The United States has never been perceived as a powerhouse in men’s soccer with constant disappointment in the Men’s World Cup. These past few years, the men’s game in the U.S. has taken major steps forward. From not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup to making the round of 16 in the most recent edition in Qatar, the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) has shown signs of major improvement under the leadership of a new wave of young American talent.
The major contributors to the new look of the USMNT are all under 30, featuring players from some of the best teams in the world. Christian Pulisic, the captain of the USMNT squad, plays for AC Milan, one of the top teams in Italy, and is one of the most creative players in the world.
Timothy Weah, son of Ballon d’Or winner George Weah, plays for Juventus alongside equally industrious and creative midfielder Weston Mckinnie. The USMNT has many more key players like Gio Reyna, Brenden Aaronson, Tyler Adams and Myles Robinson who all play important roles for the national teams and their clubs. Arguably the greatest show of strength from the USMNT took place with the addition of Folarin Balogun. Balogun had the option to play for Ghana, the U.S. or England, to which he chose the U.S. thanks to all of the promising talent on the team.
The USMNT players are only becoming more technically brilliant and are making their way into some of the top clubs in the world. The increased quality of the USMNT has come at the perfect time thanks to the U.S. hosting the World Cup in 2026 and the Copa America in 2024. The Copa America is a tournament crowning the best team in the South American league CONMEBOL.
The U.S. hosting the World Cup will allow the USMNT the opportunity to showcase their talent on the biggest stage against the best teams. The World Cup also grants the U.S. a chance to show that there are soccer fans in the U.S. Leagues in Europe have started to pay more attention to the U.S. as the English Premier League, the most-watched soccer league in the world, launched the Premier League Summer Series, having different teams travel and play around the U.S. They played games to showcase the quality of the Premier League as well as allowed American fans the opportunity to watch some of their favorite players and teams play in person. Alongside the growth of the U.S. in international play, the Major Leagu has made vast strides highlighted by the arrival of Lionel Messi at Inter Miami. Messi has drawn more attention to the MLS than ever before thanks to him being one of the most successful players in soccer. The arrival of Messi also shows that the MLS is a desirable place to play with many other players following Messi’s lead.
The MLS has experienced spikes of popularity before, thanks to a massive international arrival. David Beckham joined the LA Galaxy in 2007, which drew many eyes to the MLS. However, the league was unable to retain the attention and garnered the reputation of being a retirement league.
The MLS gained this reputation because many clubs would sign older Europeans with tremendous pedigree on expensive deals only for those players to underperform. For the league to gain global respect and legitimacy, the MLS needs to show that they can develop young talent and bring in prolific players.
Overall, the improvement of the USMNT and the increased viewership of the MLS can only mean good things for the growth of American soccer in the short term. The only way to determine if the growth of soccer is here to stay is to wait and see how the next generation of American superstars turn out.