USA Men’s Soccer: A Growing Force


Aniket Martins, Opinions Editor

The United States has never been seen as a hub of global soccer talent, at least for men’s soccer. While the US Women’s Soccer Team has enjoyed a host of successes in the past few years, including winning the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015 and 2019, the US Men’s Soccer Team has been relatively unsuccessful. USMNT (US Men’s National Team) missing the FIFA World Cup in 2014 was the lowest point for men’s soccer in the US. However, the program’s success is steadily changing. 

This summer, USMNT won the CONCACAF Nations League in a striking turn of events. Clearly, there has been some sort of cultural change which inspired the US successes in soccer. USA soccer grew in appeal with the rise of the MLS – Major League Soccer. The MLS is the counterpart to the NBA, NFL and other sports leagues. MLS organizers knew it would be nearly impossible to attract top talent in the world since all top players want to compete in Europe (where there are bigger, better clubs, higher pay, more competitive play, etc.) so the MLS developed a habit of bringing in European legends at the twilight of their careers. Such players include Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Bastian Schweinstiger, David Beckham, Andrea Pirlo, Wayne Rooney, Adres Iniesta and Nani. These popular players are well-known with Americans who follow European soccer, so their presence in the MLS also increased MLS viewership. The MLS has also increased tremendously in size from its founding, growing from 10 clubs in the 1990s to 27 in 2021. There are proposals to have 32 MLS clubs soon as well. 

Other than the growth of the MLS to inspire more fandom and youth in soccer, the quality of players on USMNT has increased significantly as well. It is a well known truth in soccer that the best players all play in Europe; most athletes who do not compete for European clubs at some point in their career scarcely reach the level of play needed to lead a national team to notable accomplishments. In the USA vs Mexico World Cup Qualifier match, Chelsea and Juventus players Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie were the goalscorers. The US’ standout players also included goalie Zack Steffen (Manchester City), Yunus Musa (Valencia), Timothy Weah (Lille) and Brenden Aaronson (RB Salzburg). The appearance of those players in Europe and very intense, competitive leagues has increased the quality of the USA’s soccer team. These players are also very young, most in their early 20s with long careers ahead of them. With the US co-hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2026, we may even get to watch these stars play in person in a major international tournament. 

The growth of soccer popularity and talent in the US is uplifting for soccer fans across the country. Between the MLS, better players, and future plans for co-hosting the World Cup, we may be able to see USMNT make a deep run into the knockout stages. Who knows what the future holds? Maybe in a few years Christian Pulisic will be bringing the World Cup trophy to the States for the first time in history.