Why Americans Suck at Soccer
In this episode of Vox Almanac, Vox’s Phil Edwards puts forth a theory about terrible American men’s soccer.
There are a lot of reasons Americans suck at soccer – but if you look at the history, you’ll find a surprisingly compelling explanation for why American soccer never took off. In the 1920s, soccer was a surprisingly successful sport in the US, with massive matches and a robust league. What went wrong?
American soccer and English football first diverged in the 1800s, when American colleges like Harvard and Yale started playing a more rugby-like game. But America quickly caught up with soccer in the 1920s, attracting large crowds and even stealing away European players.
Then the soccer wars happened. Constant battles in the 1920s between the ASL – American Soccer League – and USFA — United States Football Association — carved up American soccer’s cash, fans, and talent. By the time the depression hit, American soccer was so weakened that it couldn’t rebound as well as European and South American soccer culture did. The subsequent half-century of sports build up gave Americans a permanent handicap when it came to building a robust soccer culture.
It’s a theory — but the success of the US Women’s National Team bears out the idea that something is specifically wrong for the men. And it just might be the case that 1920s soccer wars are the reason.