way of life, a culture, and a society. Many jokes have been created about how Mexicans, Italians, and Spaniards learn how to play soccer before they can crawl or walk, and how they are born with a soccer ball at their feet. People live, breathe, and eat football. In their times, players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Zinedene Zidane, Pele, David Beckham, Lionel Messi, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, and Wayne Rooney have all dominated the sport. These names have become household names with football and soccer fans alike. Notice another thing these names share – international descent. None of the names originate in America. Very few American players have gained international notability; Landon Donavon, Clint Dempsey, Kasey Keller, and Brian McBride to name a few. Am erica brought trouble with soccer from the day it arrived in the States.

Rather than keeping the name American American footballl, the United States decided to change the name. Soccer comes from FIFA, the International Federation of Association American football, where America shortened the word association to assoc, and finally to soccer. This name change automatically created another gap between the International and American versions of the game. Each played the same game; it just has a different name, skill level, and style of play. Due to the late arrival of soccer in the United States, the sport has never been very popular. Soccer has been largely an underground sport, and looked down upon by many as a wimpy sport. The United States has attempted several times to popularize soccer within the country by creating soccer leagues. The first attempt began with the creation of the American Soccer League in 1919. The North American Soccer League (NASL) debuted in the late 1960s (Swanson 407). In 1993, Major League Soccer (MLS) came into existence as the United States attempted to host the 1994 World Cup. The inaugural season for the league started in 1996 with 10 teams. Now in 2011, Major League Soccer consists of 18 teams. A 19 th team, Montreal Impact, will be joining in 2012. With Major League Soccer gaining popularity and expanding, more American players are needed from the college levels.

Soccer has numerous benefits for the children and teens that play the sport. Although she played basketball, in her book Tilting the Playing Field, Jessica Gavora states,

Although my sports career never went beyond high school, it taught me invaluable lessons, for successful adulthood: How to push myself hard – and go farther than I ever thought I could. How to be magnanimous in success and dignified in failure. How to work as part of a team. How to keep enjoying the benefits of physical fitness long after the effortless energy of youth is gone.

Culturally, soccer is the best sport for youth to play. Players do not come from one specific ethnicity or class background. Hispanics, Africans, Asians, Europeans, and Americans all play the sport. A team could be made up of players, each coming from a different ethnicity. Due to the fact that for a game to be played all that is necessary is a ball, two areas for goals, and at least two players, a game of soccer can be held anywhere. All over the world soccer is being played in the streets, alleyways, fields, basketball courts, and even beaches. Because of the versatility of playing locations, any person from any class – lower, middle, and upper – can play soccer and mingle with those the players would not normally have interaction. Dr. Richard Crepeau states, “Sport seems to be a place where we can come together and communicate in some kind of vocabulary and values” (Merrill xii). Because of the widespread differences, cultures have the ability to be shared on and off the field. Vocalization on the field makes way for learning of new words and phrases. Friendship can also be made through working together as a team. Soccer is a game of socialization, leadership, and teamwork without leadership and teamwork, a team will flounder.

Every team needs a captain who can lead the team to victory. Along with a captain, each soccer position has its own leader. The goalkeeper takes charge of the defensive portion of the game, and works with the central defender in making sure the defenders do their job correctly. The striker leads the midfielders and forwards in the attack. Within the center of the field, a central midfielder controls the midfield while the striker controls the front lines. Leaders and captains in soccer must know how to confidently lead their team, while not acting like a dictator. They must guide their teammates in what to do. Employers constantly search for this type of leadership in prospective and current employees that have the right traits needed for management positions, which soccer players exhibit many of these traits – forceful yet compassionate, knowledge, an open mind, and flexibility. Leadership has become one of the most desirable characteristics in the business world. Passing and teamwork are the keys to victory; teams throughout history have gone under because their players lacked the ability to work as a team.

Unlike in basketball, wrestling, and for the most part American football, a soccer player cannot win an entire game by himself. In basketball, players can steal the ball, dribble it down the court, and slam dunk the ball. In wrestling, it is an individual sport where two opposing wrestlers perform and one person wins. No teamwork is involved in wrestling. In American football, a cornerback can intercept the ball, run to the end zone and score a touchdown. Soccer is more complicated. With so many players on the field and a small ball, players must pass it between themselves often backwards away from the goal in order to free up space. Teamwork also keeps teenagers out of trouble. According to her research, Lisa Swanson found out that parents “keeping the boys involved in soccer was seen as a way to give them a safe track into adulthood” (Swanson 412). For the high schoolers, soccer serves as a distraction from drugs, partying, alcohol, and gang violence, often seen in the socialization of American football players. Soccer players must be physically fit in order to play the entire length of the long arduous games.

