One of the most frequent questions or a variance of the questions, that I get asked at just about any and every soccer event I attend across South Carolina is "Will soccer ever make it in the US?" or "When will soccer arrive in the US?" The person asking the question usually follows with a quick comment of "You know I just don't think soccer will ever be as big as football, baseball or basketball in this country." An invitation into the debate ring if there ever was one.
It is very difficult to take these questions and sly comments seriously when all one needs to do is stop, turn 360 degrees very slowly and deliberately and survey the soccer landscape in which the question is being asked. Look at the overflowing parking lots, lines at the concessions stands and ladies restroom ( a sure sign of a busy event), hundreds of players expanding more energy on the playground waiting for their next match as other players compete on the same fields and what about the soccer balls flying in every direction? Oh and dare we leave the parents and grandparents setting up their folding chairs, tents, umbrellas, smart phones and video equipment to vigilantly support, cheer and track every movement of their sons, daughters and grandchildren. The scene I describe is an ordinary weekend at most soccer clubs across the state and the country.
So let's answer the questions. "Will soccer ever make it in the US?" or "When will soccer arrive in the US?"
4.04 million registered soccer players between the ages of 5 - 19 years of age that play in one of the 8,200 registered soccer clubs in our country say YES! Soccer has already made it! Soccer has already arrived!
750,000 high school athletes across the country say YES!
1,001 and 1,194 men's and women's college soccer programs say YES!
ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Soccer Plus, GolTV, Telemundo and Univision say YES!
Major League Soccer, United Soccer Leagues, North American Soccer League, Major Indoor Soccer League and the Women's Professional Soccer League all say YES!
Our children that are running around in DC United, LA Galaxy, Barcelona, Liverpool, AC Milan, Chelsea, Manchester United and US National Team Jerseys are all saying YES! Soccer has arrived and soccer is here to stay in the United States.
Will soccer ever be as big as football, baseball or basketball is in the United States? Probably not and for the majority of us that is just fine. We have found our spot in the landscape of American sports, we are nestling in and building a strong foundation that will last for generations. Soccer has "made it" and soccer has "arrived" in the US. We hope you enjoy the greatest game on the planet with us.