US & Them: America Set To Challenge Established Order?
Almost a year on from my damning criticism of American razzmatazz, I have begun to reconsider my view on the sporting complexion of the U.S. Though I am still unable to contemplate how baseball and American football can be enthralling spectator sports, the future of ‘soccer’ in the states could well be nearer that of Hugh Laurie than Cheryl Cole. Gone are the days of Eddie Pope and the supposedly prolific Freddy Adu. America seems to be finally tapping into its great range of facilities and a sport driven society as, in 2011, the MLS attendances reach an all time high, overtaking those of the NHL and NBA. It’s the same old story. Signs are pointing firmly towards a great superpower arriving late to the party.
Though franchised and lacking in the great history of European football devotion, the MLS came to an exciting conclusion this year. LA Galaxy were crowned MLS champions (note not World Series champions). You feel this is no longer a Beckham wave of euphoria. The willingness of Henry and Keane, in particular, to play in the U.S. shows a wealth at least in material, if not in talent growing in the MLS. The emerging success of domestic football could have mighty consequences on a global scale. Looking no further than recent Olympic medal tables it is obvious America is saturated with sporting talent. If they were to turn their attention towards football, they could terrorise current superpowers like Brazil and Spain.
The growing success of ‘soccer’ is reinforced by its emerging links to the nucleus that is the European game. Loan moves for Landon Donovan and Thierry Henry suggest the standard of the MLS is high enough for its players to compete in the ‘EPL’. It would seem David Beckham has lost little from his move across the Atlantic due to constant speculation into a move to a high-flying European club. The MLS, far from being the retirement home for the under-ambitious, would in fact seem a great competition to rival LA Liga, Serie A and the Prem.
Within the Premier League itself, the US has some top guns. At 40, Brad Friedel has proved a great signing for Spurs. However, his success may prove greater still for football in America. Friedel is a wise professional and a top role model. Should the American ‘soccer’ authorities have any sense whatsoever, they will use Friedel as an ambassador, his experience proving seminal as the Americans push west. Yet Super Brad is not the only one. Tim Howard has been solid in goal for Everton for a number of years now. Outfield too Clint Dempsey does dreamworks to the Fulham midfield. It is also extremely understated how great an impact the injury to Stuart Holden has had on Bolton’s season.
It is therefore the case that we are to watch out for America over the coming years. Franchise football is already taking hold of Europe and the U.S. is already set up to deal with money leading the way in sport. If the passion of football grips the American people there could be many more sleepless nights in Seattle. The backing and support the sport is increasingly receiving, we could soon see the offspring of Kobe Bryant jumping for a header at the Bernabeu or Maurice Greene Jnr on the wing at Old Trafford.