I’d be perfectly happy to be wrong about this.
Maybe this book will inspire some kid somewhere to keep working to win the Cup and wave it in my face. Great. But get a move on. I’m getting older. If you’re in elementary school now, you might have just enough time to win it all and tell me I’m wrong.
Just understand the message of this book: The odds are stacked against you.
In 20 years of covering soccer—not just on the field but behind the scenes, with countless hours of research (ask me about the United States Soccer Federation bylaws sometime!) and conversations with power brokers at all levels—I’ve seen a lot of progress. But I’ve also seen obstacles that are still in place.
And I’ve heard all the “quick fix” ideas. If only we hire this particular coach, or if we change our pro leagues to look more like Europe’s, or if we stress dribbling—no, wait, passing!—at the earliest ages, the U.S. men will be the world power everyone says we’re supposed to be.
That’s not going to work. Ever. The United States is never going to be Germany. Or Spain. Or Brazil. Catching up to those countries is like running a marathon in which the finish line keeps getting farther away.
No one person, no one organization, and no one cultural trend is to blame. And no one person, no one organization, and no one cultural trend can fix it.
That’s OK. We can embrace the underdog.
Bill Murray’s character in the film Stripes put it best: “We’re Americans, with a capital A, huh? You know what that means? Do ya? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse. We’re the underdog. We’re mutts! . . . But there’s no animal that’s more faithful, that’s more loyal, more lovable than the mutt.”
No, this book isn’t just a bit of ranting peppered with pop culture references, though it’s safe to say South Park‘s Underpants Gnomes will make an appearance.
This book draws upon hundreds of sources tracing more than 100 years of history. You’ll get a year-by-year look at the boom-and-bust-cycle of soccer in this country, and you’ll explore the cultural issues that have kept the sport down.
The conclusion: The nation is too fractious, too litigious, too wrapped up in other sports, and too late to the game.
So if you want to prove me wrong, you’d better arm yourself with the information you’ll need to make it happen. Read this book to learn what you’ll have to address. Then come up with the long-term solution.
Good luck. You’ll need it.