The 2012 Summer Olympics in London will feature established stars like Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps, alongside many other soon-to-be household names, for what will undoubtedly be two weeks of sports at its finest.
While it may be too early to tell what new athletes will make their mark in London, we already know of some that won’t be in London this summer: the members of the United States soccer team.
On March 26, the United States was officially eliminated from Olympic contention following a 3-3 draw with El Salvador on U.S. soil. Per Olympic rules, soccer teams can only field players 23 years of age or younger. A maximum of three players can be over 23. So, no, it isn’t exactly our full national squad.
Debate has sprung up on whether or not this result really matters. Yet when our best young players can’t beat Canada and El Salvador on home soil, that’s a problem (no disrespect to El Salvador, I’m Salvadoran, but it what it is). More than anything, this result is another disappointing result for US soccer that makes you wonder if U.S. soccer will ever “get there” and become a realistic threat on the world stage.
Surely many countries would call six consecutive World Cup appearances a success, even if the U.S. hasn’t had the best results in World Cups. After all, the world’s “greatest” country can’t be great at everything can it? But, given the size of the U.S. population, and the amount of money invested into men’s soccer, results should follow.
There are plenty of reasons why the U.S. hasn’t had as much success in soccer as many would like. It is far from the national sport. Our domestic league, though much improved, isn’t exactly world class. And we’re probably the only country that doesn’t have a true home-field advantage (against El Salvador the crowd was evenly split, in Tennessee). Even when things seem like they’re looking up, it’s just not to be: our best player, Giuseppe Rossi, was born and raised in New Jersey, but chose to play internationally with Italy.
But there is something that I think can help change things for U.S. soccer: the expanding Latino population. It’s no secret that we love our fútbol (crap, this is my fifth soccer-related post). In fact television networks realized this long ago, which is a big reason why FOX outbid ESPN for the rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup. This will only lead to more exposure and national attention for US soccer.
Admittedly, I’m far from an expert, but would it be such a bad idea for US soccer brass to take a cue from the TV networks and invest in Latinos, or more specifically, young Latino players? It’s a pretty interesting thought that I think has legs. Not only will Latinos decide the next US President, we could be the key to changing the fortunes of US soccer.