Physically, soccer is probably the most demanding sport. Playing soccer will keep college and high school student athletes in great shape. Once college players have been substituted during a game, they have to wait until the next half to go back in the game. For instance if a player takes a break during the first half, they have to wait until the second half, but if players leave the game in the second half, their playing time has come to an end. Soccer players wear considerably less padding, specifically only shin guards, than both American football and hockey players, but take hits just as hard. Yet Americans think those sports have more manliness and are less weak and wimpy than soccer. Kaleb Gibson, a former wrestler for Oklahoma State University in Oklahoma City, used to think of soccer as a sport for the wimps and weak. Yet, when he saw the 2006 World Cup Final between France and Italy where Zinedine Zidane headbutted Marco Materazzi, he changed his mind. Soccer players must be prepared to play physically and hold their own against other players. Obviously soccer has quite a bit of contact and is not a sport for the weak or wimpy.

Because of this ideology that soccer is a sport for wimps, a large portion of male athletes choose to play other sports like American football. In his study on American soccer, Paul Kooistra chose a quote from Offside: Soccer and American Exceptionalism by Markovits and Hellerman, “Soccer was often the game for American football and basketball rejects, those whose athletic ability or size simply did not enable them to make those more exalted squads.” Chad Ochocinco, a wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals, tried out for Sporting Kansas City because he always dreamed of playing soccer, but pressured into playing American football by his parents instead. There is some truth behind this statement, but nowadays soccer players have started to gain the physique of American football players in height, although not necessarily in weight. Goalkeepers are the size of quarterbacks, and midfielders are often the size of runningbacks. Soccer players do not need the bulky muscle that American football players require because the point of soccer is not to hit the other players as hard as possible. Yet, soccer players still have a lot of muscle and must have both greater stamina and speed than American football players. Being in great physical shape sharpens the mind and allows student athletes to perform much better academically.

Soccer and academics benefit each other indirectly. In both high school and college, student athletes must have a certain grade point average to continue playing that season. If a player does not keep his grades up, then the player will either be suspended from playing or kicked off the team. The grade requirement forces student athletes to perform well academically. Students learn how to multitask, as well as how to mange time wisely. With such a busy schedule going to class, training, practicing, and traveling to games, student athletes must use all of their time leftover to complete homework. Dedication and a strong work ethic are required while playing sports and going to school. If a student soccer player takes even one day off when academic deadlines must be met, the student will fall behind and the grades will suffer. Student athletes cannot be lazy, procrastinators, nor unmotivated or undetermined. Employers love to see these traits in new employees. A healthy mind is necessary to succeed academically and in order to live a long life, therefore the well being of soccer players’ brains is of the utmost concern.

If high schools and colleges integrate soccer into their athletics, a strong focus on concussions and concussion prevention must be taken into account as well. It seems as if the focus on concussions in American football has become more of a concern in the forefront of American athletics. In one of its Ideas For Good commercials, Toyota USA uses an example where a mother talks about a new software incorporated in research done by Toyota USA that simulates head injuries in car accidents, and how Toyota USA sent this software to Wake Forest University to help in the prevention of concussions during American football. Soccer players deserve the same amount of focus when it comes to protecting their brains. Once again, America diverts its attention and care from a sport they consider wimpy, weak, and stupid. Medical professionals have constructed a leather helmet, very similar to the helmets used during American football’s beginning, for soccer players to wear that acts as a cushion to prevent head injuries such as concussions, yet hardly any players, professional, high school, or youth, wear this helmet. Professional players such as Peter Cech wear this helmet due to concussions and brain injuries. More precautions must be taken to provide better treatment for the brains of our youth.

As of October 2008, pediatric and sports medicine doctors created new guidelines to better diagnose and treat concussions in high school athletes. Early in March 2009 women’s soccer season, Cary High Junior Varsity goalkeeper Sarah Waycaster suffered a concussion during a match. Shortly after Waycaster, a case occurred when a U-17 soccer player in CASL’s recreational league took a blow from a long shot to the forehead in the first half of a game. The teenager did not fall down or budge when the ball struck him. He played the entire game and drove home via the interstate two and a half hours later. Not until he returned home did he begin to feel the symptoms of a concussion. The next day he went to the ER at Rex Healthcare, Raleigh, North Carolina, and the ER doctor diagnosed him with post-concussive syndrome. The doctor told him that his bell had been rung; according to the ER doctor, he needed to take Vicodin, a type of hydrocodone, for the pain and he could return to school when his symptoms went away. Going along with the doctor’s instructions, he returned to school two days later, but had to leave early due to his symptoms coming back and worsening. The same day of the incident of the CASL U-17 player’s concussion, a CASL U-15 player, a teammate of the U-17 player’s brother, suffered a concussion where he laid on the ground unconscious for a few minutes, and an ambulance had to be called to deliver him to the emergency room. Annie McHenry, a former goalkeeper for the Cary High School varsity women’s soccer team, has suffered many concussions. She estimates about ten total, possibly more. During a match in the 2009 spring season, a forward of the opposing team collided with McHenry, which resulted in the forward’s knee hitting McHenry’s head. She developed concussion symptoms on the bus ride home.

