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August 15, 2019 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily

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SPORTS 11

Thursday, August 15, 2019
The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com

Fans at the Big House share thoughts on state of U.S. soccer

The pregame festivities ahead
of Saturday’s friendly between
FC Barcelona and SSC Napoli
was vastly different than most
tailgates at Michigan Stadium.
International
music
echoed
throughout the parking lots as
people from all over the country
prepared to see some of the
world’s most talented soccer
players.
But for the magnitude of the
teams playing, the number of fans
in attendance was a relatively
mere 60,000, filling just over half
of the seats at Michigan Stadium.
One of the main purposes of
the
International
Champions
Cup is to improve the following
of soccer in America and the
audience’s demographic showed
that it’s clearly working — some
were from as far as Texas and
North Carolina.
“It’s
crazy
because
these
teams barely come and you have
to see these teams over there in
their country,” said Javier from
Chicago. “For them to come here,
it’s kinda like, you know what,
one-time opportunity, you gotta
take it and come to the game and
just enjoy it.”
But these fans who traveled to
get the chance to watch premier
soccer grew up in countries
whose cultures idolized soccer
— Poland, Honduras, Mexico,
Costa Rica and more. They were
raised around the sport and treat
it like Americans might baseball
or football.
Since the turn of the century,
the United States
men’s soccer team
has
repeatedly
failed to position
itself
as
World
Cup
contender.
The
MLS
has
grown, but still
finds
itself
a
league where the
biggest names are
already past their
prime
and
the
best young players don’t stay for
long. And though the women’s
national soccer team has won the
last two World Cups, the sport
finds itself as an afterthought to
American football, basketball,
and baseball.
“I don’t want to say it’s
humiliating, but I want to say
that it’s a reminder of what we

could (be) if we decide to allocate
our resources the right way,” said
Parker from Washington D.C.
who got into the sport through
a college class. “I just feel like,
I think we’re at a point in the
narrative of professional sports
where people are getting tired of
football for a number of reasons
that are all valid. And you’re
going to see more kids getting
access to soccer and traveling
more and being more competitive
at younger ages, so I think the
future is bright, honestly.”
This sentiment was one that
fans throughout the stadium
shared.
“Soccer
is
drawing
more
fans as time goes by, but I think
(American fans) are liking the
star players here,” said Oscar,
a 35-year FC Barcelona fan
originally from Honduras. “They
have the financial means to
make it happen. But it’s just the
way they do it that’s not really
relevant. They’re bringing not-
quality players from overseas.
“It’s also just that the way they
structure the (MLS) without
relegation and stuff like that,
doesn’t make it that competitive
compared
to
the
European
leagues.”
Oscar brought up a valid
point — bringing attention to
the domestic league is a key
component to increasing the
fandom of the sport in America.
However, the MLS struggled
to get going in the first place,
something
many
European
leagues were devoid of, as it was
just another shot at an American
soccer
league
that
became
subject to a tight
salary cap space
due to previously
failed attempts.
Now,
with
the MLS finally
taking
off
and
salary
cap
space
being
created,
albeit
at
a
relatively
slow
pace,
the
competition of the
league is something that takes a
lot more effort to change. Though
the United Soccer League, or the
USL, is sometimes considered to
be a minor league to the MLS,
it doesn’t receive the attention
or respect that the English
Championship receives as the
next level down from the English
Premier League, eliminating the

current attempt at relegation.
Moreover, MLS teams haven’t
participated
in
international
tournaments
like
European
teams who get a shot at the UEFA
Champions League every year.
Such changes cannot be made
during a single offseason, either,
but they are definitely something
to think about.
Javier, a 21-year-old who has
played soccer for a majority of his
life, offered a player’s perspective

though
signing
big-name
players and increasing domestic
competition
is
important,
surrounding today’s youth with
the right coaching staff is what
will make soccer a staple in the
United States.
“I feel like the United States
needs to bring the coaches from
other countries to teach these
young
players,”
Javier
said.
“Their playing style, their tactics.
It’s a different type of soccer to
develop.”
But the optimism remains

present among these fans, and
they think that events like the
International Champions Cup
combined with more attention
to soccer players’ development
is
driving
the
sport’s
growing
popularity
in
America.
“I think soccer
is growing (in the
United
States),
and I think in 10
years, 12 years,
the US can win
the World Cup,”
said
Rubin,
another fan from
Chicago. “I think the US is doing
great with the minor league
teams, if that’s what you want to
call it. Kids nowadays, it’s such a
diverse (talent pool) that they’re
going to have a strong team. In
8 years, they’re going to be one
of the strongest teams in the
world.”
Now,
the
expectations

are
slightly
unrealistic
considering that the country’s
talent is nowhere near that of
powerhouses like Germany and
France. But the resources and
spotlight are there
for soccer to take
off in the United
States. Now, it’s
up to the nation to
focus on building
a
culture
that
treats soccer like
a premier sport,
similar
to
the
countries
where
many
of
these
fans come from.
And it all starts with events like
the
International
Champions
Cup.
“I hope the people had a
great match, that they enjoyed
watching it,” said FC Barcelona
midfielder Frenkie De Jong. “(I
hope) that they got a bit inspired
but it’s all up to their chance
(now).”

ALEXANDRIA POMPEI/Daily
F.C. Barcelona fans share thoughts on the state of American soccer and the impact of international teams such as F.C. Barcelona on it.

AKUL VIJAYVARGIYA
Summer Managing Sports Editor

Soccer is
drawing more
fans as time
goes by ...

I think in 10
years, 12 years,
the US can win
the World Cup.

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