Beginning in the 2009 fall sports preseason, Eric Hall the Head Athletic Trainer for Cary High School sports now requires all Cary High athletes to take the imPact test before tryouts in order to set up a baseline test in case an athlete should be suspected of suffering a concussion because in the spring season of 2009, Cary High witnessed two female soccer players suffer concussions. A doctor relayed to the player, who suffered a concussion in March 2009, that the ER doctors had not received the memo about the guidelines put into practice in October 2008. The new guidelines required athletes who doctors and coaches suspect to have suffered a concussion to take a computer test called imPact. ImPact tests how well an athlete’s brain functions after suffering a concussion with a series of exercises for memory and reaction time. The athlete learned, should an athlete go back to playing too soon and suffers another concussion, he or she has a 50/50 chance of living or dying. Soccer players have a greater chance of suffering concussions than other sports due to the fact that in soccer, players often head the ball, therefore greater focus must be enforced on concussions in soccer. If more focus on injury and concussion prevention occurred in soccer, then American soccer players, coaches, and athletic trainers would be able to keep stay healthy and injury free. Staying healthy and injury free would greatly help the United States Men’s National soccer team perform better in the World Cup.

All over the world, people play soccer and compete for a chance to play in the World Cup. Not every team that goes into the tournaments before the actual World Cup make it; only one team, out of 32 teams that compete in the World Cup, is victorious as the World Cup Champions. The World Cup occurs every four years, which gives each nation four years to prepare and train. In 2006 the United States Men’s National Soccer Team was supposedly one of the best teams competing in the World Cup. The same was said for the 2010 World Cup. Yet in both 2006 and 2010, the United States performed dismally. The teams did not see much fluctuation in players chosen for the rosters. During his journey around the world to watch soccer in the late 1980s, Merrill learned that the United States National Soccer Team had been “made up of little more than ‘college kids'” (Merrill 4). This is because new better skilled players were not found or introduced to the professional soccer level. If soccer is going to gain more popularity and funding in the United States, the national team must win the World Cup. Winning the World Cup will prove that soccer deserves to be funded collegiately.

Soccer is a great sport internationally, but has not caught on in the United States very well. American football, basketball, and baseball are the most popular sports in the United States. Due to Title IX, women gained more opportunity to participate in federally funded collegiate sports, yet men have lost many opportunities. Because college athletics have to be statistically proportionate, many men’s soccer teams have been cut, for example at “the Miami University of Ohio” (Gavora 13). Colleges were forced to cut the teams due to financial budgets in order to create women’s teams, so the colleges will have gender equity in its athletics like Title IX requires. Women’s teams have been made, yet colleges have a hard time finding female athletes to fill the roster. If women do not want to play, then the colleges should have the right to cut the teams and reinstate the men’s teams, whose rosters will fill up because of the amount of male athletes who want to play soccer. Schools all over the country have been forced to cut men’s soccer programs in order to stay on budget and create athletic programs for women. Oklahoma colleges do not have varsity men’s soccer teams. Men who would like to play varsity soccer in Oklahoma are out of luck. The United States has plenty of men wanting to play college soccer, but do not get the chance. It is a big step for women to have more athletic opportunities, yet Title IX keeps soccer from being integrated collegiately. There is no doubt that because of Title IX, the United States will never win in the Men’s Soccer World Cup.

Americans miss out on a lot of opportunities to unite with other countries around the world. Integrating soccer into collegiate and high school sports would help with the unity. Soccer is a worldwide sport, only it is known as American football internationally. Culture is shared between teams playing soccer. When Hispanic teams and caucasian teams play against each other, phrases from different languages are spoken and processed through the minds of both teams, even though neither may understand. Collegiate soccer players learn valuable life lessons from being student athletes. They learn how to manage their time in between studying, practicing, traveling to and from games, and playing in games. Appropriate leadership skills desired very highly by employers are used in games along with teamwork and passing in order to come out victorious. Knowledge of ways to sustain long term fitness can be taken from playing soccer due to its physical demands. Winning the World Cup would bring popularity and a desire to play soccer throughout college and at the professional level. Soccer is a great sport for players of all ages and should definitely be integrated into collegiate and high school sports due to its benefits to not only the players, but also the United States as well.

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Toyota. “Helmets – Ideas For Good”. Commercial. CBS .